Category Archives: God’s love

What We Have in Common

What We Have in Common

 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein

The campus chimes begin to toll as I step out onto the labyrinth at University of Central Oklahoma, one, two, three, four, five o’clock. A lovely, simple melody follows, and I continue on the red winding path. The music ends, and the chimes from a nearby church echo the same tune back, then play a hymn. It is Good Friday and the campus is deserted; I love the quiet and the peaceful setting. Perfect for my walking meditation today. I am in the first hour of a four-hour silent retreat and prayer vigil.

As I walk I think back over the past six months; I have been part of a group engaged in the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius. This daily retreat focuses on the entire life of Jesus and places the participant emotionally into scenes of his life with prayer, meditation, contemplation, and journaling. Total immersion. I first participated in the exercises sixteen years ago, and as my first experience, this one has been intimate, imbued with spiritual integrity, tolerance, and revelation.

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A Valentine to My Younger Self

A Valentine to My Younger Self

“God asks us to jump from our secure perches, to stop calculating the risks. Jesus bids us, “Take up your cross, follow me. . . . Don’t insist on knowing exactly what comes next but trust that you are in the hand of God, who will guide your life.”  Henri Nouwen —Turn My Mourning into Dancing

 My niece Jessica turned thirty recently; seems like she should still be my little four year old shadow. Her birthday takes me back to the thirty-year-old I was. Sometimes I think about that naive girl and wish I could tell her what only time and maturity can.

I found a worn photo from my thirtieth birthday; I worked for KATT radio in Oklahoma City then. I was holding my birthday cake with a sleepy KATT mascot iced onto it. The clock above her head read 8:15; I was supposed to be at work by 8:00. Still don’t like that morning thing.

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My expression in this photo clearly says “bite me”. I was newly divorced, on my own for the first time, and had just begun a new commission based sales job. I was poor, persnickety, and pale. Also a smidge insecure and overwhelmed.

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Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Wakonda high school, hats off to thee.

And our colors, true to thee we’ll ever be.

Firm and strong united are we!

Hoorah rah rah, Hoorah for Wakonda high school!

 

When I was a kid we lived in the Tundra for eight years. The incessant cold all but atrophied my grey matter; the above is what is left in the memory bank of our school song, a cloudy memory from the second grade. This Christmas season brings back memories of that time, and my parents, whom I miss more than I can say. This was a divine time in our lives, a time of innocence and possibility.

Our first years as a family were fairly idyllic in small town South Dakota, Wakonda, population 405. Wakonda is an Osage Indian word meaning “Great Creator”, an abstract, omnipresent spirit. Curious that my awareness and seeking of God began when we lived in Wakonda.

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My folk’s first home was actually their dream home; they paid less for it than you would a used car now.  It was on a corner two acre lot with cherry trees, apple trees and crab-apple trees. This place was an absolute marvel for a kid!

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Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

 

It seems to me that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you should spit it out. You don’t constantly swallow it back.”  Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006

 

Hours on end we sat on those hard pews looking up at the minister.  We listened, my girlfriends and I.  Week after week we learned and prayed and wondered why.  And, why not?

The Good Book was read to us and by us, stories that left us out. We felt less than. God was male, disciples were men, preachers were all men, deacons were men, and choir directors were all men. We felt less than.

So few examples to look to, to emulate. Women were revered because they were obedient and docile. From the bible, it seems the only way for a woman to redeem herself as worthy was to give birth multiple times and preferably to male children.

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I am grateful for the bible stories that do tell other stories of women.  We see the perseverance and divine insight of Anna, the faith of Mary Magdalene which lead to healing of her chronic illness, Pilot’s wife warning her husband of her powerful dream about Jesus, “this innocent man”(which he ignored).  The story of Priscilla was encouraging, as she was chosen by Paul to shepherd a church he left behind, and Miriam who questioned authority and helped Moses lead the Hebrew people to the Promised Land.

There were too few of these stories and unless you excavated them, you never even heard them.

It’s sad when you remember where value was placed when many of us were girls. It was accepted as just the way things were. Girls grew up understanding their worth, and later as adults hid the hurt because mentioning it brought on not just opposition, but wrath. Not only from men, but sadly from other women.

