Category Archives: Faith

Dear Corona

Dear Corona

“There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” —-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Corona, I curled my hair today for you. For the second time ever, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church live-streamed services. Like everyone else, I stayed home. I curled my hair anyway.

Yesterday I cooked and froze enough food for four women; it will serve me well should you render me ill and unable to get out. The time for preparedness is now. It could happen.

We dash about in this country, seeking-what? Safety? Success? Money? Toilet paper? Entertainment? Inclusion? A Tribe? What we need now is to change our focus to something that provides a tiny reminder of where we place our faith. We eventually must choose what we cling to, fear, and things that will fade away, or something deeper, something sacred-like wonder.

To that end, I submit the below; please go to your respective happy places.

Does this seem right to you?

 

Shadow on the wall behind the altar at St Auggie’s, silently blessing us.

I learned a couple weeks ago from my Optometrist that I am a “half blinker.” Who knew there were half blinkers? What does this mean? Am I afraid I am going to miss the wonder, so I subconsciously refuse to give in to a full blink?  I think maybe so.

I wish I had the vision of a Mantis shrimp. According to a report by NPR, with sixteen cones in the retina of the eye, the Mantis shrimp sees more color than any living creature, colors we do not know, and cannot imagine. They are followed by butterflies with five cones, birds with four, we have three, and dogs have two.

Bubbles inside the humidifier, do ya see a wee shrimp in there?

 

From the grocery, when a bunny eats too many carrots.

Recently I was about to pass over a railroad track when I noticed a little bird sitting on the track. As I approached, he did not move. He looked about, left and right, and then he looked down. He did not take flight. He jumped down into that space between the concrete and the rail. He expanded his vision! I drove over, and he reclaimed his post atop the track.

This is perhaps why pigeons are sent on search missions, they are masters of vision and color detection! Birds are tetrachromats with four cones in the retina, which enable them to recognize the opposite sex, seeing colors we cannot, like ultraviolet. Some people have faulty or missing cones, which results in “color blindness,” a genetic predisposition. A select few humans are tetrachromats, like birds, and are able to see colors the rest of us do not.

Jerked a pie pan out from under, funnel flipped and landed!

 

Iridescent photo failure.

No matter our level of visual dexterity, we share an inner vision, spirit’s nudging, prompting, speaking to us. Let’s not permit insidious chaos and fear to pilfer our inner gifts of wonder, intuition, calm judgment, and faith. I am not suggesting adopting rose-colored Pollyanna vision, but vision based on maturity, experience, and on a new openness to multi-sensory perception.

Nora Gallagher, writer of the memoir, “Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic,” says, “Sometimes I think that faith is only about increasing our peripheral vision, our peripheral hearing.”  I agree.

Annual return of the most determined.

We increase our peripheral vision with immersion in prayer, meditation, contemplation, and journaling; we certainly have time now. This only requires willingness and focused engagement.

In these sequestered days, we can actively participate, engage, not sit about, and stew. Faith is born of engagement. The journaling, writing helps clarify everything. Uncertain what you think or feel about something? Write about it, and you’ll know.

Pumpkin seeds soaking, all up on tippie toes.

 

Cleaning the bathroom mirror, a smudge-man appeared.

We have time to let the sediment sink to the bottom, to clear the stream. All it takes is willingness to see differently. When we expand our view, there is so much to see! Spirit is constantly competing to get our attention, to aid our discernment, amuse us, calm us, and strengthen our resolve.

Trouble is, we let fear and lower-level thinking run ram shod. We stop noticing, stop seeing, stop recognizing, stop hearing, and stop engaging. Or, we can go ahead and curl our hair anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death at the Clip & Curl

Death at the Clip & Curl

 

We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.                                –Maggie O’Farrell, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

We were alone, just the incredibly odd man and me. I thought it was the end for me, but what could I do about it? Scream, absolutely. Talk my way out of it, doubtful. Fight, sure, but given my lack of physical prowess, not a viable solution.

It was a day of heavy, jet-lag-meets-the-flu fatigue, arms too heavy to do my hair, much less my job. I pulled into what I shall call the “Clip & Curl” to have someone shampoo and blow-dry my tired hair. A lone stylist was there, a man. I did not think much of it until it was too late.

I do not frequent walk-in salons, but I had a chaotic day ahead and needed help, so I went into the no-frills vanilla salon. The only staff member there was a medium-sized man of about forty. I cannot say he greeted me, just soberly showed me back to the shampoo area and prepared me for what I hoped would be a relaxing head massage and speedy hair styling. Straightaway the man was odd.

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Trip to Crazyland, 2015

Trip to Crazyland, 2015

 

“Sometimes you have to say it like you’re not coming back,

and most likely won’t be invited.”

Pat Meeks

 

One of the twin beds was soft, the other was sheetrock firm; I bounced as I sat on it. The soft bed had a nice mushy pillow, like the one at home. It would do.

It was unusually chilly for July; a welcome change in Oklahoma, where temperatures soar into triple digits. I sat down, covered my legs with my hoodie, and adjusted the lamp next to my soft bed and leaned back against the mushy pillow.

