It Is Finished

All that perishes is done, its temporality
expired, its finite span come to an end.
Love dawns, and darkness runs for cover,
scattering to its mysterious retreats,
its caverns damp and chill and inhospitable to all
except the twisted denizens of night. But light
now floods the caves and crevices, and darkness
has no place to hide.

It is finished. Now everything begins, and
what now is, what has begun, is born of love
and cannot die. Remember this, in winters
that descend untimely, blighted by disease
or grief, when pain extinguishes anticipation,
faith is tested and found wanting, hope is lost.
But hopelessness is finished, and despair died
on the cross.

Now everything begins, and we reside
in that eternal morning where the sun
forever rises, lavishing magnificent
abundance on the living—energy for
what we are and what we shall become.

Like seeds dropped carelessly among dry weeds,
for what seemed an eternity we waited, tiny
miracles of life and possibility. We waited
comfortlessly, frozen, numb below the crust
of earth where we’d arrived, not understanding
why or how, borne by which wind or for what
purpose. There we lay, absurdly small and
weak, without the power to exchange our
situation with what we aspired to be—the oak,
the grapevine, even (if we had no other choice)
the common milkweed—anything alive
and free. We waited, with our destinies
obscure, obeying the imperative of life, until
the earth around us warmed and softened,
waking our imaginations. Smothering in
darkness, blind but sensing that the equinox
had come and gone—the sun returned at
last and lengthening the days—how urgently
we longed to break our bonds and dance.
And still we waited, waited on, exhilarated,
frightened, eager to explore; we would have
chosen to emerge before our time, too soon
discarding our protection but for intuition’s
wise reluctance, warning of another killing
frost… and so we waited, waited on, until
we thought that we must climb out of the
grave or die. Denied, we grew impatient, tried
to plan how it would be, and doubted our
ability to push through the detritus of
innumerable seasons, layers of debris that
moldered as we slept—dead grass; damp,
matted leaves; entangled roots of ancient trees
compounded by neglect and entropy… a feast
for worms, perhaps… for us, a trap, impenetrable
by such means as we possessed, without
momentum, drained of will, and utterly unequal
to the task.

So suddenly the moment comes, we are astonished
by the ease of our ascent despite our lack of
preparation, effortlessly rising through the loam
into the gentle light while slender threads roam
underground, revealing infinite supply.  Around us,
pomegranate, lavender, mesquite, and rose bloom
copiously, bearing fruit and indiscriminately offering
their attributes to creatures winged or crawling, great
or minuscule. We have been here before, astride
the grand continuum, awakening in spring, disporting
gleefully on endless-seeming summer afternoons, then
wonderfully ripening, as if we had reserved our true
magnificence for this extravagant display, this final
surge of life before the cycle of decay begins.

But we shall not descend again. Nature now is
satisfied, her laws suspended. She requires nothing
further from us. It is finished, and there will be
no more winters. Without limit, light becoming life
eternally, joy flows in rivers; bliss crowns the forests,
fields, and groves; and we have just begun to live.

All is as the Gospel promised:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.*

It has begun, will be—and we shine on. Amen.

_IT-IS-FINISHED-LAKESIDE___

* From the Canticle of Zechariah, Luke 1:78-79
“It is finished” (John 19:30)

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Invitation to Prayer

 childrens-feet-geelongfootclinic-com-au

Come pray with me.

Come with bare feet, dig your toes into the sand, and feel the grains, each one by one, one at a time. Don’t try to count them. You’ll run out of names for numbers long before the strand runs out of silica.

