a fearful thing

My loving, kind, hilarious, and talented brother took his own life this week.  Why and fuck are two words I continue to say at least once an hour.  The tears flow as I think of his beloved wife and the days, weeks, and years ahead of her. My heart breaks as I think of my other two brothers that are grieving their best friend and faithful companion.  And I fall into a puddle of grief as I imagine the heartbreak of all our parents.

Why?

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Why?

When I was little, we would go to the beach and play in the waves.  Sometimes a wave larger than we were expecting would crash over our heads and take us under the water.  Sometimes we would swallow large amounts of salt water.  Others, the wave would tumble us into the sand and we would be dragged along the ground.  Others, the waves would be so strong, we would be tossed like a shirt in the washer and not know which way was up.  Most of the time, the wave would give us all three in one swoop.

This is how I experience grief.  I will be doing a simple chore, and suddenly, like a wave, I am taken under by sadness.  A memory of a happier time or the idea of my brother being this sad and hopeless will pop into my head.  Sometimes I simply weep, others I fall to the ground into a puddle of sadness.  Occasionally, the grief feels so deep and overwhelming, it reminds of tumbling in the waves, being hit by the sand, not knowing which way is up.

And just as suddenly as it all came on, I am back to swimming through life, knowing that the next wave will be coming- not knowing how strong it will come on nor how hard it will tumble me about.

As I swim and wade through these waves of grief, I catch my breath and try and soothe my tired and wounded soul.  I try and find moments of hope, quiet, and gentleness.  One way I find that is through poetry. It helps to hear the words of the broken hearts that have gone before me.

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

Tis a Fearful Thing
~Yehuda HaLevi

 

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
~ Rumi

To live in this world
you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods.”

Go out to the world and love each other today.  Be kind.  Be gentle. Be love. Be you.

simple prayers

I am enthralled with the New Zealand Prayer Book lately.  It all started when my church posted The Lord’s Prayer in the liturgy.  The quickly had me down the lovely rabbit hole of reading and reciting the prayers from this beautiful book.  You can find a copy of it here online.

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A Call to Worship

Holy One, holy and eternal,
awesome, exciting and delightful in your holiness;
make us pure in heart to see you;
make us merciful to receive your kindness,
and to share our love with all your human family;
then will your name be hallowed on earth as in heaven.

Lord God,
when you give to us your servants any great matter to do,
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of it, until it is thoroughly finished
which yields the true glory.

God of work and rest and pleasure,
grant that what we do this week may be for us an offering
rather than a burden;
and for those we serve, may it be the help they need.
Amen.

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The Lord’s Prayer

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.

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Do you have any new prayers or poems that have been illuminating your days lately?  I would love for you to share them with me.

~Staci Lee

in the rain

My Japanese Magnolia is blooming.

And it is finally raining.

Two of my favorite things are happening at once, and it makes my heart so happy.  Here are two poems or prayers I am enjoying right now during my morning practice with a few images of my Japanese Magnolia in the rain.

A Blessing for Beauty
John O’Donohue

May the beauty of your life become more visible to you, that you may glimpse your wild divinity.

May the wonders of the earth call you forth from all your small, secret prisons and set your feet free in the pastures of possibilities.

May the light of dawn anoint your eyes that you may behold what a miracle a day is.

May the liturgy of twilight shelter all your fears and darkness within the circle of ease.

May the angel of memory surprise you in bleak times with new gifts from the harvest of your vanished days.

May you allow no dark hand to quench the candle of hope in your heart.

May you discover a new generosity towards yourself, and encourage yourself to engage your life as a great adventure.

May the outside voices of fear and despair find no echo in you.

May you always trust the urgency and wisdom of your own spirit.

May the shelter and nourishment of all the good you have done, the love you have shown, the suffering you have carried, awaken around you to bless your life a thousand times.

And when love finds the path to your door may you open like the earth to the dawn, and trust your every hidden color towards its nourishment of light.

May you find enough stillness and silence to savor the kiss of God on your soul and delight in the eternity that shaped you, that holds you and calls you.

And may you know that despite confusion, anxiety and emptiness, your name is written in Heaven.

And may you come to see your life as a quiet sacrament of service, which awakens around you a rhythm where doubt gives way to the grace of wonder, where what is awkward and strained can find elegance, and where crippled hope can find wings, and torment enter at last unto the grace of serenity.

May Divine Beauty bless you.

Peace Within
St. Theresa of Avila

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you
May you be confident knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

 

singing bowl

I can’t seem to get enough of Malcolm Guite these days.   I discovered him because of a sermon I heard him preach. I then listened to many of his teachings and sermons, still not realizing what a gifted poet he was.  While listening to a podcast of him being interviewed, I finally caught on to what I had been missing!

There are two poems I have reading again and again.   I am sharing them here for a couple of reasons. First,  I want to remember when and how I fell in love with this wordsmith.  Second, I wonder if there are others that would enjoy discovering this talented man.

