Evening Prayer

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TIME AFTER TIME

Divine Protector, when the old clock’s minute hand
moves step by step toward evening, tick by tick to measure
something science claims is nonexistent—time, a concept only,
humankind’s invention;

…when the shadows lengthen and the daylight dims, the darkness
thickens and the denizens of night come out of hiding, mischief-
making elves and pixies, predators becoming bold, their timid prey
uneasy, skittering across the open places to their subterranean
retreats;

…when flying insects play a game of chicken ’round a sizzling lamp
and hunters prowl the desert, lone coyotes or a noisy pack of them,
whose triumphs are announced as if by lunatic night watchmen;

Our spirits seek your comfort then, and your protection and your
teaching. Ancient stories of the night endure across millennia; their
histories whose seeds were planted in the distant past still feed and
stimulate imaginations. Storytellers out of time have demonized the
wee hours, never mind that they arrive on schedule, never mind
that night has seasons independent of the solstice and the equinox.
For reasons of its own, night lets the lonely lay their isolation at its
door; the hopeless wrap it ‘round their flimsy frames—cold comfort
but a form of solace nonetheless. The slenderer the moon, the more
secure are the immortalized adventurers and mystics, daughters of
the sky, and those who streak in seconds to the edges of the cosmos
while we ordinary creatures merely seek oblivion—but we are given
dreams and shown the convocation of the galaxies. We hear the
music in the stratosphere’s deceptive stillness, and we watch the
dancers and the acrobats whose gleeful choreography—their
romping, gliding, flying past a billion planets in a single leap—defines
our aspirations and the freedom we possess if we would seize it
even once.

Divine Beloved, send us angels who can steer the ship that sails at
moonrise, navigating seas now smooth, now agitated, now
mysterious where ghosts and phantasms abide.

Guardian angels, spirit guides, beloved saints and bygone mentors,
teach us secrets inaccessible to sight; show us the treasures and the
perils human eyes are blind to. Be a lantern in the dark night of the
soul, when mortal bonds are unavailing.

Custodians of our repose, when we uneasily succumb to sleep,
support us, soul and body. On our own, we battle gravity until
exhaustion overtakes the sturdiest intention and we drift into the
ocean. By your watchfulness and with your strength we rise to
altitudes our own wings are unequal to, heights tantamount to bliss,
and we experience a gentle floating on a peaceful thought; we are
receptive to the wisdom that is taught only in dreams. We put aside
anxiety and fill the space with gratitude for blessings in abundance,
evidence of love and messages of grace; and as we do, we feel the
muscles’ loosening; the joints relax, the chest expands. A warm
sensation, liquid light scooped from the sun’s last pouring-out,
surrounds and fills us to the marrow till our very cells are saturated.
Thus the cleansing and the healing can begin, and the reunion with
Divinity (as if there ever were or could be separation). Thus it is that
we behold each other truly, innocent and new. Thus are we daily
born again.

Amen.

san_juan_de_la_cruz

St. John of the Cross, 16th-century Carmelite brother, Spanish poet and mystic, wrote “The Dark Night of the Soul” in 1578 or 1579. 

 

 

 

Hair Wars II

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The Healing Power of Touch

The Healing Power of Touch

In harmony with GodWe are continually amazed and delighted that God will talk to us, that He loves us, that the guiding Intelligence of the universe really cares for our small concerns. His lavishness overwhelms us and his humility humbles us….

On the days when I am in harmony with God, who is love, all things both great and small seem to work together for my good. My work is done easily and with power and my decisions are quick and unerring…. But when I fall into annoyance and irritation, nothing “clicks.” I work slowly, make careless decisions, and waste time generally….

The healing touch of God through us — [If I am in harmony with God, I can] help people directly, face to face and often with my hands upon them…. It is a natural impulse to hold the fevered hand… to pat the fretful child…. In so doing, we convey the power of love one to another, not through the understanding of the mind but through the tenderness of the heart,… [which is] from everlasting to everlasting and in touching it we have touched immortality. Agnes Sanford, The Healing Light

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

The Battle of the Barbers, continued…

(Read “The Battle of the Barbers,” Part 1)

Here is a mystical story about the Ancients from Sister Alma Rose’s childhood.