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That Long Trip Home

That Long Trip Home

“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here
Leads me to your door”

 John Lennon, Paul McCartney

 

The God of full moon watched over me all evening as I drove southeast through the rolling hills of Oklahoma. I welcomed her presence, kept looking up and grinning at her, enjoying her luminous beauty.

It was that long trip home to see Dad.  At eighty seven he worried so I hated that my work, rather my obsession with work, caused me to get a late start and drive in the dark.

Preferring the comfort of home at night, I’d rather just hang out with my pet family and read.  And, I can’t see squat in the dark anymore so I don my distance glasses when I drive at night and the heart thumps a tad faster.

Seventy five miles from Dad’s thin fingers of white fog began to float by me.  I thought it would simply ebb and flow from low lying areas to higher ground, but this fog lingered-much like the new ache in my spirit.

As I meandered through the hills and the threads of fog I wondered how many times I had made this long old trip.  It began when I first left home for college at seventeen; the years blew by so quickly.  I am sixty one now, so many trips. As I drove on through the fog I thought of Robert Frost’s words, “miles to go before I sleep”.  They seemed prophetic to me as I felt my life spiral down.

The further south I drove the thicker the fog became; I slowed down to sixty miles per hour. That last stretch of road is just a two lane state highway for the most part;  it bends and twists along, lined with pine woods on either side.

My feelings about this old trip also meandered back and forth; I hated it and I loved it.  When I was young and full of myself I drove waaay over the speed limit to get it over with. (A grand collection of speeding tickets confirm this.) Back in the day, I could finesse my way out of one from time to time.  Once, Kelly and I actually bribed a young highway patrolman with a baggie of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  He smiled, took them and drove away.

My youth and self-absorption resented the trip and having to make it. I would hurry back on Sunday only to find that I had left behind those who would always stand with me.  With passing years I was more likely to drive back with tears in my eyes, wishing I could stay longer.

I hated the physical distance the trip placed between my parents and me over the years.  And, the panic I always felt when one of them was sad or in the hospital, knowing it would take me at least four hours to get there. Every celebration, every holiday, every funeral, and every conversation that needed to take place had to wait-for that long trip home.

But now I loved the solace of the trip, time to collect my thoughts, to record them, and to sing-loudly, and very badly.  It also opened the door to silence, so I could hear God. The long trip home was illuminating more often than not.

On the last leg of this trip I was so weary; the fog had become thicker and thicker.  This was exactly where I hit the deer a few years ago. She came out of the woods on the right side; I saw her stop, stand there, and look right up at me.  I uttered a telepathic prayer, hoping she and God would both get the message for her to stay put.  Why she jumped right in front of me I’ll never know.

Remembering that dreadful day I slowed down to forty miles per hour.  By now visibility was greatly reduced and I switched to fog lights. I could only really see about twenty yards ahead.

I stopped and called Dad, whom I knew was looking at the clock and wondering.

At twenty five miles out I was white knuckled and driving through dense cotton candy. The woods I could typically see to the left and right had simply vanished; I could only see about ten yards ahead. Even the familiar country homes that I knew lined both sides of the road were invisible. I was exhausted and driving on faith.

So many times life requires driving slowly through the mystery, living in the unknowing. Did the interviewer think I was right for the job? Will the sale of the house go through? Will the next commission check be enough? Will this person have the depth of commitment for a long term relationship? Will my body remain healthy enough to enter the 10k?

As the God of full moon watched over me that long night, I thought back over my forty four year relationship with the trip,  the weariness and mysteries it brought. And, I knew I’d miss this long old fatiguing trip home when I no longer had a hug awaiting me at the end of the road.

 

“We had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

 

 

 

 

Blink, and One Year is Gone

Blink, and One Year is Gone

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

Begonias are fading, the little button plant’s eyes are closing, enormous elephant ears are going back to the earth and we already feel a chill in the morning air-way too soon.

I love the now and savor the Holy in it.  I walk out in the garden touching each plant, thanking them for their perseverance, their strength – their contribution to my world full of soft summer.

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Is it dread of change I feel with the fading of the summer, some dying some holding on? Always I am trying to make more of the present, and yes holding on with great thankfulness.

Time creeps up and it’s been a year since I started sharing my heart with you.  I thank those who just drop in from time to time, and much gratitude to you weekly followers, my patient tutors who comment, encourage, disagree, and suggest.