Singing Bowl

by Malcolm Guite

Begin the song exactly where you are,
Remain within the world of which you’re made.
Call nothing common in the earth or air,

Accept it all and let it be for good.
Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood

And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
Stay with the music, words will come in time.
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.

Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime
Is richness rising out of emptiness,
And timelessness resounding into time.

And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

by Malcolm Guite

Bystanders and bypassers turn away
And wipe his image from their memory
She keeps her station. She is here to stay
And stem the flow. She is the reliquary
Of his last look on her. The bloody sweat
And salt tears of his love are soaking through
The folds of her devotion and the wet
folds of her handkerchief, like the dew
Of morning, like a softening rain of grace.
Because she wiped the grime from off his skin,
And glimpsed the godhead in his human face
Whose hidden image we all bear within,
Through all our veils and shrouds of daily pain
The face of god is shining once again.

I just purchased his book, Waiting on the Word, for this Advent season. If you are also reading this book or would like to join me in reading this book this Advent, please let me know.  I would love to have companions on this journey.

rainbows of love

Today is Coming Out Day. And while there is more freedom to come out that there was in 1939, it still isn’t safe for many of our LGBTQ friends to simply be themselves.  Here in the US, they can face discrimination and hate from their very own family and “friends”.  In other parts of the world, they can face death.  In honor of my LGBTQ friends and family, here are some poems that were written by LGBTQ poets and some rainbow photos.   While there are many who don’t understand and are cruel, hateful, and discriminatory, many of us see you how you are- loved, worthy of equal rights and treatment.  To quote an old rector from my church, “… being gay is a gift from God.”  You- all of you- is a beautiful gift to this world.

 

red

Frank Bidart, 1939

Queer

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That’s what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

*

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

*

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

*

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

*

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults’ genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

 

orange

 

yellow

Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place

 

green

 

blue

 

Reinaldo Arenas

As Long as the Sky Whirls: For Lázaro Gómez

As long as the sky whirls
You will be my redemption and my doom,
magnetic vision,
lily in underwear,
salvation and madness
every night waiting.
As long as the sky whirls
no infernal could be a stranger
because I have to take care that that would not harm you,
No joy would go by inadvertent
Because in some way I have to reveal it to you,
As long as
the sky
whirls
you will be the truth of myself,
the song and the venom,
the danger and the ecstasies,
the vigil and the sleep,
the dread and the miracle.
As long as the sky whirls . . . but perhaps the sky whirls?
Well: as long as the sky exists.

 

purple

Love is love is love is love is love.

gift of freedom

Walter Brueggemann is an incredible theologian and writer.  My teacher gave me this poem last weekend and I keep going back to it. May it bless you as it has blessed me.

We would as soon you were stable and reliable.
We would as soon you were predictable
and always the same toward us.

We would like to take the hammer of doctrine
and take the nails of piety
and nail your feet to the floor
and have you stay in one place.

And then we find you moving,
always surprising us,
always coming at us from new directions.

Always planting us
and uprooting us
and tearing all things down
and making all things new.

You are not the God we would have chosen
had we done the choosing,
but we are your people
and you have chosen us in freedom.

We pray for the great gift of freedom
that we may be free toward you
as you are in your world. Amen

I continue to ask myself-

How do I nail God down? How do I ask for reliability over freedom?  How is God uprooting me? What is She wanting to plant?

What are some questions that this poem prompts you to ask?

journal findings

I keep coming across poems and quotes that have touched me or rang true for me in some way.  As I record them in my journals, I am noticing that I keep coming back to a few thinkers and poets over and over.

nature-7

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Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough.

-St Teresa Avila

nature

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I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.

– Meister Eckhart

nature-6

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Lovers share a sacred decree –
to seek the Beloved.
They roll head over heels,
rushing toward the Beautiful One
like a torrent of water.

In truth, everyone is a shadow of the Beloved –
Our seeking is His seeking,
Our words are His words.

nature-2

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At times we flow toward the Beloved
like a dancing stream.
At times we are still water
held in His pitcher.
At times we boil in a pot
turning to vapor –
that is the job of the Beloved.

He breathes into my ear
until my soul
takes on His fragrance.
He is the soul of my soul –
How can I escape?
But why would any soul in this world
want to escape from the Beloved?

nature-5

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He will melt your pride
making you thin as a strand of hair,
Yet do not trade, even for both worlds,
One strand of His hair.

We search for Him here and there
while looking right at Him.
Sitting by His side we ask,
“O Beloved, where is the Beloved?”

nature-4

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Enough with such questions! –
Let silence take you to the core of life.

All your talk is worthless
When compared to one whisper
of the Beloved.

-Rumi

nature-8

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Do you have a favorite poet or poem that draws you in again and again? I would love to know what makes your heart jump in agreement.