Psalm 133

How good and pleasant my life is
When my spirit is peaceful
When my belief is untroubled
Such times soothe my soul
Like soft oil soothes my skin
Sometimes, I feel that
Life feels easy
Sometimes, I feel that
“The quality of mercy is not strained
But falls as a gentle rain”
Sometimes, I feel that
God has blessed my life forevermore.
Thank God for those times. Amen

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February 14, 2018

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down

Cheering for basketball shooting
Crying about school shooting

Bread and circuses
Religion and media

Heavy hearts and light distractions
Outrage and powerlessness

We need not ask for whom the bell tolls
Or for whom the shooter aims

But why are the heavens still above
Why does the center still hold

When we know the rough beast
That has slouched to our schools

Again and again
Guns

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Psalm 132

God, remember me, take pity on my struggles
I swore – again and again – I swore to You, my God
To make my life Your dwelling place, Your temple
I swore to remember You day and night
Wherever I find myself
In all circumstances
I swore to keep You at the center of my life
To worship only You
Ah, but to do that, I need You to rise up
Rise up in my mind and heart
I need Your own righteousness
Not my failings
I need Your faithfulness
Not my fickleness
I need You to remember me
Before I can remember You
Please do not abandon me
I know Your promises
I know – or at least I was taught
That I too am part of the priesthood of believers
If I could but keep believing Your promises
If I could but keep obeying Your laws
Then I would deserve a throne with You forevermore
Ah, but that is impossible
Here is my only hope
Jesus once told His disciples
“What is impossible for humans, is possible for God”
So, please, God make me Your resting place
Sooth my troubled spirit so that You can reside with me
Bless me, satisfy me, save me
Cause me to shout with joy
Light my way
Defeat my doubts, my distress
Crown my life with Your peace. Amen

Psalm 131

[My Long-time Favorite]

God of my hope, Savior and Spirit, Lady Wisdom
The times I love are the times when I am not preoccupied
With being smart, successful, happy, esteemed, accomplished
The times when I am not looking around to see how everyone else is doing
My heart does not stray outward
My mind does not chase round and round
Worrying about things I can’t control, things I don’t know
Things I’ll never have, things I’ll never understand
Those times, those times are my savasana times with You
My soul is calm and quiet
My contentment is deep
Deep as a child’s quiet in the arms of a loving mother
You are my loving Mother
O please, let me – let me with that great cloud of witnesses
Hope in God from this time on and forevermore. Amen.

My Own Blue Moon

“Once in a blue moon”…there is solid cloud cover in Charlottesville this morning so I cannot see the blue moon that weather mavens assure me is there, but I found something even better. Sometime last year, I began to conceive of the third person of the Trinity as not just Spirit but Female. I identified the third person of the Trinity with the feminine Wisdom in the book of Proverbs, and I began using “Lady Wisdom” often to refer to the third person. But although I felt this to be true and necessary, the traditionalist in me worried — when does insight become dangerous deviation? When does the personal give way to the idiosyncratic?

Then, this morning, frustrated in trying to see the blue moon but wide awake, I read this passage in Julian of Norwich’s Showings:

“For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and he keeps us in him. And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us. We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. And the Father is enclosed in us, the Son is enclosed in us, and the Holy Spirit is enclosed in us, almighty, all wisdom and goodness, one God…”

Sometimes it is a disappointment to discover that our thoughts and insights are not unique — and sometimes it is incredibly reassuring.

Praise God, Father Creator, Mother Wisdom, Brother Jesus.

Rachel Weeping

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:16-18

The first lie I remember learning, being forced to tell, is that I had no baby brother. I barely remember it. I remember being very, very scared. All the grown ups were running around, screaming, shouting, crying. There were horses, lots of horses, in the streets of Bethlehem. And soldiers. Soldiers going in and out of the houses.