The year of blogging has shown me much.  Posts I thought were not so special turned out to be favorites of yours.  A handful that meant more to me had lower readership. The most private one I wrote and the most difficult to write is still the one read most often.

Most of you find delight in the same silly things I do, many thanks for comments that gave me the ear to ear grin.   I know some of your heartaches and stresses; I am sad with you and you have my prayers.

From across the globe, Costa Rica, Germany, Vietnam,  France, Russia, the UK, Bolivia , Brazil, South Korea, and here in the US, you teach me that what we share is larger than what we do not.

On this showy pre-fall morning after a remarkably gentle summer, not doing the work that pays, but pulled always to this exercise in expression, I am humbled by the year past. IMG_0703   A wild love for the written and spoken word prodded me and keeps me here.  I can feel and taste each phrase.  I tuck them away to pluck out later when my spirit runs dry.

These writings, little meditations with God, are only crude thanksgiving. The title I chose for my observations, “Holy and Not so Much”, has proved true. Has my writing caused God to start stress eating?  Are the church elders tearing their clothes and gnashing their teeth? In spite of these possibilities, I carry on.

The  gifts  I  receive  from  the  writing  are overwhelming. The gift is in the writing-the crafting of each sentence, acquiring a new depth of honesty, birthing a willingness to be transparent, the assurance it has been time well lived, and recognizing the Holy in each day.  I am grateful to you for sharing your lives and for this opportunity.

Special thanks to Monica, my daughter in spirit, for illuminating the path and believing I had something worth sharing.

The look and format of the blog have changed. You will see it is very much a work in progress.  When we imported the archived blogs to my site some of them turned out a bit—woogity. We will eventually correct these issues, I think. For now, it is easier to sign up as a follower, I’ll suggest great reads, share more of my dodgy photography, there is a new a search feature, comments should be simpler to post and my new site is full of livin’ color!

And a few surprises. .   There may even be an occasional post from the Sweetie!

Celebrate Me Home

Celebrate Me Home

Our home was in the country, my families’ livelihood came from the country, our nurturing was grounded in the country and part of my soul lingers there still. —Valentine, K
Sitting alone in the woods with the two monastery dogs, Banjo and Oriole, I gaze out in the distance, they are good company and seem to have taken a vow of silence like me. From the hill I look over the tops of the trees attempting to show their early spring radiance. I can see Lake Keystone as the sun beats down on the back of my neck reminding me that it won’t be spring for long. Before you can say “hotter than hell”, it will be.

Hiking and climbing over the huge boulders I do something I have not done in a very long time, I smell the earth.  It takes me back to a time when I was much closer to the earth, the land, the country, and I am grateful for my awakening senses. For a while I am home.

I country grew up in the country.  Not so much in a small town, although that was part of it, but most of my time was spent out in the country.  Our home was in the country, my families’ livelihood came from the country, our nurturing was grounded in the country and part of my soul lingers there still.

The country is inclusive, and extends solace to all.  It’s gifts are the  healing sight of pastures and farm ponds, the touch of green grass, a soft blanket of needles under foot through the pines, the smell of freshly cut hay,  the whiny of horses, and the feel of a humid  breeze on your face.  And nothing occludes the stars from your vision when you are in the country, a tonic for city worn eyes.

The end of the day did not find me with friends at the Dairy Freeze when I was in school; I was in the country feeding cattle.  My brother and I had a little cattle company when we were kids, the “M&K Cattle Company”.  I’m still pissy that it wasn’t named the “K&M Cattle Company”; after all, I was older and infinitely wiser. (my version) This joint venture provided biology lessons, finance 101, daily workouts, precious time with a treasured sibling, and opened us to the dire truth of forgoing something we liked for something better.

In the country folks just drop in when ”y’all come round” is extended. And you better have coffee and pie ready too, they never turn it down.  They just sit mostly, and talk. Some want to walk quietly around the pond and skip stones across the water, or sit on the bench under the trees and smell the honeysuckle that lines the fence row.   Or, go out to feed the horses some hay, and stand on the corral fence to get a better look at the cattle down in the pasture. You can tap on the fence that extends into the pond and the catfish know it is feeding time; they skim along the top of the pond, huge mouths wide open to scoop up chow.