Come with joy and gratitude, if you have those today, and if you don’t, come anyway. Bag your anxiety and heave it through the groves, along the lanes, past cottages and fields of ripe late-summer grain. It’s worth the trek if at the end you give it all away. Cast your fear upon the waves and watch them sport with it. Observed, it will evaporate, or sink, or change. Presently it may become a bird (a pelican?), swoop down, and capture supper in its perfect catching apparatus, made for such accommodation in the way of all Divine Creation.

pelican-natl-geographic-laurent-mercey

National Geographic photograph by Laurent Mercey

Ought you bring your anger? Needs must, if it clings like cockleburs that grab your socks and scratch your legs and won’t let go. It has no will or power of its own. Your stockings, though, will have to go. The planet has a use for them. Some mama bird will pick apart the knitting, patiently, as is the way of purposeful activity, and carry off the threads to fortify and decorate her home. Who would have known your thorny socks would ever line some nestling’s cozy bed?

Come pray with me. I’m never far away. Come empty-handed if you can, or bring your baggage. No one minds your temper or your trembling—so many willing hands, strong arms, and sturdy backs there are to share what you can’t manage for the moment. Prayer is never solitary, even when you pray alone.

Come pray with me. You don’t need to wear a hat or shine your shoes or wipe the sleep out of your eyes. Come just as you are into the presence of the Holy One, All-Knowing,
-Loving, -Wise.

As you contemplate the Universe, or fresh growth on the shrubbery, or lunch—and there you are, smug and complacent, having choked down lettuce you don’t care for much—listen for the spirits in the sighing of the wind, as it weaves its way among the trees and scoops up untidy piles of dry leaves. Hear the messages from the Divine. and see eternity in glints of sunlight on metallic specks in sheets of rock… choruses spontaneously composed, arranged, played and sung… the music of vibrations out of silence grown… once begun, not ever interrupted…

…all repeat in every tongue,
“Life loves you. All is well.”

ocean-inhabitat-comNEEDS MUST—Necessity compels. In current usage this phrase is usually used to express something that is done unwillingly but with an acceptance that it can’t be avoided; for example, I really don’t want to cook tonight, but needs must, I suppose.

The phrase is old. In earlier texts it is almost always given in its fuller form – needs must when the devil drives. that is, if the devil is driving you, you have no choice. This dates back to Middle English texts, for example Assembly of Gods, circa 1500:

“He must nedys go that the deuell dryues.”

Shakespeare used the phrase several times; for example, in All’s Well That Ends Well, 1601:

Countess: Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.
Clown: My poor body, madam, requires it: I am driven on by the flesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives.

 

Mostly I Believe Sometimes

PRAYER FOR A WOUNDED SPIRIT

Divine Beloved, I believe in prayer. It’s breath to me. I need it more than vegetables or exercise or toothpaste… more than I need air.

There are those who scoff at prayer and sneer at those who pray. They say you are not Santa Claus. Don’t they just want to be with you, just hanging out, with no agenda? If they mean to keep on living, don’t they know that you’re not optional? As for those who want to prove you don’t exist… I don’t believe, dear God, in atheists.

Selyalandfoss Falls, Iceland
MOSTBEAUTIFUL-Selyalandfoss Falls Iceland

CONFESSION

On the radio, I heard somebody say we’re always given everything that we require for peace, love, mercy, joy, and sustenance. I know you bless me endlessly, and still I need a net; I strive, I fret about uncertainty and how I am perceived by (pick one: the Uber driver, Starbucks person, distant relative, short guy beside me on the bus, straw-hatted woman at the table by the window drinking lattés as if they didn’t cost more than my shoes); I rush to be on time at the expense of my serenity and otherwise neglect my own well-being while achieving nothing for the betterment of those Less Fortunate; and I know better. Still I strive, still try to harness peace of mind instead of resting in the certainty of your deliverance—now, tomorrow, Saturday, next year, and through eternity.

I confess that at this hour I’ve yet to find that calm, sweet, silent place within. My faith has been waylaid. I got distracted, lured by flash, enticed by overripe low-hanging fruit; and having planted old, dry seeds, I reap self-pity, self-reproach, a heap of jealousy, bushels of bitterness—the harvest of the dreams I’ve stopped believing in, the expectations I’ve stopped trusting but haven’t yet replaced.

