Ring the Christmas Bells

isabella-breviary-adoration-of-magi

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in Emmanuel
today. A child is born in Bethlehem amid the
creatures in the stable. Humble his
surroundings, yet he comes to rule the hearts of
people ‘round the world. Are you afraid?
Give to the holy one your fears. And do you
weep? Give him your tears; he makes of them
your baptism. Return to purity, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the victory
of joy and peace. A child is born in Bethlehem,
and creatures give him homage. Kings adore
him; precious are the gifts they bring. Now sing
for him a lullaby; sing him to sleep. Sing this:
Sweet Jesus, God among us, Lord Emmanuel.
So innocent is he, yet he accepts our sin and
our distress. Return to bliss, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the hope of
better days to be. A child is born in Bethlehem,
a world transformed his gift to you and me.
He is the Morning Star; the very sun bows
down to him, and through his tender mercy
what was old and weary now is new again.
Give him your tears, and they become your
baptism. Return to innocence, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

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Bliss

Space, Earth, Sunrise

...as if the whole big wild chaotic universe is sitting on my lap surrounded by and drenched in love

I Am the Archetypal Mother

rain falling on trees and road

...a baptism of rain

There is a frightened little girl in me who fights the good fight every minute every day and cries herself to sleep and I don’t comfort her enough, but now I’m longing to enfold her; so we sit and rock, the two of us, and, oh, what simple strength there is in that, and bliss. And as I wrap my arms around the child, it
seems as if the whole big wild chaotic universe is sitting on my lap surrounded by and drenched in love. I am the
archetypal mother, crooning, soothing, weeping for my children’s pain. But the Creator takes my tears, as all
are gathered for a baptism of rain, sweet, tender, healing rain
that makes the iris and the poppy and the peach tree
bloom again. So when we cry, the child and I, our grief is
not in vain. Our sighing is a gentle breeze, and when we
laugh the leaves dance on the elderberry trees.

Tree in the mist

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Breathing Dawn

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A Morning Meditation

angel_clouds

Brothers, sisters, sons and daughters,
come with me to sacred waters.
Bring your troubles and your sorrows
at the cusp of dawn tomorrow.

Watch with me and greet the sun,
envoy of the Holy One.
Breathe with me the healing rays,
harbinger of blissful days,

sunrise_deb_small

conquerer of death and dread
with its lance of fiery red;
comforter of the oppressed.
Wait with me; be healed, and rest.

Feel the gentle pink caress
comfort you at God’s behest.
Listen to the songbirds’ chorus:
”Hallelujah! God before us.”

30-Year-Puzzle-Solved-Light-Guides-Flight-of-Migratory-Birds-2

God above and God within us —
love and light are reigning in us;
these our strength, we are serene,
ever breathing dawn’s first beam.

Enter now the crystal waters,
brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
Let the river wash you clean;
see your sorrows swept downstream.

paintbox_mountains_lake

Now rejoice in God, our savior,
praise the Lord, the one creator.
Open wide your arms; believe
in the blessings you receive.

grassy_valley_bluesky_gorgeous

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Sacred Springs

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Deep Water

spring natural

The Ancient Ones believe: If we
could hear it in primeval purity,
beside a sacred spring, just by the
sunlit surfacing where it emerges
all but unadulterated, there must
be, in all the fullness of a
symphony, a song within the
watercourse — which, hearing,
touching, tasting, bathing in it
heals the spirit of its slow,
insidious decay and makes us
innocent and wholly realized,
perhaps immortal — who can
say?

Even now, you and I can hear our
voices clear and buoyant in the
chorus — although you might
perceive nuances and notes and
cadences in this eternal mystic
composition differently than I.

barbadosblue

For since our origin, we have
sailed on different seas to
different ports; our purposes and
choices have developed separate
pathways in the mind through
which the melodies pour in and
where the orchestration rises like
the ocean at high tide. Yet even
so, divided at a crossroads,
separated by a mist, we can yet
decide — to harmonize or clash,
sing peace or, maybe, dissonance
and, if the latter, float with a
deceptive ease, by flattery and
treacherous inducement,
downstream through the sluice
gate where cacophony drowns out
the sacred tune; so many
voices, shrill and wounded from
the willful howling, shouting,
shrieking to be heard above the
rest.spring water

And when at last we learn that life
is not a race, nor yet a test, then
destiny — some call it grace —
will bring us home, in this life or
the next, perhaps a thousand
lifetimes hence. The many roads
are one road in the end, and every
soul will seek at last the blessed
lullaby; each in time will kneel
beside a holy well, to rest, to be
made innocent, as once more
called to cleansing in the spring,
the sunlit source of all we know
above the deep and hidden flow.

riverside_wales

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Maybe God Is a Verb

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

Our very good friend Steve is getting well.