The cast of characters is large for such a small story:

The person telling the story (the “I”) is, of course, Sister Alma Rose. Calista and Merrily and Lorelei are Sister Alma Rose’s little sisters, and Vincent and Colleen are the couple who lived in the big farmhouse, where Sister Alma Rose lives today, and helped take care of the children, the household, and the farm after Sister Alma Rose’s mama died; and Daddy Pete is… well, Daddy Pete is who he is….

Eastern garter snake

Eastern garter snake

‘They Have Much to Teach You’

When Colleen and Vincent and Daddy Pete tucked us in at bedtime, Calista was still cross. She turned her face sideways when Daddy Pete and Vincent tried to kiss her, and she pushed Colleen away when she sat down next to Calista on the bed.

“Calista,” said Colleen very seriously, “garter snakes are protected by the Ancients. Would you want one of the Ancients coming into your room at midnight to find Greenie and take him back outside where he belongs?”

Vincent looked startled. It wasn’t like Colleen to try to frighten children into obedience, and he opened his mouth to say something, but Daddy Pete put a hand on Vincent’s arm and shook his head.

“Pooh!” said Calista, who was five and didn’t believe in fairy tales. “The Ancients are just made up. Our mama said so.”

“Oh, no, Darling,” said Colleen. “The Ancients are all around us. They are kind and they would never harm you, but they would not allow you to keep Greenie in the house with you.”

“Colleen,” I asked drowsily, “have you ever seen one of the Ancients?”

“Why, I suppose I have,” she said, “though I might not have known it.”

“But aren’t they terribly old?”

“Very old indeed—hundreds and hundreds of years old—but some have been born into new bodies.

Some say the Ancients live in these mystical mountains

Some say the Ancients live in these mystical mountains

“All the Ancients used to live high in the mountains,” Colleen said, in her storytelling voice, “so high that they walked with God, and they rarely let themselves be seen by lowlanders. Some are still there, but not nearly as many as in my grandmother’s day.”

“Where did they go?” I asked breathlessly, at the same time Merrily asked, “Why did they leave?”

Colleen laughed at our eagerness. “Well, for one thing, with so many people in the world, it’s harder to stay hidden. That’s one reason, but there’s another, and it’s more important.

“The Ancients know things that no scholar or scientist could even imagine. They have developed their senses so that they can see and hear things that happen miles away. And they have discovered other senses, which all people possess but are not aware of. They can see angels. They can understand the language of growing plants and trees. They know how to heal body and mind. They can read patterns in the universe that tell them of things that happened long ago, and they have ways of knowing what is yet to be. Some of them can fly without wings and, I’ve been told, can move from place to place without going between. And in their wisdom, they use their abilities for good, never for evil.

“So God scattered the Ancients throughout this troubled world, to bring peace and healing. Some came down from the hills just as they were, but the oldest he caused to be born again, as babies. Have you never heard someone say of a new infant that she is an ‘old soul’?”

This man lives near Ouidah, Benin. We think he is one of the Ancients who came down from the hills

One of the Ancients who came down from the hills, this man lives near Ouidah, Benin

“How do you recognize them?” Calista asked, having forgotten that she was angry at Colleen for giving Greenie his freedom. “Do you know an Ancient when you see one?”

“There is a sign,” said Colleen, “but only the Ancients themselves know what it is. I can only guess—when I look into someone’s eyes and I can see to the end of the universe; or when they have a certain serenity and purity, or they are wise beyond their years; or when they seem to attract miracles; and most of all, when I feel completely safe and loved by someone the moment we meet—not like Vincent and I love each other, but more like a mama’s or daddy’s love—then I am almost certain I have been in the presence of one of the Ancients.”

We were all quiet for a moment, thinking of the people we knew and wondering…. Then Merrily, the skeptic, turned to Daddy Pete and said, “Daddy Pete, is this true, or is it just made up like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’?”

Daddy Pete reached over and gently tugged a lock of Merrily’s hair. “Oh, it’s true, Little One. Of course, even ‘made-up’ stories, like the ones about King Arthur and the Holy Grail, and Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, have sprung from true things. There is a great deal that happens in the world, and the part we know about is just a tiny dot. Never doubt the Ancients, girls. They have much to teach you, if you can find them.”