FATHER-MOTHER GOD, vouchsafe to me a map that guides me to divinity, a light for navigating in the dark, a chorus of your angels singing “This way!”— something I can follow when the candle sputters and the flame goes out.

MOSTBEAUTIFUL Coyote Buttes AZCoyote Buttes, Arizona

Divine Creator, if it’s true that thinking manifests into reality, there’s a problem here. My thoughts do not obey me. Disciplining them is like directing fish to navigate the ocean currents differently. When I try to fix my mind on Heaven, it resists. Ideas steer themselves amiss and enter hostile territory, taken and held captive in a cave somewhere, with bats and prehistoric dragons who don’t know what century we’re in and wouldn’t care regardless. The world in its contrariness seems alien, perverse, and perilous (The dragons are hungry, and I’m dessert)…

…but you, O Great Divine, have overcome the world.

MOSTBEAUTIFUL-TuscanyLucca, Tuscany

FATHER-MOTHER, you will never leave me lost and far from home. It is my dread misguiding me, my fear that weighs me down. I pray that you will banish these, my ancient enemies, my legacy of Canaan in my personal geography, where long ago they staked their claim. They should have lost their strength by now, if not their animosity.

Create in me, O God, a clean and spacious heart. Make room within me for compassion; give me energy to act on it and wisdom to choose capably; renew my spirit; and restore my soul’s capacity for joy and happiness.

MOSTBEAUTIFUL Marble Cave- Chile Chico- Chile

Marble Cave, Chile Chico, Chile

PETITION

Eternal God, Source of Love and Light, if it’s true that all Creation—every cell and star and galaxy, every mosquito, Twinkie, Oldsmobile, and Post-It Note—is love and nothing else exists, why is it, then, that when I’m knocking on the universe’s door nobody opens it? I wonder if there’s no one home, but all the lights are on and someone’s whispering. I take it personally: They see me but they’d rather not. Why don’t they want to let me in? Because I’m bothersome or insignificant or worse—because I don’t exist? Some part of me believes this, but some other part resists.

Wisteria Tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Gardens, Japan

MOST BEAUTIFUL Wisteria Tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Gardens Japan

LOVING GOD, what is this emptiness? Am I in Sheol, where dead spirits go, sleepers in the dust… the place farthest from Heaven, of which Jacob spoke when he said, “I shall go down to my son [Joseph] a mourner unto Sheol”? [Gen. 36:36] Whatever name this pit is known by, lift me out of it. I’m lonely, and my only company is spiders and the stark anxiety that creeps along the porous edges of awareness. Return me to the surface of the planet, I beg of you, O God, where the sun shines, where there are music and activity and reasons not to seek oblivion.

I do, I do believe you made me for a purpose. You had something grand and glorious in mind for me. You gave me passions, interests, and abilities. I used them well… until I stopped believing I had anything to share. Does one invite one’s friends to visit at such a time? “Please come and sit with me while I gnaw my inner lip”? I was asleep too long, dear God. Reignite my reason to keep living.

MOST BEAUTIFUL Bagan Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

GRATITUDE AND PRAISE

A man of monumental wisdom once said, “Follow your bliss.” But sometimes I have no idea where it is or even if I’d recognize it after all this time. It disappeared when I was scrambling as I tend to do from this amusement to that glittering distraction. I’m ill acquainted with the feeling, having been too long at sea, gone far from home on what I thought would be an odyssey that proved to be productive only for its distance, not for its achievements.

Arriving where I started, only poorer—not having brought home even one cheap souvenir—I’m ashamed. I feel unworthy of Creation’s gifts. Yet you believe in me, and through your eyes I see my poverty of spirit fed, my brokenness repaired, my purpose blessed abundantly, and my soul’s treasury enriched.

I don’t need to search; grace finds me where I rest and dream.

