The Energy That Breathes Me

Iris 'Supreme Sultan' with Alliums and Salvia in Early summer border

Iris ‘Supreme Sultan’ with Alliums and Salvia in Early summer border

Now May We Lean Against the Wind

1.

Holy Spirit, shelter me and keep me safe when
winds are fierce; when I’m afraid and cannot see
where fate is leading, make for me a place of peace
and clarity, a garden where the fertile ground gives
nourishment to grass and vine, where flowers
flourish, crops abound, and evil finds no purchase
in the sacred earth. O God of love, remind me, I am
here because you were here first. Because you walk
before me and beside, you know my every need.
You feed my hunger, slake my thirst. I am provided
for by grace, and where I am, because you go with
me, must always be a holy place.

2.

Yet I feel impoverished and rush about
as if I were a squirrel racing up and
down from trunk to treetop, scrambling
across the ground to gather walnuts early
in November, seeking sustenance for the
impending winter in the time of ripening;
and in the harvest season, lacking trust,
blind to abundance or believing I’m
unworthy to accept it, I don’t recognize the
bounty heaven has bestowed and take no
satisfaction in a feast that surely isn’t meant
for me. My habit is a frenzy of activity that
gives me nothing but a brief, uneasy
sense of doing something, anything, to
guarantee security. How is it possible
to cease and celebrate, to eat and drink,
when I’ve so much to do, so many
enemies? Time is the foe I tilt against—
invisible, elusive, arrogant, intruding on my
thoughts, resisting my attempts to
banish it. We race; it wins when I complain
there’s not enough, beg it to be more
generous, and weep when it will not.
Dear God, I hear your gentle call to prayer.
When you say Stop; take off your shoes
and meditate,
I promise to and hope you
don’t mind waiting till I manage some
emergency I’m facing… and the clock
tick-tocks away as obstinate as gravity.
I tense at its assault on me, this unrelenting
adversary. It exhausts me, does the press of
time. I wonder why. It only imitates reality.
God, you are the energy that breathes me.

To be continued…

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Anna at the Well

SONG: ANNA AT THE WELL

Saint Brigid's Well, Kildare (ireland)

Saint Brigid’s Well, County Kildare, Ireland

Prayer is the portal open to Heaven:
Offer your thanks for blessedness.
Practice forgiveness, seventy times seven;
fling purest love in every direction.

Prayer’s to the spirit as water to the body.
Silenced by dust and dry, Anna drinks her fill,
grateful for blessedness—sweet, cool, and soothing—
body and spirit renewed at the well.

These are the new and the ancient of sacraments
every day celebrated by those who dwell
in grace beside the clear spring where happiness
flows in the living water from the everlasting well.

From the village that surrounds
the living, dancing spring, the wise go forth
at dawn in bliss, for each has found
her place in Creation, his purpose on earth.

Work has a joyous sound, natural rhythm.
Ah! The clock strikes. For three minutes each hour,
all labor ceases: first, one for the anthem,
then one for the dancing, the last one for peace.

These are the new and the ancient of sacraments
every day celebrated by those who dwell
in grace beside the clear spring where happiness
flows in the living water from the everlasting well.

Once we sacrificed to the
universe; from the wealth
of our fear we gave tedious,
mad, and merciless toil.
At the well Anna prayed
and the Creator said,
“Love, dance, and celebrate;
“Drink from the living well.”

Aged and wise, even she is uncertain
how many seasons on earth she has dwelled… yet
tonight Anna dances ‘til the star-studded curtain
pales, and silver beams make pure the well.

Here is true alchemy, beautiful, sacred:
all things are made of love; all things return to love.
Gone are illusions of distance and separation…
in their place, all join hands in love’s wild dance.

These are the new and the ancient of sacraments
every day celebrated by those who dwell in grace,
bathe in the living water from the everlasting well.
As above, so below, on all roads, in every dimension,
we walk in peace, unmolested, where Love reigns.

 

The Creation of Prayer

PRAYER-GROUP-SAR

The Creation of Prayer

Before there was anything else on Earth, there was a great sea. The Creator reached out and touched the sea, and thus began life. A tiny cell thrived in the great sea, moving, moving, always toward the light. And the one became many, and the many grew in size and in variety and beauty, and in something that was not quite knowledge. The living things in the sea did not know the sea, because there was nothing else, only the sea that was vast 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 wind gentled the mountains, and there were shores 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, according to its nature.

Then the tides hurled creatures from the sea onto the dry land, and some were carried back into the deep, but one found the land to be hospitable, and that one thrived, now creeping upon the land, now swimming in the sea. And the one became many, and the many grew in size and in variety and beauty, and in something that was not quite knowledge, but rather in a sense of the difference between dry land and water. Moving, moving, always toward the light, 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 the light—became strong and tall, and invited the creeping things to feast on their fruit. In time, the strongest of the creatures developed claws to scale the trees, and some with fins grew wings instead 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.

