Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 4: Back to the waterfall

This morning while approaching my waterfall, I remembered something I'd meant to write about a few weeks ago.

Usually when I go through the pounding water, all my clothes are stripped away so that I approach Him naked, the way He sees me anyway. On days when my sin is particularly apparent, the water also strips away the sins which have latched on to my flesh like ugly black leeches. Sometimes I enter with scabs covering the sore places where I've ripped them off myself, and the scabs are sloughed off and the soreness healed.

But one day, as I entered, I was not able to let a certain area of sin go. It connected to me and trailed off behind me like a thick rope, traveling back through the waterfall, and tugging on me as I tried to move forward. I stood naked before Him, simpering and posing, trying to hide the chain of sin behind me and trying to move toward Him. But the cord was pulled as tightly as it could be stretched, and I could move no further unless I let go.

How silly I was to try to hide it, to pretend prettiness before the One who knew my every action, my every ugliness. How silly to carry my sin in to Him, to reach for Him with one hand while gripping my sin with the other.

That day I never did let go and climb up on His lap. I couldn't seem to.

And that, my friends, is purgatory. Standing in the presence of God and holding on to our sins, until the beauty and fire of His presence burns off our desire for anything but Him.

Consuming fire, come.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 3: a gift of friendship

1/10 of the way in to this month-long voyage. Not that I'm counting.

Today He is speaking to me about friendship.

Friendship and I have been a bit estranged throughout adulthood. I'm guessing it has something to do with maternal bonding, for after all; if it's not one thing, it's your mother. In this case, my poor mum had about all she could do to hold herself together, so I was left flying solo from an early age. I think that at core I am wary of women which means that even when telling friends all sorts of life details, I remain at a distance. The personal disclosures masquerading as intimacy.

Friendship with men is a whole other story. With the opposite sex there is always some element of conquest in the mix, whether obvious or subtle. In my case it was probably exacerbated by my father's distance and infidelity. So I don't trust men either, but it is a different sort of mistrust. Their betrayal seems like a known quantity, whereas the daggers of females are cloaked and take you by surprise.

With this as my foundation, it's no shock that friendship is problematic for me. I essentially don't trust either sex. (OK, I haven't tested transgendered individuals, but something tells me the trust level there probably wouldn't outshine the other two.)

But back to what God is doing now.

Over the past few years He's been changing all that, and building up friendships for me with both men and women.

Real friendships.

Deep friendships.

Recently He sent me a lovely, lovely woman with whom to connect, and the bond has quickly grown thicker and stronger. The friendship is blossoming almost like a romance but without the danger; it has a sweetness and certainty that I've never experienced with a woman.

And the blossoming has come at just the right time, to cover me now when I feel vulnerable.

I never even knew that I wanted this gift, and yet He chose to give it.

I'm not sure how many times I have said that His generosity astonishes me, but I must say it again. My unworthiness of it is outrageous.

***

I am feeling sorry for you, beloved reader, in that you are trying to keep reading what may well devolve into humdrum banality as I proceed in documenting these daily reflections. I will try to punctuate them with stuff that has a bit more zest every few days, to keep the yawns down to a dull roar.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 2: Reminder to go to my waterfall

I am reading Gregory Maguire's Wicked, the Wizard of Oz story told from the witch's perspective. I've been a fan of the Oz books since I was little, and have been collecting the beautiful old hardcovers for a few years. Maquire's version is rather dark and joyless, so why I'm persevering through it was a mystery until last night. Before falling asleep I read the quote below, and am now contemplating the connection between the waterfall of my imagiplation:

"I had a Lives of the Saints" once. Saint Aelphaba of the Waterfall--she was a Munchkinlander mystic, six or seven centuries ago. Don't you remember? She wanted to pray, but she was of such beauty that the local men kept pestering her for... attention."

"To preserve her sanctity, she went into the wilderness with her holy scriptures and a single bunch of grapes. Wild beasts threatened her, and wild men hunted after her, and she was sore distressed. Then she came upon a huge waterfall coursing off a cliff. She said, "This is my cave," and took off all her clothes, and she walked right through the screen of pounding water. Beyond was a cavern hollowed out by the splashing water. She sat down there, and in the light that came through the wall of water she read her holy book and pondered on spiritual matters. She ate a grape every now and then. When at last she had finished her grapes, she emerged from the cave. Hundreds of years had passed. There was a village built on the banks of the stream, and even a mill dam nearby. The villagers shrank in horror, for as children they had all played in the cavern behind the waterfall--lovers had trysted there--murders and foul deeds had taken place there--treasure had been buried there--and never had anyone ever seen Saint Aelphaba in her naked beauty. But all Saint Aelphaba had to do was open her mouth and speak the old speech, and they all knew that it must be she, and they built a chapel in her honor. She blessed the children and the elderly, and heard the confessions of the middle-aged, and healed some sick and fed some hungry, that sort of stuff, and then disappeared behind the waterfall again with another bunch of grapes. I think a bigger bunch this time. And that's the last anyone has seen of her."