There is something about the expansiveness of the countryside that makes you feel free in a way nothing else can.  The absolute wonder, beauty and simplicity of the land, the animals, the sunrise, the night sky-even the air bristles with unique enchantment.

I’ve lived in the city now for years and love its rhythm, its convenience, the melting pot of faces, cultures and cuisines, its opportunities, the city lights when it rains, its anonymity, the seasonal events, the synergy of liked minded spirits, and the life I’ve nurtured here. But I sometimes feel a deep longing and know I’m missing that part of me I left in the country. Nowhere can I hear better God’s invitation to sit and talk.

I remember years ago coming to myself, realizing that I was smiling for the first time in about four months. I was out in the pasture, just walking in the country. I was home.

God made the country, and man made the town.  ~William Cowper, The Task

 

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”–Mary Jean Iron.

Yoga mat on the floor, I peered up at the room from a Chihuahua’s vantage point and stretched my arm far over my head just as instructed. A large window faced me with an enormous Schefflera in front of it. Each long stem stretched out in a different direction; the huge leaves seemed to grin back at me saying ”It was your idea to try Yoga, miss healthy pants.”

A restorative Yoga session, so not much was required of me-a good thing since this was my first ever Yoga class and I had widespread arthritis pain and multiple disc pain to contend with. My mind traveled back to when I did not have this level of pain constantly and sadness covered me. I wanted to curl up on my mat and weep; I longed for a miracle.

But lying on my Yoga mat I had my miracle-that I was able to be there at all. In fact, I am stunned that I am able to do so many of the things I do. There are magnificent things in my life, many that I am aware of and certainly those I have been too dull-witted to see.

At a concert I heard Amy Grant say that one morning she was getting coffee when her young son came in. She picked him up and put him up on the kitchen counter in front of her. She was stroking his hair and reflecting on how much she loved him and the miracle that he was, when he said “Mommy, you have really bad breath!” There it was, the extraordinary right next to the commonplace! This is life.

Do we perceive the beauty in the everyday sun filling the room on an icy winter’s day?

The wonder of lunch with friends we’ve shared life with for over forty years?

Playtime with the precious bright little dog that learns any trick you teach her?

That first cup of coffee in the morning, knowing the journey the coffee took to you?

A road trip with a treasured niece and the gift of good conversation with her?

The miracle of meeting the right mate whose flaws equal yours in just the right design, when you had not been interested in y-e-a-r-s?

The significance of everyday occurrences distills and the closer we draw to God, to spirit, the wider our eyes become. The film dissipates and we can finally grasp what was there all along. The thing is, God uses these events to give us an opportunity to wake up . . . an opportunity.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein

The Whole Pu Pu Platter

The Whole Pu Pu Platter

“Let us rise up and be thankful; for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” –Buddha

Sometimes an unwelcome piece of advice can be the catalyst for life change. I had just moved back to Oklahoma City from Albuquerque after a protracted painful split with my fiancé. Broke and broken, I was heart sick that my dreams had turned from promising to improbable. I was also learning to live with Lupus when I sustained a rather serious back injury. I was off work for four months; lying in the floor flat on my back, taking Loritab each day and crying much of the time. I was single, living alone and the nearest family member was four hours away. It didn’t help that the man I was dating at the time expected me to keep a big smile on my face 24/7, not exactly a model of empathy. Every movement I made was excruciating and with no one to help everything was a struggle.

By that time I had been in spiritual direction about three years and met with my spiritual guide, Pat once a week. She knew I was not only struggling physically, but that my emotional state was really at the lowest ebb of my life. We were discussing my struggle one day when she suggested “If I were you I would focus on gratefulness at this time.” I couldn’t breathe much less respond to her. I said nothing, but I remember thinking that Pat was one egg roll short of a Pu Pu Platter. How could she suggest that I be grateful at this time? Grateful for what?

But I trusted Pat, so I started a “grateful journal” and began listing ten or so things I was grateful for each day. They didn’t have to be monumental; in fact, entries like warm socks, chocolate chip cookies, a good book, or a week without having to pick dog poop off the floor made the list repeatedly. As months and years went by the items on my list morphed into gratefulness for my sweet little pets, for feeling well enough to walk a mile, for the presence of my parents in my life, for a deepening spiritual life and for the fortitude to tell that stupiddamnshitty boyfriend to go take a long walk off a short pier!