And the dryland creatures became many, and the many grew in size and in 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 curiosity. And the one became many, and the many grew in size and in variety and strength, according to their nature.

But some of them turned their intelligence toward small, inward things, and forgot about the sea, and with all their curiosity, they did not know that—like the creatures who swam in the sea—they required it to survive. 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 and shut their eyes to the light—though they required all these things to grow according to their nature, even to survive.

In their minds, they forgot about the eternal sea, though their hearts remembered, and pulsed with admonition. And they became uneasy, because they believed that their minds were greater 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 creatures, there have been those who remember the eternal sea, who understand 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 tell 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, let it be 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 for Health and Harmony

wallpaperstwist.com

wallpaperstwist.com

Divine Father-Mother, hear our prayer for health and harmony:

May the sick be strong and well. May the injured heal. May the dying rest in confidence of immortality.

May broken relationships be mended, and may animosity give way to gratitude and discovery. Let the heavens open and the spring rain wash away all jealousy… insecurity… distrust; dissolve resentment and self-righteousness; and penetrate and cleanse the heart. May we cast off the illusion that we are alone, separate from one another or from you, Almighty God. May we see each other as we are: perfect soul to perfect soul… radiance to radiance… glory to glory.

May we experience our inner light, knowing that we shine with energy and purpose… safe and secure in the morning of Creation… no longer blind, able to find and navigate the path of satisfaction, service, and joy…. Set us on the road that guides us to our reason for becoming.

Divine Creator, God of grace, you have endowed us with the gifts, abilities, and inclinations that reveal the way of happiness and the way of peacemaking and compassion. In the practice of our dharma, we repair the fractured universe, and construct, stone by stone, your kingdom on earth. May our compass be true, our motives pure, our intuition steadfast.

May we open our minds to your guidance and entrust our prayers to the wings of angels. Our petitions bow to your wisdom: We pray, “This we seek, or something finer, truer, purer, more sublime, and dedicated to the greatest good of all creation.” Thus may we thrive in the abundance of experience, generosity, and shared delight. Thus may our endeavors take flight, yielding bliss in the pursuit as well as the achievement.

Given courage by your grace, O God, may we embrace one another in the confidence of shared recognition. All is forgiven. Undivided by religion or bias, strangers become friends, and friends and families become united: husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and the children of our children… sisters and brothers… generation to generation without end.

In our common habitat, may streams be swift and pure, lakes fresh and placid, oceans clean, their motion constant, unencumbered by the careless use of earth’s great treasures. May the winds whirl freely and the skies be clean and benign. May the trees and crops and herbs be bountiful and vigorous; and may all creation flourish, giving no cause for a sense of lack or an impulse toward greed or hoarding.

May all be granted understanding this very day that truth abides in love, innocence, kindness, and freedom from want. Patiently remind us that you share our day-to-day concerns and our great struggles. May we be aware, any time we listen for it, of the pulse and chorus of the universe, music of our souls, rhythm of our lives, and singing of our spirits.

Amen.

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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

Make Me a Lantern

Loi-Krathong-Lantern-Festival-Thailand

O God, make me a lantern; may I be a light and not a shroud.
Give me a song that I might sing your Holy Name out loud,
a song of praise so clear, so crystalline, so bright with joy,
the mountains sing it to the valleys and the rivers to the sea.
O God, fill me this very day with merriment and laughter,
and may everywhere I go be better for my having been there.
Lift the heaviness from me that falls in layers, imperceptibly,
until the weight immobilizes me. Divine Beloved, set me
free from demons hiding in the bogs and caverns of my
history. Release me from this solid-seeming melancholy.
Let it rise like morning mist that settles in the river valleys
and at sunrise dissipates and drifts away upon the wind.

Father-Mother, send your angels here to keep my lantern clear
and clean. The fuel is pure. It is your sacred energy. The flame
is bright, but, God, the night is long, and in the lonely hour
before the first and bravest ray of dawn appears, I fear that
morning will forget to come, the sun will fail to rise, and if it
does, when people venture forth to go about their lives, I am
too small and insignificant to be observed amid the throng.
Then may your angels carry me upon their wings to where
the steeples, tall and proud, point to the endless sky and keep me
strong and brave and unafraid to hold my lantern high.

Dear God, I pray that all your children know what flame they carry,
be it hidden deep within or fearlessly in open sight,
its steady shining bright with promise, love, and life, uniting
all in one great congregation gathered at your feet.
Can it be possible, Almighty God? Can this phenomenon
by any name, whatever we may call it—harmony or
peace on earth—be at so great a distance or so well concealed
that even your omnipotence, all-power, is unequal to it?
Yet we pray not just for daily bread but for the coming of
your kingdom. We believe it can be done. Show us our part.