There are a number of connections to my contemplative waterfall experiences. I also go behind the coursing water to a cavern that is lit. I also go to pray, though in my case Yeshua meets me there. I am also naked, though it is the purging waters that strip away my clothing. I also am strengthened by my time there, to better perform His works of ministry and charity.

I think that His gift of this passage lies in further contemplation of what it said about time, given that time weighs heavily at present. I think He is saying that if I spend time with Him behind the waterfall that He created for me, time will pass much more quickly in the "other" world. The "real" world.

This is confirmation of my beloved priest's urging as well.

It is a good gift.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 1 of a month-long voyage

I've decided to dedicate the next month to exploration of God's communication with me, and am committing myself to capturing the key message He delivers each day.

Figure if I put it out before you, my beloved reader, that I will actually do it.

So, here goes for day 1.

A dear friend has been struggling through the startup of a new ministry. The leaders of the ministry have faced a number of trials throughout the process, and one woman struggles particularly with discouragement. As my friend prayed about what she was to do to help this woman and the ministry overall, she heard from God that she should trust Him and get out of the boat. Her initial response was that she was to withdraw from leadership; that the boat was the ministry and that she was to exit it and let Him work out the details.

In typical style, she dropped that bombshell on me via text message, and then wouldn't answer my phone calls. She said she was about to send off an email about it. I pleaded via text that she slow down and pray more, not having any details about what she had heard in prayer.

The email didn't come through, and she eventually did call and fill me in. In talking with her more about Matthew 14:22-33, I pointed out that Peter did the opposite of what she would be doing. He stepped out of the relative calm and protection of the boat and into the unknown and fearful wild. Into the turmoil and drama. If she left the ministry, she would be leaving the drama instead of entering it and trusting Yeshua to bring her through. He said to Peter, and says to her, "Why did you doubt?"

The reality is that God's desire is for the discouraged woman to recognize the attacks of the evil one and begin to develop strategies for fighting them off. He desires increased freedom for her, and will grow her into that freedom through this ministry. And my friend is part of that journey toward freedom. She plays a key role in this woman's life, at this time and place. But she must walk out upon the troubled waters, and expect the miraculous to result from her obedience.

Oh, and by the way; the reason I didn't receive her resignation email? Her keyboard began acting up, and some of the keys wouldn't work. One of them was the letter "H", the first letter in the name of the ministry, and it's acronym, which she tried to type.

So what did I learn from this, on Day 1 of my own voyage of discovery? That God is -so- in charge.

Distraction welcome...

I am busy. And glad to be so.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Do you wonder at my silence?

If I begin to speak of my love for you
I may not be able to stop.

--Chantelle Franc

Friday, July 24, 2009

Creation reveals the mind of its creator

"To a mind attuned to observation and deduction, the product reveals the mind of its creator. ... Take Mozart--frenzied gaiety and weeping put to music. The agony of the man is at times unbearable."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sarah McLachlan: I Love You (song lyrics)

(Listen here.)

I have a smile
stretched from ear to ear
to see you walking down the road.

We meet at the lights
I stare for a while
the world around us disappears.

It's just you and me
on my island of hope
a breath between us could be miles.

Let me surround you
my sea to your shore
let me be the calm you seek.

Oh and every time
I'm close to you
there's too much I can't say
and you just walk away.

And I forgot
to tell you
I love you.
And the night's too long
and cold here without you.
I grieve in my condition
for I cannot find the words to say I need you so.

Oh and every time
I'm close to you
there's too much I can't say
and you just walk away.

And I forgot
to tell you
I love you.
And the night's too long
and cold here
without you.
I grieve in my condition
For I cannot find the words to say I need you so.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day and Night

My heart yowls like a cat in maddened heat.

--Chantelle Franc

Monday, July 20, 2009

The bitter and the sweet

I'm looking back on a week that has been both bitter and sweet, and thinking about the Passover Seder. Liturgy and ritual are so very satisfying for entering into the richness of God's plan for us.