Source: Daddy Pete, by Mary Campbell

Queen Guinevere's Maying, by John Collier, 1900

Queen Guinevere's Maying*, by John Collier, 1900

Sister Alma Rose Tames the Barbers of Hilltop

I wanted to give this story sort of a dramatic title because it was, as it turned out, a rather dramatic event, and you have to know something about the Ancients to understand it, because Sister Alma Rose is one of them (the Ancients), I suspect, though when I ask her straight out, “Sister Alma Rose, are you one of the Ancients?” she only smiles and bakes bread, or something, she is always doing something useful, and even when she is relaxing on her wonderful porch, doing nothing, she is crocheting, which she has been doing for at least a hundred years, maybe a thousand, if she is one of the Ancients.

Mama and Daddy know, I think, but when I ask them, they just say, “Well, it’s certainly possible.”

A woman churning butter in a barrel churn, by W. H. Pyne, 1805

A woman churning butter in a barrel churn, by W. H. Pyne, 1805

Here is why I think she is one of the Ancients: In the stories she tells of her childhood, she is always churning butter or skimming the cream off fresh milk, or embroidering a sampler, or the like, and there is no mention of a car or a refrigerator, and Daddy Pete goes everywhere in a horse-drawn wagon.

But more than that, it is the way she is — not exactly magical, but just sort of charmed, if you see what I mean, in the way she knows things, in the way she is wise and untroubled, in the way she calms people who are in a state of panic because their husband is fooling around with the babysitter, for heaven’s sake, and when people are sick, she tucks them into bed in her lovely pink attic bedroom, which, Mama and I agree, is like being a bee in a poppy, and they always, always get well under Sister Alma Rose’s care.

Fanny Mendelssohn

Fanny Mendelssohn

And here is the real giveaway, I think: Mama and Daddy let me spend as much time as I want with Sister Alma Rose instead of making me babysit for my brothers, Johannes and Arcangelo, whom we call Angelo, so as you can see, we are all named after musicians, Mama’s favorite composers, although Daddy put his foot down when Mama proposed “Wolfgang” for Johannes, which I wish he had done (put his foot down) when Mama said she wanted to name me after Fanny Mendelssohn.

Sister Alma Rose can hold energy in her hands
through the power of the Holy Spirit, she says, and I have felt the warmth of it. She can heal with her hands, and she says that, by the grace of God, anyone can do what she does.

“I have been given a few gifts,” she says modestly, “and I thank God every day that I have useful work that I love to do and that I am able to do it. For instance, do y’all know anyone who makes better barley bread than mine?” she asks, her eyes twinkling. “Do ya’ll want me to teach you to make barley bread, Miss Fanny?”

Photo by Klaus Höpfner

Photo by Klaus Höpfner

“Well, yes, I do, actually,” I say.

“Life is so good,” she says with a look of wonder. “Sometimes I almost burst with gratitude, and I would burst, too, if I didn’t use the gifts God has given me. And then I would lose them.  Y’all remember that, Fanny McElroy, because y’all have been given much, and much will be expected of y’all in time.”

I sometimes think that I am supposed to be something like Sister Alma Rose’s apprentice, sort of, because she takes me almost everywhere she goes, and she says, “Y’all remember that” a lot, but I’m not sure I do remember what I’ve learned, though it’s quite a bit, I believe, and I ought to go make a list, but not now, because today, at the mayor’s special meeting, I expect that Sister Alma Rose is going to use her unusual gifts to heal the town of Hilltop and reconcile the barbers, Bill and his son Henry. I’m just not sure how….

To be continued…

Poppies, from Quiet Garden on Bing

Poppies, from Quiet Garden on Bing

* Queen Guinevere’s Maying

Maying means “celebrating May Day.” Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, and celebrations involving a Maypole. Much of this tradition derives from the pagan Anglo-Saxon customs held during “Þrimilci-mōnaþ” (the Old English name for the month of May meaning “Month of Three Milkings”).

May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries. With Christianity came agricultural feasts such as Plough Sunday (the first Sunday in January), Rogationtide, Harvest Festival, and May Day. It is most associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings.