Creator, you have made us in your image, placing in our hearts
such longing for your presence to be manifest among us
that we cannot rest for wanting it. Your generosity is limitless;
abundance falls like manna from the sky. We cannot fail to shine;
our lantern light is infinite. To eyes that open, it illuminates
the path to reconciliation, where compassion waits and justice
is victorious, relationships are healed, disease deprived of energy
and violence made obsolete… a holy place where we can say,
“Thy will be done,” in perfect faith… a convocation of the saints
made new by grace… where all are safe because love reigns,
and in us burn the flames that carry it as you instruct us.

God, make me a lantern and a song, with eagerness to share
the light of heaven and the music of the stratosphere.
Strain from each pulse impurity of motive; uncontaminated
may my purpose be, O God, and bless it with such clarity
that everywhere I go is better for my having been there.

Amen.

***

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SEPIA

Love Leaps

SOMETIMES I THINK of Sister Alma Rose as being God’s Lap on Earth. She is large, brown, and solid, like the earth itself. In her presence there is comfort, capaciousness, and embrace; and when she actually hugs you, physically, you feel a tsunami of love, peace, and hope – which makes her sound like a wave-borne Christmas card, but those feelings come with wings, and the energy surge lasts at least until the next time you are hugged by Sister Alma Rose, or until you learn to treasure yourself as God and Sister Alma Rose treasure you.

Fanny

Me, Fanny McElroy

This is true for me, at least, and for everyone I know who has ever been hugged by Sister Alma Rose… though a Sister Alma Rose hug can literally leave you breathless, particularly if you are a certain height. No one, as far as I know, has ever collapsed during or after such an embrace, but I’d be lying if I said there’s never been some lightheadedness in the experience.

…All of which I put forth to explain why it is startling to see Sister Alma Rose weep. I’ve certainly known her to be angry, in brief but definitely daunting eruptions, but discovering tears on that face, which nearly always radiates the joy and serenity of a pure heart and a love-drenched soul, is… well, stunning – far more so than if James Bond, for example, were to break down sobbing when confronting Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. One thing Sister Alma Rose and James Bond have in common – and the only thing I can think of at the moment, apart from their being larger-than-life human beings (quasi-human, in the case of James Bond) – is the sense of authority and competence they exude.

Father Dooley and his friend

Source: http://naturesperspective.com/blog/?cat=27

One October morning, unseasonably warm from a sun that seemed to still be straining summerward, Pablo and I (who were probably twelve at the time) were playing chess, dismally, I have to say, on Sister Alma Rose’s wonderful grass-green wraparound porch (a kind of metaphor for Sister Alma Rose herself, I often think). The little mutt, terrier mixed with mongrel, who had followed Pablo home from school the day before, was sleeping at our feet. Mr. Truman LaFollette had just brought out, in his silent, unobtrusive way, a pitcher of his incomparable lemonade and two big tumblers filled with ice. Sister Alma Rose was just inside the kitchen door, doing something culinary with butternut squash, I think. It was a sublimely peaceful moment, though the chess was desultory and we were ready to do something, anything, else – held in place by the sweet sunlight and the lively conversation of a pair of cardinals.

Thus bemused, we didn’t notice Father Dooley and a young woman I’d never met approaching until they were actually beside us on the porch. Mr. Truman LaFollette, with his spooky prescience, was already placing three more ice-filled tumblers on the big green table. Sister Alma Rose was right behind him. She and Father Dooley and the pretty stranger all sat down beside us at the same time, as if someone had called a meeting, although I know that they didn’t have an appointment, per se, because Sister Alma Rose had gleefully set aside the day for her “early harvest,” or it might have been her “late harvest.” I know next to nothing about butternut squash.

Father Dooley jovially introduced his companion as “Tina” and explained that they had formed a friendship through Alcoholics Anonymous and that he thought it was “a good idea” for Tina and Sister Alma Rose to meet. This surprised no one, because (a) we had known for years that Father Dooley was a recovering alcoholic, (b) Father Dooley gathers friends the way marmalade attracts bees, and (c) it’s always a good idea for anyone to become acquainted with Sister Alma Rose… nor did Pablo and I imagine for a moment that we should delicately depart and give the other three some privacy. It’s like we were part of Sister Alma Rose’s posse, you see, and people who came to visit Sister Alma Rose always seemed to understand that.