Just a few weeks ago, he was at Death’s Door. His family members from the Four Corners of the Earth had gathered to say their last goodbyes. Now he is getting ready to leave the hospital for a few weeks of physical rehabilitation, and then he will go home.

Steve’s wife, Merry, calls this “a miracle.” I know that hundreds of people have been praying for Steve. He is, as Sister Alma Rose says, a “real character” — the kind of person who, when he walks into a room, the room seems a little warmer and brighter. To know him and Merry is to love them, that’s all.

Sister Alma Rose says that prayer doesn’t change God’s mind. It’s not like God is thinking, oh, well, I was going to let him pass into the Great Beyond, but since so many people are praying fervently for him, I guess I’ll let them keep him for a while.

seagull_in_flight_oceanPrayer, says Sister Alma Rose, lifts the sick person into the Realm of Spirit, where nothing ever decays or dies. Prayer strengthens the flame of the soul-candle of the heart, which burns away the illusion of evil, whatever form it takes. Or (Sister Alma Rose uses lots of metaphors), prayer immerses the pray-er and the pray-ee in a sort of baptismal sea, where they are made new and clean.

“Doesn’t God have anything to do with it?” I ask.

“God rules in the Realm of Spirit,” says Sister Alma Rose. “God lights the soul-candle of the heart. The baptismal sea is God’s eternal grace. And the rest is one of the Mysteries.”

Sister Alma Rose says that if we knew exactly how God answers prayer, then we would be as smart as God; and, as she succinctly points out, “We ain’t.” She says, “Folks spend too much time trying to understand God, as if God were something they could put in a jar and study, like a beetle.”

She tilts her head and reflects for a minute. “Maybe,” she says at last; “maybe God ain’t a noun at all. Maybe God is more like a verb.”

* * *

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The Sea

barbadosbluePrayer is to the spirit as water is to the body — Source unknown

Swim in a River of Prayer

Before there was anything else on Earth, there was a great sea. Then the Creator reached out and touched the sea, and thus began life. A living thing thrived in the great sea, moving, moving, always toward life.

And the one became many, and the many grew in size and variety and beauty, and in something not quite like knowledge. The living things in the sea did not know the sea, because there was nothing else, only the endless water. They did not know that it was blue and green and beautiful. They did not know that without the sea they could not live. They did not know about the sun or the moon or the stars.

Then the Creator reached out again and caused a great upheaval of the Earth, and mountains rose up out of the sea. In time the rains and the sun and the tides gentled the mountains, and there were beaches and valleys. The sun raised water from the sea, and the wind blew the water over the land and baptized it with life — green and spreading, growing, and growing more, always toward life.

rainforestThen the tides threw creatures from the sea onto the dry land, and some were carried back into the deep, but one found both the sea and the land to be hospitable, and that one thrived, creeping upon the land and swimming in the sea.

And the one became many, and the many grew in size and variety and beauty, and in something not quite like knowledge, but rather in a sense of the difference between dry land and water. Moving, moving, always toward life, they found that streams flowed from the mountains to the sea, and they thrived in and alongside the streams, which came from the rain, which the sun raised from the sea.

The green things — spreading, growing, and growing more, always toward life — became broad and tall, and beckoned the creeping things to feast on their fruit. In time, the strongest of the creatures made claws to scale the trees, and some made wings out of their fins to soar over oceans and rivers and land . But even those who built nests and lived and bore their young in trees required water to survive, just as did the creatures who swam only in the sea.

farmlandafterrainAnd the dryland creatures became many, and the many grew in size and variety and beauty, and in something a little more like knowledge, until one arose from all the creatures who roamed the earth, and that one had knowledge and more; that one had understanding.