I remember my mother hurting me, hurting me because she was grabbing my shoulders so hard. Grabbing my shoulders and shaking me and crying and crying. She made me say it again and again. My baby brother died. My baby brother is dead. I don’t have a baby brother.
And I didn’t. I had a baby brother before that day. I remember looking at him, I remember stroking his soft hair, much softer than the turtle dove. I remember watching my mother feed him and how I wanted her to feed me that way. I remember I wanted to be the one she held and stroked and sang to while her nipple was in his mouth. I remember wishing he would disappear so she would hold me that way.

And then he disappeared.

At first, I asked about him but I was always told to hush, that he had died and that was an end to it. So I stopped asking. But I never stopped wondering.
My mother was always sad after that. Even after my brother Joshua was born a few years later. And then my sister, Sarah. I tried to remember what my baby brother’s name was. I tried to ask, but I was told he didn’t have a name, he had died at birth.

I didn’t even know that I was being taught to lie. I thought I had wanted him not to be and so he wasn’t. I thought I was the reason that my baby brother died and my mother was always sad. So I was very careful when Joshua and Sarah were born. I kept away from them. I tried not to think about them or look at them at all.
Ah, well, that was so many years ago. Now I live in Nain and I sit, waiting, waiting again for that unwelcome visitor. It should be an old friend by now, so many times has it visited. First my mother, then my father, my brother, my husband, and now my son. Soon death will come again and when he leaves, I will stay but my son will go with him.

I went to see that new prophet, the one they say can heal the sick. They say he’s from near here, from Nazareth. He travels the country with his companions, teaching and healing. I thought I would ask him, beg him, to heal my son. So I went to see him. He was sitting on a hillside. I looked at the men and women around him. Since he’s from Nazareth, I thought I might know one of his companions. Someone who could introduce me, plead with me for my son. I looked at them, one by one, until my heart lurched. One of the youngest men looked just like my brother Joshua, like my father. He looked to be the right age, the age of those babies when I was four. Those babies who were all killed. All killed when my mother taught me that my baby brother had never lived.

I just stood and stared. The man who might be, must be my brother saw me staring and smiled a questioning smile. The man they call a prophet saw me and smiled a gentle sad smile. He motioned for me to come but I fled back home in tears.

Maybe tomorrow, tomorrow if I am not walking with that ugly visitor behind my only son’s body, maybe tomorrow I will go back. I have two questions in my heart now. One for the prophet and one for his companion.

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:11-15

Wherein I finally have some insight into living in the moment

In yoga this morning, as I started a seated forward bend, I got a bit impatient with myself because I couldn’t reach my feet. A few minutes later, as I let go of my impatience and relaxed into the pose (with the teacher’s gentle instruction), I felt my body sinking a bit lower and my index fingers encircle my big toes. Slowly I sat back up.

Later, in Warrior 1, I saw that the young person across from me had her thigh bent almost parallel to the floor. I remembered being able to do that and looked down ruefully at my own thigh, which was still closer to vertical than horizontal. I wanted to be able to do what I could once do. Instead, I focused over the head of the person across from me and let my body relax a little more into the pose. Not a lot, just micro-movements, but I focused on my own body.

Later still, during the final seated mindfulness time, I thought about those moments and I thought that my focus and goal cannot be to be as good as, or better than, I once was; and it cannot be to be as good as, or better than, anyone else. My only focus should be my body right then and there, as it is in that moment. To listen to it, to respect it, and to help it to move freely in that moment.

And then I thought, “I make that same kind of mistake with God.” I too often compare – how strong is my belief compared to what it once was, compared to someone else’s belief? How can I recapture a past certainty, a past peace, a past immersion in liturgy? How can I be as sure as others?

Instead I am going to try to sink into my relationship with God right at the moment I am praying. Just let it be, even if that is doubting God’s existence. Just letting the moment be enough, with whatever I can have of God right then. I’m not quite sure how exactly I will do that. Writing about it is part of helping myself to do that and trying to tell others is part of helping myself to do that.

Even though these words are a very poor reflection of the immediacy and impact of the insight in the moment I had it.