So the character of the gathering around Sister Alma Rose’s sturdy outdoor table wasn’t particularly unusual. What was extraordinary from the sitting-down moment was the vibes. To put it more elegantly, when Tina and I locked eyes there was a strange certainty – on my part and I was sure on hers as well – that we had been connected since time began. I don’t know how else to explain the electricity that flowed between us.

Tina’s story

On the surface, Tina’s background and mine could hardly have been less alike. I was born in a small, quiet town to parents who wanted me, loved and nurtured me, supported my interests, indulged my whims, and allowed my independence when it was wise to do so. Tina’s birth in an urban slum had scarcely been noticed by her alcoholic mother and heroin-addicted father. She was, almost literally, a throwaway.

Young as I was, I had visited Tina’s world, or one much like it. I’d been up close and personal with addicts and amorality and all manner of sordidness and uncompromising poverty. This is another story for another time. The important difference between Tina, at thirty, and me, at twelve, was that at the end of the day I always had a safe, cheerful dwelling to go home to. Tina, clean and sober for less than a year, had only recently found the comparative security of a shelter for the homeless.

Schooled in my family’s openness and Sister Alma Rose’s serenity and resilience, I am rarely horrified, but I was unprepared for the account of brutality I was about to hear. At Father Dooley’s invitation, Tina began her bleak narrative, but with an acceptance and a composure that seemed ever more remarkable as her story unfolded.

“I was an alcoholic by the time I was three,” she told us calmly. “I was younger than that when my father started raping me. Whenever he came around, I hid, but he found me. There was always alcohol in the house, even when there was no milk or bread. I learned very early that it dulled the pain and the fear.”

Mercifully, in my memory the details of Tina’s biography have dimmed. Trying to recall them is agonizing. I know that Tina and her siblings had lived among numerous relatives, each home more dysfunctional than the last. Her mother had routinely sold Tina’s “services” for crack cocaine. An aunt introduced her to a toxic array of street drugs.

What might have set Tina apart was an instinct to care for her younger brothers and sisters and, beginning in her early teens, for her own children. She didn’t say, but I suppose she went to school. I suppose there were ineffectual social-service interventions. Whatever the case, she learned to read and write. How she became so marvelously poised and articulate is a mystery. She spoke like Willa Cather writes. It astonished me.

At one point, I glanced at Sister Alma Rose. Her face was tranquil, but I saw the tears. She didn’t try to hide them. She didn’t even blot them with her apron. It occurred to me that she too had “recognized” Tina.

By the grace of God

When Tina could free herself and the children she protected the best she could, they became squatters, sleeping in abandoned buildings and eventually settling in a community of sorts, chronically homeless people making shift under a bridge. Worldly as I believed myself to be, I didn’t know that people actually live under bridges. Tina told us that, despite occasional attempts to roust them, the authorities pretty much looked the other way. Churches sometimes brought them food, blankets, and clothes.

An alcoholic and a drug addict, Tina managed to support her family by selling drugs. I don’t know how or where she met Craig, a thoroughly decent man who weaned her from the street and steered her to A.A. Father Dooley told us that Tina went to A.A. meetings every morning. At first, Craig drove her there directly from her job as a waitress at an all-night restaurant. At some point she got a driver’s license and a pickup truck and took charge of her transportation to work and meetings, never missing a day.

Ten months after she told us her story, Tina and Craig were married. Father Dooley says it remains “a solid marriage.

“They’re devoted to each other,” he told me not long ago.

I’ve never heard what became of Tina’s younger siblings or her children, some having been placed in foster care when Tina started rehab. It was her wish to reclaim them all, “by the grace of God.” Given her faith and determination, I’d be surprised if she didn’t succeed.

“Life throws all kinds of rubbish in your path, Fanny McElroy,” Sister Alma Rose once told me. “It puts up what looks like prison walls you can’t see over or around. Love leaps over them all.”

Country road

Walking into town

That enchanted sense of connection with Tina has never left me. As she and Father Dooley were saying their goodbyes on Sister Alma Rose’s magical grass-green porch, I took her aside. I’m not sure what words came to me, except that I “recognized” her.

“You’re an angel from Heaven,” I think I said, “or at least a very old soul. I know we’ll meet again.”

“Yes,” she said. “God is good.”

“Fanny McElroy,” I said to myself, “I believe you’re going to cry.”

It’s easy to say “God is good” when your life is rolling along like a wind-propelled tumbleweed and the worst thing you have to worry about is getting a below-average grade on a test you didn’t study for – which was pretty much the case for me when I was twelve. Coming from Tina, who had pretty much just landed on solid ground… whose yesterdays were grim and whose tomorrows were murkier than most… it was life-affirming. It was miraculous. It gave me strength and hope I would one day cling to.

“God is good indeed,” I said, with little idea of the magnificent truth of it, and walked home with Pablo and his little dog.