MOST BEAUTIFUL Rice terraces of yuanyang

Rice terraces, Yuanyang, China

THANK YOU, GOD, for what the harvest yields today, for life emerging through the winter’s crust, for buds whose promise comes in measured time, unrushed in orchards, gardens, fields; for nature’s generosity to be revealed: great, arching trees in flower, lilacs bursting white and purple, robins gathering selected bits of vegetation suitable for nests in larch and chestnut trees.

MOSTBEAUTIFUL-Meteora Monastery Thessaly Greece

Meteora (monastery), Thessaly, Greece

BENEDICTION

An hour before dawn I am impatient for the unrestraint of morning over the horizon, sunbeams dappling the streams and warming fields and woodlands. Breathe, you say. Be mindful of the cardinals’ concert in the darkness, notice pink and pale-blue streaks spreading like an easy smile across the east horizon. Believe in ordinary signs and wonders.

GOD OF ALL CREATION, seen and unseen, I come to offer praise and thanks, seek mercy, receive healing, and accept your gift of grace.

Amen.

by Mary Campbell
September 2015

Photographs
http://homeandecoration.com/the-most-beautiful-secret-places-on-earth/10/
http://www.dzinewatch.com/2012/03/33-most-beautiful-places-on-earth/
http://blog.iso50.com/34647/spectacular-rice-terraces-of-yuanyang/

The Attributes of God

I pray that I am sufficiently stirred
by the rumor of great things
to seek the God who created this
single thread that I am, and to marvel
at a vision magnificent enough to cause
this God to weave from
this single thread
a tapestry most
resplendent. *

Love Beads

 The Attributes of God

Spirit who dwells within,
Sovereign who reigns above,
Creator of all that is, whose name is love;
Healer of our blindness to the truth
of our own luminous well-being;
Gentle mother, steadfast father,
Strong defender and provider,
Source of energy and power;
Substance of the loyalty, devotion,
orderly activity, cooperation, and
encouragement that draw us home
to family and hearth and altar:
security and safety, discipline;
commitment, perseverance;
noble work; shared purposes;
illumination, elegance, and comfort;
warmth and hearty sustenance;
friendship, hospitality, compassion;
ease and unconstraint and laughter;
peace and innocence and honesty;
devotion, silence; passion, tenderness;
respect and solace;
Weaver of the fibers of community and
fellowship;
Heart of celebration, rhythm of rejoicing;
Inspiration for the dance, for music, poetry,
for every form of artistry;
All that is rational, spontaneous, intuitive,
and wise;
All that is generous and sensible, benevolent,
responsible;
These are your attributes; they are the nutrients
we need for life and growth;
They are the woven strands the poet speaks of:
Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry
in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable
tender hand, placed beside another thread and
held and carried by a hundred others.**

 * Craig D. Lounsbrough
** Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Tapestry with the Arms of the Giovio Family-detail

Tapestry with the arms of the Giovio family (detail) with the Giovio arms and family motto in Latin: “Wisdom is weaker than fate.”

1543-1552, probably commissioned for the Palazzo Giovio in Como
Southern Netherlands (Belgium), Bruges
Woven in wool and silk on wool warp

This long tapestry with three medallions surrounded with garlands bears the arms and motto of Giovio of Como on a mille-fleurs ground, enlivened with a variety of birds and animals. It is the finest example of its kind known. It was presumably intended to hang above wainscotting. Paolo Giovio was bishop of Nocera, but his motto, Fato prudentia minor’(wisdom is weaker than faith) is more Humanist than Christian.

Collection ID: 256-1895

This photo was taken as part of Britain Loves Wikipedia in February 2010 by David Jackson.

 

 

 

Prayer of Praise and Morning

WHAT A STREAM CAN DO

mISSISSIPPI-RIVER-HEADWATERS

Mississippi River headwaters, from Sources of the Mississippi River

Sometimes we are called to be with you—
called just when the sun is rising, first light
caught and let go at the bend in the river—
at the slow bend in the Mississippi River… .
Look at the glory that rolls in the ripples of
river. What a story they have for our ears!
“All is well,” they assure us—and they have
seen it all.
Haven’t they seen what a stream of deep
water can do, rolling on and on and on, serene
in the certainty this is its reason for being
on earth: rolling in glorious ease of divinity
from the beginning as it was created for?
They have seen what a stream can do.