Since May 1st is the Feast of St Philip & St James, they became the patron saints of workers. Seeding has been completed by this date and it was convenient to give farm labourers a day off. Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the Maypole, around which traditional dancers circle with ribbons. —Wikipedia

Photo by Michael Maggs

Photo by Michael Maggs


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Sister Alma Rose is on vacation

All Paths Converge in the End

by Mary Campbell

A real spiritual teacher assists you in finding Yourself. They help you find, not their truth, but your own Truth Within. Teacher is a mediocre word for someone who does this; spiritual sponsor would be a more accurate description. Or reciprociter. Personally, I’d call them Friends and Family, that’s Who We Are. In Equality, who has greater Equality? The one who knows more than somebody else, or the one who shares what they understand? —Will on Care2

Journey to Bliss

The gift of any true teacher to his or her student is (1) to impart a love of learning and (2) to supply, or point to, resources… then to sit back and watch the student devour the resources and look for more.

The teacher walks a fine line, as does the writer. At what point does information become dogma? I believe that the tenacity with which some “teachers” impose their views on others has to do with a belief in mortality. “Gotta hurry and get my perpetually angry 35-year-old son on medication, or into meditation and on a spiritual path. His anger is ruining his life.”

Bristol Maraton, 2006; photo by Steve Gregory

Bristol Maraton, 2006; photo by Steve Gregory

But everything snaps into place when you understand that everyone is already on a spiritual path. Your path, and my son’s, will undoubtedly be different from my path, and I can accept that, even be joyful about it, because I know that the spiritual journey spans uncounted lifetimes, and that all paths converge in the end.

Prayers are powerful

Many pray for my son and their prayers are powerful. Occasionally I am sad to see my son struggle, every day, just to be. His brother and his sister both seem to have slipped, with varying degrees of ease, into their “place in creation.”

But I also see spiritual progress in my son, and it has been many years since I have despaired of him. When he was a little boy — who did not know the meaning of serenity — I tried to impose my remedies (my truth) upon him, because his chronic anger and unhappiness broke my heart. This is what mothers do, a lot — try to fix people, especially their children — until they (the mothers) have used themselves up.

Grace (Eventually), by Anne Lamott

Grace (Eventually), by Anne Lamott

So, making a virtue of necessity, I surrendered him to God, I practiced not worrying until not worrying became a habit, and in the process I came I understand that we are all in different places on our journey to bliss, and that there are no wrong paths, merely detours.

Many people have asked me how I learned to stop worrying, how I ceased feeling guilty and having regrets. Well, as someone whom I once had to study in World Lit. said, “I have been to the abyss.” When a hand finally reached down to pull me out, I promised God that I would always be happy and I would never fret about anything again.

I have died and been reborn — quite a number of times, actually.

GraceAnne Lamott writes, “means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had no way to get there on your own.”

* * *

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    ‘Get a Life, Amanda Groom’

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    Sister Alma Rose Teaches Meditation

    meditator_istock

    Sister Alma Rose is teaching me to meditate. Nothing could be easier, really… and there are many ways to meditate, including the labyrinth for people who can’t sit or lie still.

    Medieval labyrinth

    Medieval labyrinth

    As you know, Sister Alma Rose sometimes does lying-down meditations, which are really, I think, screening her real purpose, which is to nap. But I could be wrong.

    She has taught me to meditate in a position similar to that of the woman in the photo above, except I don’t have gorgeous collarbones as she does, nor do I want to sit in a puddle. Also, Sister Alma Rose would never instruct her students to hold their heads in that unnatural “heads back” position, but, rather, our necks are straight and held comfortably, chins tucked in just a bit.

    Here is the point…

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    The body is a metaphor for the spirit. The position of the woman’s hands, extended, resting on her knees, indicates a willingness to freely accept God’s gifts, which are grace.

    She is sitting with an “open heart,” her shoulders back, her heart exposed, concealing nothing and eager to enfold others, whether their hearts be whole or damaged.

    The body scan

    Sometimes Sister Alma Rose has me begin meditation with a body scan. You consciously relax every muscle, every bone, every organ, every cell in your body, beginning with the toes and working your way up to the “crown” — the top of the head.