I came to see that a grateful heart helps you walk through the door to a deepened spiritual life, to grow up spiritually. Once you walk through this door you cannot go back. This journey is the journey home and God consistently beckons us to wake up our soul and leave behind what no longer serves us. Although there was some grief in this, it was soon replaced with wonder. It certainly was not happiness that made me grateful, I was very unhappy at the time. It was gratefulness that finally made me happy.

“Awful things happen to an awful lot of us and it’s a happy moment when you start noticing some kind of payoff. Cancer survivors for example, notice that they’re breathing in a way other people don’t. And because they are breathing they are grateful in a way a lot of people aren’t. And grateful is a good place to wind up in life. It beats poor me.” ―Betty Rollins

Grumpy Pants, Holy Summons

Grumpy Pants, Holy Summons

“I ain’t no porcupine; take off your kid gloves. Are you ready for this thing called love?” Bonnie Raitt-Thing Called Love

Fatigue and pain make you grumpy, and clumsy for that matter. Sweetie has grounded me from drinking from any receptacle that does not have a wide bottom. It seems my spill frequency is not at an acceptable level. It’s not so much that I am clumsy, or not careful enough; it’s that as my body glides along my limbs don’t seem to g-l-i-d-e with it. They are painful, stiff and tired and this contributes to the clumsiness. Sweetie disagrees with this theory, but let’s assumes I am right. Anyway, presently I am grumpy. This condition is not terminal and usually no one gets hurt. It is rare for me to remain in this state for more than a week; but the neighbors are grateful I have prayer, meditation and writing so God can coax me out of it.

Planting your words in black and white for the world to see is a daunting process. There is nothing like getting naked in front of hundreds of people some of whom you have known for years, but also folks you’ll never meet-from Germany, Malaysia, France, South Korea, the UK and Russia. My intention is to write honestly but nothing has actually prepared me for the vulnerability you feel once your undressed words are out there. I have to rely on prayer, the years of journaling  I’ve done and those little serendipitous events that direct me and nudge me forward, in the right direction.

I am a strong proponent of having a spiritual practice in your life. I grew up in the church; I am grateful my parents gave me substance I could build on. I don’t believe that you should adopt the religion or spiritual practice of your parents without assessing what is right for you. I’d have missed so much if I had. I’m a spiritual seeker and have been since I was six; I remember deciding that relying on God made more sense that relying on people. I do attend church, but have gone for long periods of time when I did not; I had my own church service at home. On days when I don’t feel well or lack motivation to actually take off my sweats I still do. Daily and weekly spiritual practice is the bond that holds my life together. My practice generally includes prayer, reading, meditation and journaling –in that order. I’ve been doing this for twenty two years now and I do find renewal from this practice, courtesy of God.

Yes the disenfranchised and the grumpy can rejuvenate with consistent spiritual practice! If you don’t have a daily spiritual practice I recommend meditation; you simply shut up long enough to hear God’s voice. Many of us pray, pray, pray a litany of unending petitions to God. I’ll bet he wants to turn his iPhone to mute. Meditation requires no special knowledge or training and it can change your life in ways you can’t imagine. When we go within we can begin to focus on what really matters. Just start with five minutes each morning. Remember, I do rise but I am not proficient at shining, so if I can do it you can do it. Get your cup of Dark Ethiopian java blend or Oolong tea and get awake enough so you don’t go back to sleep–or to bed. Actually, I do my longer meditations in the afternoon or evening.

Put on some light instrumental music (white noise may be better for you) and make sure you have uninterrupted time and space (to start, 10 minutes or so). There are fantastic meditation CD’s out there; you may have to try two or three before you settle on one that is conducive to meditation for you. Get comfortable in an upright seated position and close your eyes. Very deliberately bring your attention to each part of your body, slowly relaxing each part and focus on the in and out of your breath.

To the degree you can, empty your mind (you’ll have to do this over and over.) Then, invite God to be with you and just listen. It is a simple process, but not necessarily easy. It may be helpful to use a guided imagery meditation CD or download to start. I highly recommend those of Belleruth Naparstek, psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer. You can check out her series at www.healthjourneys.com/. Just to name a few, the gifts you will receive for consistent practice are peace, clarity of purpose, blessed quiet, relaxation, ideas, love and the awareness that thousands of other grumpy people will be collectively listening to God at the same time.