We are called to walk alongside you
when we are afraid. We are called to lift our
brown wings as we have seen the
strong angels do, and fly with you.
Sometimes it seems, however long we try,
however hard, we can’t find you in the
old cities with our old eyes. Then a light like a
flame enters our vision—
Now we are not afraid.
You take our pain away, now and tomorrow,
even the agony of yesterday’s…
yesterday’s sorrow is carried away, to vanish
forever at the bend in the river.
Where we believed we were powerless,
now is revealed a perpetual current of grace.
What seemed timid there now shows its face.
Gone is our weakness. This is our hour!
Thank you, God of everything. Alleluia.
All creation, every gift we bring back to you,
who gave it in the beginning.

Sometimes we are called to sit with you—
called to sit and burn a candle in the evening,
called to give you all our old pain, to be
taken away by the Mississippi River.
See the glory in the ripples of river. What a
story they have to tell: “All is well,” they say—
Haven’t they seen it all?
Haven’t they seen what a stream can do as it rolls on
and on, calm in the certainty this is what
it was created
to do?

Sometimes we are called to receive your blessing
in the middle of an afternoon.
Sometimes we are called to lift our wings as the
angels do, and fly with you.
Sometimes you give us a glimpse of bright
places we sometimes call Heaven;
then you remind us we need not have waited—
it was there all along. It was not hidden.
You did not take it away. Did we wait too long?
You once accepted our pain—once and forever,
what was humility turned into beautiful
strength for the weariness, rest for the
feet that need not have walked on so far;
purpose and energy for adoration— what a
glorious day you have
made.

Gone is the pain of the injured;
gone the despair of affliction;
gone is the fever, strong are the sick who
yesterday lay in their beds;
all our distresses, made plain before us,
taken away by the Mississippi River.
Gone is our weakness. This is our hour!
Thank you, O God of everything.
Alleluia! Amen.

Sunrise-on-mississippi

The Great Continuum

800px-Farming_near_Klingerstown%2C_Pennsylvania

Imagine for a minute—All of us are rays of sun,
emitted without interruption, rockets blazing
from horizon to horizon, individual but never
separated, each from any other one.
We come from light, as we have always done.

In eons past, the seas erupted, mountains
rising from the deep.
The rivers ran like fountains, rain
replenishing the streams.
Microscopic living things grew roots and leaves
and seeds with wings,
and century by century,
uncounted strange and lovely creatures
ventured into being,
perfectly arranged by God, ordained by form
and purpose
for Creation’s happiness and nurture.

At sunrise, darkness runs for cover,
scattering to its mysterious retreats,
its caverns
damp and chill and inhospitable to all except
the twisted denizens of night,
and these are nothing, less than nothing…
accidents of misdirected energy…
and being powerless, illusory.
When looked upon they vanish. If their
shadows sometimes haunt my memory,
they do not worry me.

So let us rest our thought and our attention
on the glory of Creation. Let us take
no interest in the flimsy, fabricated story of
a Nothing that pretends to be
a Something. Thus do we deprive it of
illusions of reality… while
Beauty, fed and nourished by our
curious, benign awareness of it,
flourishes around us.

Even now we can pinch off some tender
flowers, rich in possibility, as thousands more
remain to give us fruit and grain at harvest,
dropping seeds whose roots and capillaries
reach into the ground.
A feast awaits them there, and rest, and
maturation, as the never-ending cycle starts
again. The seeds wait patiently, obeying
nature’s laws, and effortlessly they respond to
March’s equinox and thaw.
The crop grows sweet and bountiful, by
autumn ripe and yielding joy and
satisfaction at
the time appointed,
light becoming life as always in
the great continuum… and we
shine on.