    When you do a body scan, you might find some areas of discomfort. Often, the pain will disappear in a few minutes just by your allowing your attention to rest in the uncomfortable areas.

    happydancer1_istockAfter you are finished with the body scan and with your meditation, think about the areas of discomfort that you noticed. Discomfort and pain mean that your body is trying to tell you something.

    The body doesn’t lie

    For example,  Sister Alma Rose says that if your eyes are burning and itching, there is probably something going on in your life that you refuse to “see.”  If the pain is in your abdomen, you have a “gut feeling” about something… a decision you’ve made or a situation you’re in. “Go with your gut,” Sister Alma Rose almost always advises.

    If you have a persistent headache, you could be overanalyzing something that might benefit from an intuitive approach. Not every problem can be solved solely by the intellect.

    And — pardon me — if you are constipated, it might be because you are “holding in” feelings that need to be expressed. If you are angry with someone, it is best to express your feelings in a civil way. Don’t worry if the person you’re mad at doesn’t “change.” Don’t sigh and complain, “I tell him and I tell him, and it doesn’t do any good.” Of course it does some good, to bring your feelings out in the open instead of hiding them and letting them fester and forgetting about them until they turn on you in some awful way.

    happydancer4_istockSomeone once said, “The only reason to tell someone what you feel is to tell someone what you feel.” You are giving information. What the other person does with that information is up to him or her.

    Sometimes people can be annoying

    Now — There will always be people in your life who irritate you and who offer you no way of escaping because THEY ARE YOUR RELATIVES. My own parents are perfect, but if I were to marry Pablo in ten years I would have to deal with his sister’s snide comments and his mother’s overprotectiveness. I’m sure Pablo’s mamacita would feel that anything I did for Pablo would be flawed because I would not be doing it HER way. (But anyway, I am never going to marry Pablo. He is just my best friend.)

    Sister Alma Rose suggests two different way to deal with people who annoy you, if you can’t avoid them altogether:

    (1) Stop focusing exclusively on the words or the actions of the irritating person. Instead see the whole person, and project love and light from your heart to that person. Breathe in, to capture the light that shines from above and is always around you. Breathe out, to embrace the other person in the light.

    (2) Silently repeat this mantra:

    Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. —Psalm 51:10

    happydancer3_istockIf the other person is at all toxic, this meditation will protect your heart from the other’s poison and will allow you to be clean and new, free of “baggage,” at any time you choose. Even before Sister Alma Rose began teaching me to meditate, I always liked to repeat this verse from Psalms to remind me to claim my innocence and state of grace. “Restore in me the joy of your salvation,” the Psalm goes on to say, “and uphold me with your free spirit.”

    “Never,” says Sister Alma Rose, “never allow anyone to steal your joy.”

    Sister Alma Rose Is Steamin’

    Sister Alma Rose does not always practice what she preaches. Mrs. Groom, the wife of the Presbyterian pastor in Hilltop, appeared uninvited on Sister Alma Rose’s wonderful, spacious, grass-green porch one day, while Sister Alma Rose and Pablo and I were playing UNO, and she, Mrs. Groom, I mean, proceeded to lecture Sister Alma Rose about Portia, who is Cousin Dulcie’s daughter, which means, I think, that Portia is Sister Alma Rose’s first cousin once removed. In any case, there is no controlling Portia. She is part wood nymph, part bright redbird, and I have seen her fly, and I am not making that up. (I am almost sure she is one of the Ancients.)

    pp_manwomanAfter listening calmly to Mrs. Groom for about five minutes, which was when Mrs. Groom ran out of breath, Sister Alma Rose poked her index finger, which is large, just like the rest of Sister Alma Rose, into the area of Mrs. Groom’s solar plexus, and Sister Alma Rose stood very close to her and said, “Amanda Groom, y’all are and always have been an interfering old busybody, and nobody in or around Hilltop has ever mended his or her ways because of y’all’s scolding, and Portia harms no one, and I want y’all off my property this minute or I shall call Sheriff Dunleavy and have y’all’s fat wiggly ass hauled to the county jail.”

    Mrs. Groom stalked off the porch and down the drive, and she was about halfway to the road when Sister Alma Rose called after her: “Amanda Groom!”