Surveying my little nest, I thought about what brought me back to the Forest of Peace, this spiritual sanctuary. An enormous sigh of relief started at the tip of my toes and rattled all the way up my spine, pouring out of my body spontaneously as a knowing grin found its way to my face.

Here in this sacred place lush with vegetation, rocky hiking trails, blue sky, and a few other quiet souls, I knew I could begin to heal, and remember who I was. It was the eighteenth month of a journey through loss, grief, and gut-wrenching anxiety; I was finally feeling alive again.

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The Other Side of the Bed

The Other Side of the Bed

It’s coming on Christmas

They’re cutting down trees

They’re putting up reindeer

And singing songs of joy and peace

Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

River, Joni Mitchell

 

Not everyone looks forward to Christmas, for years I was one of them. It was more comfortable to ignore it, pass on all the festivities, and my life has been a cake walk compared to many. In some parts of the world, happy Christmas celebrations are nothing more than a distant dream and have been for entire lives.

We do not have to look to other countries to witness Christmas angst though. It is right here in front of us, but we are too self-concerned or self-congratulatory to awaken to it.

For me, it was not the reason for the celebration that made me shrink away; I treasured the divinity in the celebration, the birth of Jesus. It was the holiday gatherings I dreaded.  Read the rest of this entry

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

Grandmother God rose last night in the face of the full moon.

 I stood out in the still summer heat watching her.

How pale you look I said.

How hot you look she said.

We shared a smile.

Knowing God is seeing God where you find her.

–Stephen Charleston, Cloud Walking

 

Have you ever noticed that the everyday morphs into the rare and remarkable on closer inspection?

Taking photos is something I’m obsessed with, not great at it, but drawn to like a menopausal woman to chocolate. I want to look at the same places, same things, same people, and see something different. Something that will wake me up, stir my spirit into knowing I am alive, not just walking through a bland dream.

From my backyard, what’s left after the Clematis blossom fades.

It’s been suggested that I take a photography course, or at least buy a good digital camera with all the glickins. That would take the fun out of it for me, the spontaneity in seeing what I can produce with my little iPhone five. The blog most likely deserves better, but I am resisting as long as I can.

The bottom side of a mushroom, from my yard.

Revealing the spectacular in the ordinary does not disappoint. It is a meditative practice for me. What we seek cannot be found in our iPhones, television, Facebook, dinner out, or any other distraction “out there.” It is always here, inside us. If you slow down and resist being sucked into today’s negative drama you find an entire other world to concern yourself with, vastly more interesting and soul nourishing.

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Could We Be Wrong?

Could We Be Wrong?

 

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”          ― Carl Sagan

An amateur Spanish archaeologist, Marcelino de Sautuola, and his eight-year-old daughter Maria were exploring a cave in Altimira Spain in 1879 when Maria looked up and found striking paintings of bison on the ceiling.

Sautoula had seen similar displays of Paleolithic painting in Paris at an exposition and assumed their Altimira discovery might also date from the Stone Age. He and an archaeologist from the University of Madrid published these findings to quite a stir in the scientific community.

They presented the paper at an International Scientific Congress and were ridiculed. He was accused of forgery because he could not account for why there were no soot marks on the walls and ceilings of the cave. His accusers said Sautuola had the images painted by a modern artist.

The scientific community took issue with de Sautuola’s findings; so did the church. The theory of evolution was new in those days and his theory of a very talented Paleolithic painter who lived 15,000 years ago did not sit well with them, so de Sautuola was discredited even further.

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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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Uncommon Mercy

Uncommon Mercy

 

I looked up from my hymnal to see bright, brown, innocent eyes peering back at me from two pews up. Fresh-faced and beaming, most likely of Chinese heritage, she looked about fourteen. My heart fluttered and I gasped.

I didn’t recall ever seeing her at St Augustine’s and have not seen her since. Looking back at the day, I am not sure I physically saw her.

The night before I had watched a movie called “The Flowers of War.” I was drawn to it because my favorite actor, Christian Bale, was in it. I got a great deal more than I bargained for; the story had a profound effect on me. Six months later I feel compelled to tell the story.

The movie was about the Chinese city of Nanking, the setting of one of the most horrific war crimes in history. I had never heard this story; it awakened me and revealed a depth of sacrifice I am not sure I possess.

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Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!
Peas pudding and saveloys
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it boys, in-di-gestion!

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Oliver! -Lionel Bart

I love to eat. Constantly. If I am not eating I am thinking of food. You too? I figured. Eating makes us happy in a way nothing else can. Dining not only fuels our bodies and senses but is a superglue binding our memories and emotions. Those endorphins are furrowed right into our little taste buds.

When that combination of hot peach cobbler and sweet ice cream hits my tongue, I am right back in 1966, huddled around Grandma Sander’s kitchen table with my sister Jan and Roger and Howard Sanders. We are playing a game; I don’t remember it, just the flavor of her cobbler and ice cream like I have a bowl of it right here. I can feel the affection of those old friends and hear the music we sang. “Make the world go away, get it off my shoulder.” Cochran, Hank 1960

Unknown Coffee

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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.

30 B-Day Cake (3)

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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