In this Seder we ceremonially partake of Maror, the bitter herbs which symbolize the bitterness of slavery. When done right (by my book,) the bright sharpness of horseradish makes your eyes water and your nose run. No mild, dull ache for me, but a sudden harsh slap of reality, the pain of which lingers on the tongue.

Later in the meal we dip the matzo in Charoset, a sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and cinnamon.

Still later, we eat matzo with both horseradish -and- Charoset, mixing the bitter and the sweet.

That has been my week; the sharp bite of reality softened by gentle tastes of sweetness. The two co-mingling.

Actually, it's been the tenor of the last few years, the bitter and the sweet dancing in and out, taking turns, intermingling, becoming harder and harder to separate.

Lord, thank you for the sweetness. Thank you for the bitterness. Thank you for the dance.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ain't it the truth

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.

-- Mae West

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

May he have rest

It has been a challenging week for my beloved priest, and while he for the most part lives nestled in Christ's peace, I can't help but want prayer for him during times of potential discouragement like this.

I thought about him this morning, and how he truly stands in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, for us. Just as we consume Christ at the mass, we consume this, our priest. We approach him day in and day out with our complaints and our demands, our sorrows and our hungers, and we eat him alive with very little gratitude. As if we are deserving of the gift of his life to us.

And like Christ, he says "It's all right. I love you."

And he means it.

But his eyes are tired. His very being must be tired.

I pray he may feel our love returned, and rest.

Since you asked

You are
a strong hand
a shouted truth
a bar raised

You are
shelter on a stormy night
a cozy lap
a whispered prayer

You are
friend, lover, champion
hero, teacher, student
thinker, dreamer, muse

You are
escape, release, rescue
comfort, confidante, joy

You are
an undiscovered feast
an untried banquet
a laden table, beckoning

You are
dream made man

--Chantelle Franc

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Red red wine

The other night I found myself longing for the softening effects of my old friend red wine in a way I haven't for months. Red wines had a particular type of soporific reality blurring that I preferred over my other friends; tequila and vodka. Quality didn't matter much; I never developed into an oenophile, or for that matter, an alcoholic (despite my diligent pursuit).

So as the afternoon wore on and a sweet sadness filled my spirit, I longed for the old familiar red wine haze. I had a glass or two, and found that it didn't perform as remembered. Instead, dishwashing drove the sadness away for a bit. It's back of course, and is destined to be present for some time to come.

It is what it is.

But I learned that you can't go home again. Not even to a lair in the Burgundy depths of a bottle.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm gonna miss you

I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket.

--Fergie

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sweetest discoveries

In the sorest trials God often makes the sweetest discoveries of Himself.

-- Author Unknown

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wonder is the root of all knowledge

Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.

--Abraham Joshua Heschel

Friday, July 10, 2009

Craving the light of God

He who is satisfied has never truly craved, and he who craves for the light of God neglects his ease for ardor.

--Abraham Joshua Heschel

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Martha plus Judas does not equal Mary

Last night one of our lovely young deacons greeted me by saying that he knew with certainty that God was very, very pleased with me.

That was his greeting. The first words he spoke to me.

He is a gentle, sweet spirit, and was undoubtedly encouraging my propensity toward operating ala Martha. And it did encourage me.

But it also convicted me.

It's bad enough that I congratulate myself for my Martha busyness, neglecting to be Mary in the process. But in prayer this morning I realized something even worse; I also use my Martha to justify my Judas. As if the good works that I do somehow counterbalance the evil that I do.

But it doesn't work that way.

My works are good, and He is pleased by them. As this morning's 1 Samuel passage read, He remembers the prayers prayed and the alms offered. But they can't compare in weight to the sin. It's not a balancing act. The loving touches that a wife abuser offers do not lesson the damage and shame of the punches. Just the opposite; they become a mockery of what should be beautiful.

So this morning was a time of gentle chiding. He is so very gentle with me.

He wants more of my attention. More of the attention I direct toward objects which are indeed lovely, but less lovely than He.

I am encouraged by the quote I posted earlier today; I work toward obedience through the gift of faith God has granted me, and I hope for the bloom of patience upon it.

Obedience is the fruit of faith

Obedience is the fruit of faith; patience, the bloom on the fruit.

--Rossetti

(This was good for me to hear today.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Not so sweet...