    Mrs. Groom turned and fixed a cold stare upon Sister Alma Rose.

    “Amanda Groom,” Sister Alma Rose repeated, “get a life.”

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    Splenectomy

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    The Touch God Gives Only to Mothers

    Charity, by Bouguereau, 1878

    Charity, by Bouguereau, 1878

    I, Fanny McElroy, ruptured my spleen last week. I did a belly-flop off Sister Alma Rose’s porch railing, which she has warned me not to do many, many times, at least a thousand.

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    When she saw me hit the ground — splat! — Sister Alma Rose started spewing prayers like a one-woman revival meeting, between calling an ambulance and calling my mama and calling Dr. Dierdre Barstow. “Sweet Jesus,” she hollered, “heal this foolish girl right now, even though Sister Alma Rose did tell her a thousand times not to climb on the porch railing.”

    Here, for your elucidation, is a small description of the spleen:

    In humans, the spleen is located in the abdomen of the body, where it has three primary functions: 1) Removal and destruction of old, aged red blood cells, 2) Synthesis of antibodies in the white pulp, and 3) Removal of antibody-coated bacteria and antibody-coated blood cells from the circulation. It is one of the centers of activity of the reticuloendothelial system (part of the immune system). Its absence leads to a predisposition to certain infections. —Wikipedia

    The human spleen; click on image for source The human spleen; click on image for source

    The ambulance rushed me to the hospital, which is, like, three feet from Sister Alma Rose’s farmhouse, and Dr. Deirdre Barstow proceeded to knock me out (actually, the anesthesiologist did that), cut me open, remove the spleen, and sew me back up.

    Mineral water (photo by Walter J. Pilsak)

    Mineral water (photo by Walter J. Pilsak)

    I was never afraid. Sister Alma Rose has a Special Relationship with God, and her prayers are solid gold. Plus my mom was there, and, just as they were wheeling me into surgery, my dad arrived, wiping sweat and dirt from his face with his bandana.

    After the operation, I had to swallow a tube through my nose! Right now there are tubes draining blood out of my abdominal cavity and transfusing new blood into my veins and feeding me — I cannot eat anything, I can’t even drink water! I am so thirsty! But I get to stay in bed and read for two weeks after I go home from the hospital.

    “Anonymous” wrote the following sexist axiom:

    God made mothers because he loves us and he wants us to be happy.
    God made fathers because he wants us to be just a little bit afraid.

    To be perfectly honest, I am more afraid of my mom than I am of my dad, and I’m more afraid of Sister Alma Rose than of my mom and dad together. I’m supposed to be at an age when I begin “distancing myself” from my mother. Some of my friends act like their moms are subhuman life forms from the planet Zongo.

    But my mom is okay; she’s semi-with it but doesn’t try to be. Anyway, there was nobody I wanted when I woke up from surgery more than Mama. This is a poem I wrote for her today, because I am getting a little bored and I AM DEFINITELY READY TO GO HOME….

    At first there were only a lemony glow
    and a few pale shadows murmuring, and
    then I remembered, because of the tube
    in my nose, a suggestion of roses, and
    something besides: eau de hospital
    disinfectant, I guess. I felt wretched, and
    that wretchedness was somehow
    reassuring. I felt; ergo, I lived… had
    emerged from that netherland
    entered when someone had
    covered my face with a cloth and
    said, “Take a deep breath.”

    rosebud_pink_gorgeousShe had betrayed me — the
    nurse with the red, jolly face;
    she had read to me kindly and
    led me to death — not a final,
    forever extinction, but
    nightmarish darkness and sinking
    in cold, nauseous, suffocating fog.

    And then there were sunlight and
    someone in white, and I wondered
    if I were in heaven. Impossible, not
    without Mama and Daddy, my
    brothers, and Sister Alma Rose,
    and lemonade, please God,
    particularly.

    lemonade

    Then a hand, small and delicate, but strong —
    I know that hand — slipped a
    tidbit of ice throgh my dry,
    burning lips; then the hand
    stroked my hair. On account of
    the tube in my wrist, I was
    forced to lie still, or of course
    I’d have reached for it.