And the one became many, and the many grew in size and variety and strength and intelligence. But some of the people turned their intelligence toward small, inward things, and forgot about the sea, and with all their understanding, they did not know that they had come from the sea and required it to survive, just as did the creatures who swam only in the sea. They injured the streams, though they required them to survive. They injured the creatures who swam in the streams; they injured the air and the land and the sea; they blocked the sun — though they required all these things to survive.

eagle_creek_oregonIn their minds, they forgot about the eternal sea, though their hearts remembered, and pulsed with admonition. And the people were uneasy, because they believed that their minds were more powerful than their hearts. And so they defied their hearts, and thus they injured even the streams that flowed through their bodies, pulsing from their hearts with admonition.

But in every age, among all the peoples, there have been those who have remembered the eternal sea, who have known that, where pure streams cannot flow, living things shrivel and perish, and where the mind is not nourished by the heart, the mind withers and is sterile.

Those who remember are the teachers and sages, the Wise Ones, the Ancients, the embodied admonitions of the heart’s pulsing. They say to us, swim, always, in the remembered pure streams that flow to the sea. Immerse yourself always in that awareness, which is prayer. When you drink clear water, know it as a ceremony and celebrate the eternal sea, which is something that we know of God. For prayer is to the spirit as water is to the body… and those who immerse themselves in prayer will be continually refreshed and renewed.

* * *

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Sister Alma Rose Q & A

Dear Sister Alma Rose — Are you Born Again? —Wondering in Walla Walla

Forever Innocent

Forever Innocent

Dear Wondering — Oh, my, yes. As often as possible. Sister Alma Rose is new every morning — every minute, when she thinks about it….

Every time she thanks God for what is instead of fretting about what ain’t….

Every time she plunges into the still, healing waters of meditation and finds the unblemished soul….

Every time she packs her guilt and regrets, her worries and fears, into a prayer, and the angels scoop down and pick it right up and carry it away like a leaf on the wind….

Every time she opens her heart….

And here’s the astonishing thing: It’s never too late. There’s never a wrong time to reclaim y’all’s innocence.

Cleaning Baked-On Meanness

God, please let me not forget you when I’m feeling small or slighted or inept; and help me find delight in great achievements, mine or otherwise, and if a person I despise is recognized for some accomplishment I find astonishing (because, perhaps, I deem the credit to be mine), chastise me first for the despising, second for the pride, and then let my resentment burn until I plead for mercy, maybe longer. (If it doesn’t kill me it will make me stronger.)

The self-absorbed soon pay for failing to appreciate another’s greatness. They inflate their own importance and grow corpulent, so bloated that their eyes no longer open. Then they float away, and no one notices, or if they do, forget to mourn.

So move whatever bars the door aside and scrub my spirit clean of malice, jealousy, and pettiness. It’s an extraordinary mess you’ll find. An unsuspecting guest, just popping by, would stop and stare, and suddenly remember a forgotten obligation. “Look at the time,” he’d say. “I’ve got to fly,” and match the statement with the deed.

You’ll need more than a feather duster here to penetrate the grime; a vat of lye, perhaps, or hydrochloric acid must be liberally applied to baked-on meanness such as mine, accumulated since approximately June of Nineteen-Fifty-Five, when Jimmy Hoffa was alive — in fact, for all I know, he’s living still, stuffed in a sack beneath my bed, tied up and gagged and old and ill — worse yet, tied up beneath my bed, and dead.

I am reminded of an oven I attacked one Saturday, so black and thick with grease that you could only bake one cookie at a time. I scraped and chiseled, used a brush with metal bristles, left ammonia vaporizing in the oven overnight, and after many days of sweat and strife, I thought I saw a shiny spot — those tiny white-on-granite-colored dots and speckles, seeming to be taken by surprise, closing their little granite eyes against the unaccustomed light.

And thus, I fear most mightily, you’ll find my spirit, crushed beneath the weight of wickedness accumulated over decades, unregretted, unconfessed when it was fresh and could have just been sponged away. For I’ve been greedy when I needed nothing, feasted without gratitude and, still unsatisfied, I asked for more, and more besides, instead of being glad to be alive instead of lying underneath somebody’s bed, five decades dead.

May 2006

“Cleaning Baked-On Meanness,” from Unfamiliar Territory, © 2006, Mary Campbell and Zero Gravity

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