Sometimes it feels like going on vacation just isn't worth it. I'm back in the saddle and getting clubbed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The promise of apple blossoms

I woke thinking about the fall of Adam and Eve, and of how certainly I would make the same choice that they did.

I thought about the beauty of God's creation, and of the splendor of that first garden and all that was in it. And I wondered about that tree; how lovely must it have been?

It must have been very lovely indeed.

I took a look at what the scriptures had to say:

Gen. 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

It was pleasing to the eye, and desirable.

I'm guessing that was an understatement. A vast one. I'm guessing that the tree was incredibly beautiful, and the fruit magically enticing.

And I thought about my own struggles.

How delicious it would be to approach the tree, to press up against its roughness, to smell the fragrance of leaf and bark and temptation.

I would climb up and rest among the boughs, feeling the wind swaying my cradle, and reach out now and then for a taste of certain sweetness.

I completely understand the desire Lewis describes; to want to get inside to where all the beauty comes from.

And it is hard to understand how sin can be so thoroughly enmeshed in beauty. The beauty is so very understandably desirable.

How can the wanting of such beauty be wrong?

And then God, in his generousity, sent this reading in my morning devotional:

2 Cor. 12:6-10 Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

I can't say that I pray that my thorn be removed, because it is too enmeshed with the beauty. The beauty is too beautiful to sacrifice.

But He shows me that in this struggle, in this recognition of my weakness, in the knowledge that I too would eat of the beautiful fruit, He is strong. As I acknowledge the draw of the beauty, He grows in strength in me. As I surrender all pretense of courage and honor and fortitude, He rises up.

So I dream of the tree, and rest in His strength, trusting that the garden He has created for me is perfect in every way, despite the beauty of the tree beyond it's borders. Perhaps even enhanced by it.

And I am comforted by the sight of it in the distance, and the scent of apple blossoms, promising fruit.

Shakespeare on love (13)

From Much Ado About Nothing:

I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Love seeks union

Love seeks union.

This is what I thought about as I luxuriated in bed this morning, surrounded by silence.

That, and it's correlary; unappeasable want.

Cottage life...

I am at the cottage. The weather has been iffy; today the sun is shining, a steady wind blowing, and a coolish 70+ temp.

Tomorrow is my beloved daughter's 21 birthday. Driving here, just the two of us, was a great gift. Our talk was sweet. I am stunningly unworthy of the gift of relationship with her which God has chosen to grant me, in His great mercy. I sometimes wonder if the quick turnaround with her, and the degree of warm appreciation with which she gifts me, may be a portent of a shortened life. I would not have expected it until I am gray(er) and she was in the throes of her own childrearing.

Stunningly generous, He is.

I'm sitting at the shady end of the new deck on the front of the main building, watching the kids down on the beach below me. The view is wonderful; the deck is a great addition. I'd be sitting in the sun in an effort to cover up all the imperfections of my pasty arms and legs, but when I do, I can't see the screen. So it's the shade for now. Vanity will have to wait.

And I'm typing to you, beloved reader, of the silly minutae. Wishing you were here, perhaps.

It's been hard to carve away devotional time this trip. Each time I try someone I love appears and wants to chat. Sometimes multiple people. This morning a flock of young people appeared, and my sister in law said that it was because of the Bible on my lap. I'm certain that is true. It draws invisibly.

My daughter reported that her grandmother annointed her with holy water this morning. Apparently she does so every day for her little beagly mutt, and BD wanted in. Sounds like I need to give my mother in law a bottle of annointing oil so that she can both bless -and- annoint. BD is drawn to sacramentals. I love it.

As the young ones gathered around we talked about today's North Korea test missiles, followed by the apparently unjust and no longer necessary trade embargos with Cuba. Yesterday it was how hand sanitizer would kill us all in 20 years, and a comparison of fecal matter quantities between tofurkey italian sausages and Oscar Myer weiners.

It is a joy to watch energetic dedication to causes. Fire burns hot in the young.

I am more banked coals and smoulder. Waiting for a puff of warm breath to bring the fire to life.

Breathe on me...

Shakespeare on love (12)

From a Midsummer Night's Dream:

Love looks not with the eyes,
but with the mind,
and therefore is winged Cupid
painted blind.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Meow

Lay your jacket down for me
so that, cat like
I can sniff your cuffs and collar
push my head into the dark tunnel of your arm
and rub my face against the shiny lining.
I'll knead myself a black nest
sink down into your scent
and start to purr.

--Chantelle Franc

One word

Dayenu.