    But I knew it was you
    by the touch God gives only
    to mothers; for each of your
    fingers, so slender, so soft, gave
    its own benediction; tender and
    eloquent, telling of longing and
    love, reassurance and gratitude,
    anxious solicitousness, and
    fatigue; most of all, “All is well;
    you are safe,” said your hands —
    and your face, when the shadows
    resolved, held a smile only
    slightly uncertain and tremulous.

    Is that how it was on the day I
    was born years ago at a quarter
    to noon? Yet again I am born
    unto you in a hospital room,
    with my person invaded by tubes and incisions,
    delivered from death by invisible
    arms with a power that surgeons
    might only wish for.

    Tuscany_sunrise

    Then I drifted away again, lulled
    by those strange, misty voices,
    some soft and some deep. Gliding
    smoothly to sleep, I heard you
    and the angel of mercy beside
    you, in white with her aura of
    unearthly light.

    angel_baroque_bernini

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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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    To the Soul

    Journal of a Departed Friend, Part 1

    journal

    An antique journal (Renaissance?)

    Sister Alma Rose recently received part of a journal from the year 1985 that was bequeathed to her by an old friend. Here is an excerpt:

    natdingbat2

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain
    or freed a human soul.
    —Mark Twain

    Blackeyed Susan growing wild along a country road

    Blackeyed Susan growing wild along a country road

    Where is it, then, this human soul 
    (if, indeed, there is such a place,
    a spring of pure motives and selfless love,
    a sanctuary of rest from struggle and anxiety)?

    “I can’t explain myself,
    I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice,
    “because I’m not myself, you see.”

     

    I control what I wear and what I eat,
    when I rake leaves and how I set my
    house in order. The soul is a place of uncontrol (I believe) where yet is not chaos but cosmic arrangement. It is
    a place of selflessness from which
    emanates the genuine Self, and it is
    THIS Self that I fear and that I
    hide from, behind activity and blind
    allegiances and alcohol and
    organization and television… that I
    bury and cover with the borrowed
    skins of the souls of others,
    calling them Identity.

    Rainbow (photo source unknown)

    Rainbow (photo source unknown)

    But this Soul, this Self, will not be
    denied; it draws one irresistibly. 
    I have found demons and have
    unmasked them, and at each turn I
    wonder if there are more-fearsome
    demons and angrier fiends. I have
    seen the sun disarm them and the
    rain dissolve them, and I believe a little
    less in the strength of demons and
    more in the power of the sun and the rain.

    Glasswing butterfly

    Glasswing butterfly

    It doesn’t do any good to run away,
    after all. It is like the man whose
    suspenders are caught on the doorknob: The faster he runs, the suddener his return. “No matter where you go,” it is truly said, “there you are.” 

     

     

     

    O, Power, embolden my encounter with the soul.

    natdingbat

    The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete

    I Give Up

    Sister Alma Rose Prays for Surrender

    garden_of_delights_hieronimus_bosch_c1500

    Take possession of my heart, O precious
    Father-Mother, for I do not use it
    well. It’s true, I open it a crack
    now and again, but then I do not know quite
    what to do, and so I put the shutters
    back and hide here in my room, where I have
    pallid and opaque reminders of your
    glory, second-hand, like faded Polaroids
    from nineteen-hundred-fifty-two.

    I have withheld my heart from you because I
    was afraid that I might join the tiresome
    Bible-thumping choir, forever quoting
    Scripture, but reflexively, too weary
    sloshing in the mire of modern thought to
    hunt for truth among the crocodiles and
    other predators of souls who talk of
    love but practice judgment in their
    robes of smug superiority.

    Among your attributes is love; I cannot
    manufacture it; you are the only vendor,
    and the only price is the detritus of a
    broken life — and that, you condescend to
    carry off, as humble as the man who
    hauls old, rusted cars away and sells
    the useful parts among the heaps of junk. And
    what becomes of the corroded pieces, well, I’m
    loath to say; perhaps they are recycled into
    sunbeams by your alchemy; perhaps they
    are what burns in hell, but only to be
    purified for further usefulness or cast as
    mountains, valleys, pastures…. maybe ground to
    earth… for distant universes, other
    Edens, other births. Amen

    garden_of_delights_detail

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    Sister Alma Rose’s Daily Prayer

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    We Are Healers and Disciples

    Prayer… is the conduit through which God’s power, grace, and light are released into a dark world. Long ago, Chinese theologian Watchman Nee said, “Our prayers lay the track down on which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails….” Prayer forms the bridge between earth’s need and heaven’s unending supply of grace. A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer: Forget the Guilt and Find the Gift, by Cheri Fuller

    Father-Mother God Almighty, you have
    shaped for us so wonderful a place, and
    grasshopper_in_buttercupyet we war for every inch, this acre,
    this enchanted space, as though we had, our-
    selves, created it out of the ether.

