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Archive for March, 2010

Gratitude

You that have given

so much to me,

give one more

thing — a grateful heart.

— George Herbert (1593-1633)

I love hearing 3 year-olds pray.  Guaranteed, after a very short time, they will start, “Thank you, God, for ….”  whatever is on their mind:  the flowers, the bugs, their pet, for mother, father, for creating them. It is truly remarkable, and never ceases to amaze me every time I hear it.  Gratitude, then is a fundamental prayer, and fundamental attitude, a basic stance toward life.

As I get older I notice that it is also a fundamental and universal law:  Without gratitude, nothing falls into place in my life; it it as if I am closing myself off implicitly from what God is offering me through the universe. When I am grateful, I am open, essential like a 3 year-old is open.  God can work then, and I have everything I need. My heart is free, and so my life becomes full of blessings.

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The Altar

Room 5153 Mrs. Jones

heart full of smile wrinkles

leg half gone — below the knee

and hope it stops oozing soon

because she wants to get home

where her family checks in on her

and visits — a regular ministry.

We hold hands, for comfort

and acceptance of what is

and is to come.

Lamb of God, Body broken.

Room 6173 Mrs. Wedemeier

so active, usually, out and about.

We do exercises together

a silent moving mirror

to keep her upper torso fit

and her spirits fitter

and massage her extended legs

to keep them from atrophy

and share Eucharist —

Catholic — and coffee to swallow

and talk about the Spring —

flowers on the windowsill

from her children.

Lamb of God, Body shared.

Room 5013 Mr. Ramirez

his partner crying, remembering,

a full life of service

to the poor, the marginalized

a driven man with a huge heart

that burst

and he was a no-code

but death comes slowly now

to such a strong body

and grief comes gently thus

and there’s time for it

among so many family and friends

and people he helped who never

knew him.

Lamb of God, Blood poured out.

This body, My body

on the altar of the bed.

— tau, April 2005

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The scent of light

Like a great starving beast

My body is quivering

Fixed

On the scent

Of

Light.

— Hafiz, Sufi master (from “The Gift”, translations by Daniel Ladinsky)

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Daring to act

Vision is not enough.  It must be combined with venture.  It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.

— Vaclav Havel (b. 1936, Czech Republic)

It’s the theology of the head, heart, and hands and feet, the call to action based on what is awakened in the mind and spirit.  And Havel is certainly not recommending acting without thought, or action for the sake of acting.  The point of departure is vision — the widening of spirit that enables imagination and conviction to produce together a new whole.  Start with the vision, and then make it happen.

I also like what he does next:  He says, “Step up the stairs.”  Not, jump to the top, or, take a great big leap toward your goal.  Just take a step, and keep moving.  In other words, I don’t have to do it all at once (which can be overwhelming), but I do have to start moving, make a step in the right direction, toward completing the vision.

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Danse Russe

If when my wife is sleeping

and the baby and Kathleen

are sleeping

and the sun is a flame-white disc

in silken mists

above shining trees,–

if I in my north room

dance naked, grotesquely

before my mirror

waving my shirt round my head

and singing softly to myself:

‘I am lonely, lonely.

I was born to be lonely,

I am best so!’

If I admire my arms, my face,

my shoulders, flanks, buttocks

against the yellow drawn shades,–

Who shall say I am not

the happy genius of my household?

— William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)


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We are constantly invited to be who we are.

— Henry David Thoreau

It’s that perennial question:  Who am I?  Maybe we’re not conscious of the question as we wake up in the morning, or as we review the day at night.  But every single instant of the day invites us to make choices about exactly this question.  Who am I and who do I want to be when someone cuts me off on the freeway?  Who am I and who do I want to be when my child invites me to her baseball game and I have a community meeting looking at what to do about all of the foreclosed houses in the neighborhood?  Who am I and who do I want to be when (fill in the blank)?

Some choices are obviously harder than others.  Why?  Are they more “defining” moments for our lives?  Is there somehow more “at stake”?

I take comfort in the fact that we are constantly evolving.  My choices are for my enjoyment on this earth (and not mine only).  I’m looking for joy, for a deep experience of something that will change me and move me toward my highest potential, for a challenge, for a chance to see what I am made of.  I love that I get to create myself as I go along.

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Chaos

Remember:  To make an omelet,

you must first break the eggs.

— Susanne Fincher, “Coloring Mandalas 1”

We had a way of scrambling eggs in our house that I found out later was somewhat unusual, especially when viewed from the vantage point of friends in my neighborhood.  Take a perfectly good, whole, beautiful egg, break it against the 6-inch cast iron skillet already hot and buttered, break the perfect yolk with the corner of the spatula, scramble with the same corner till yolk and white are blended, and leave cook in a perfect circle. At precisely the right moment, turn the whole thing over for a few seconds to dispense with any salmonella on the other side, and then slide on a plate to cool.  This perfect little disk was then ready either for immediate consumption, or destined for a mayonnaise and lettuce sandwich on the traditional home-made bread prepared for every school and work morning in the household. Perfection in the beginning, seeming chaos in the middle and perfection at the other end of the process.

Scrambled eggs and a scrambled life.  Order has to come eventually, a new whole, transformation of elements producing a palatable, not to mention delicious, outcome.

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