    Once you made me; make me once again, a
    new creation, every morning new, that
    I might shine with your reflected grace, and,
    too, no longer burdened with the weight of
    karmic retribution, spread my wings and
    fly among the planets and the stars.

    O, Father-Mother, send me to embrace with
    healing light my brothers and my sisters.
    Send me to them now and I shall kiss each
    brow, and sprinkle lavender and pearls, and
    they will feel the cure, a gentle sting, no
    more than that — for surely, God, once shriven,
    I am naught but pure and holy love, a
    moment only, living unencumbered,
    free of gravity — a ray of sun.

    enchanted_shore Your
    love is weightless; one might bear it blithely,
    just as driftwood rises to the surface
    of the sea. Direct me, Mother-Father,
    to the sons and daughters, restless in the
    night from pain or grieving. You can hear them,
    God, though they complain in solitude. But
    here, I see that you have summoned angels —
    guards, companions, watchers, whom I know fromwaterfall_mountains
    other nations, other lives. God, bless our
    going and returning. All you’ve taught to
    us of healing or of letting go; of
    being merciful or saying no; of
    finding the divinity in all — the
    learning’s etched upon our spirits, for we
    are your children, healers and disciples;
    joyfully we undertake to serve in
    all the paths you take and bid us follow.

    ____________

    All photos © Luc Viatour GFDL/CC

    ____________

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    Sister Alma Rose Walks with the Angels

    The Rescuer Whose Name Is Grace

     

    summer_trail_okThere is littleness in ghettos of the spirit; there are clusters of

    anxiety for great and small potentialities; there

    is a gnawing discontent, and there is greed, there is belligerence

    whose appetite for prey is so immense it manufactures

    enemies to butcher and devour. Here pain and anger

    are allowed and unrestrained; envy and resentment are

    infectious, and susceptible or even willing hosts become

    diseased. This is Planet Earth, its denizens believe.

    Luc Viatour

    Photo: Luc Viatour

     

    But there is one whose promise — “I have overcome the world” —

    revealed a paradise where anyone who wishes can abide. And when

    I chose to make my home where he is guardian and guide, I

    saw that littleness is less than I supposed, for I was given eyes

    with which to view the continents anew, and they were radiant. The

    huddled masses dwell, I saw, in mere illusion; fog that

    vanishes at dawn. I live among the angels and I wander

    on green hills, and the inhabitants with whom I every day converse

    are beauty, peace, vitality; are song and dance; are spirits that

    rejoice in blessed certainty that everything they need will be

    supplied, and more besides. This is where I live, but

    even so, I often fall away, for there is a seductive quality in

    self-indulgence and complaint. And then I have forgotten to

    return, have thought I didn’t know the way, have even stopped

    believing there was ever such a place. Infected by deceit

    and heavy with the burden of a nothingness disguised as stone,

    a monolith, I struggle for each breath and grapple with the lie that

    I am all alone. But I am not invisible to those who wait at home.

    Luc Viatour

    Photo: Luc Viatour

     

    They send a rescuer whose name is Grace, who never tires of carrying

    the weary and the lost back to the place prepared for them eternities

    ago. And the monstrosities are known for what they are — only shadows

    that cannot abide the sun. I needn’t earn the bread and wine on

    heaven’s table; all that is required is my acceptance. If

    unswallowed, they cannot revive the tired and hungry prodigal.

     

    Let this be my embracing of abundant grace; these words I

    have received and written, and must give away to clear a

    space for brighter blessings yet to come.

     

    February 13, 2006

    Luc Viatour

    Photo: Luc Viatour

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