The darkness has not overcome [the light.]
John 1: 5 b
The darkness has not overcome [the light.]
John 1: 5 b
The light shines in the darkness. . .
Autumn is giving us her final wild, brilliant dance. Then she will collapse and rest.
Seeds are blowing. Who knows where? They too will enter a period of rest.
During the rest some things will go dormant.; others will begin to decay. Rest and decay prepare the soil for those waiting seeds and other new growth.
During this time of world turmoil combined with our own personal struggles it is important to find times to rest physically and internally.
I want to remember to stop. I want to take time to enjoy autumn’s artistry and ponder what might need to have its final fling within me – to let it rest or even decay. My desire is to meditate on those hidden seeds that may be blowing
around in me, carrying on their hidden, unidentified life. I hope to notice what I might need to do to prepare my inner soil.
Will you join me? Will you take time to rest and listen even though many other things demand your attention. Come find your autumnal, wild, brilliant dance.
Come dance, prepare and rest.
“. . .the evidence of God is in the roundness of things.” –Wally Lamb, I Know This Much Is True
The invitation: As you go through your day notice the shapes of things around you, both inside and out. What is the shape of the various areas of your life?
I don’t know what happened. The blue birds are gone. There had been five eggs in the nest; now there are three. What happened to the other two? One day the male stands proudly on a post overlooking the nest while the female sits. A day or two later there is no sign of them. What happened?
I’m tempted to think it is my fault. Every time we go out the back door we are too near the nests. We tried to go out as little as possible. But the dog can’t take care of business out front when there are people around. Naturally we have a modest, distractible dog. I have been monitoring the nests, according to nest watch guidelines, of course. Maybe I scared it away. I was going in and out frequently when they were building though. And that doesn’t explain the two missing eggs.
Perhaps a snake got them. We haven’t seen any snakes, but they are slippery, secretive things. They don’t come out to say “hi!” But wouldn’t it come back for the remaining eggs? Perhaps it will. If this imaginary snake exists. Perhaps it was something else. I don’t know what it would be.
Meanwhile the chickadees go in and out of their nest box at a frightening clip. They sit in a tree or bush nearby and then dart straight in. When I’ve tapped on the box (following the nest watch guidelines, of course) I haven’t heard any sounds. If there are babies they aren’t very loud.
I have to believe there are chicks in there. Both adults go in and out so often. Sometimes it looks like they might be carrying something. When I do go out they get very excited. Instead of flying away they sit high in the tree and scold. I’ve heard you can tell how large the danger is by how many “dee’s” are in their warning call. They think I am extremely dangerous. They calm down quickly when I go away. Would they call so loudly if they weren’t protecting something? I don’t know. They didn’t before the nest. I have to hope.
I’ve discovered a cardinal nest out front. I can’t reach it and I won’t find a stool or make a mirror on a pole to try. I’ve reported the nest. I’ll watch the adults. I’ll watch for fledglings. That’s all I’ll do. Perhaps that is all I should have done in the first place. Do the people who make these guidelines take into account how very frightening I am? I just don’t know.
Things are greening out and blooming all over. We’ve had a decent amount of rain. Things are lush. It is nice today so I am able to sit with the door open. Children are at school. The neighborhood is quiet except for the occasional car and a vacuum cleaner down the way. All is at peace.
Only I with my questions and the darting chickadees have any apparent concerns.
Isn’t that the way with things? There are times of intensity. If we sit and listen, there are times of peace. The peace isn’t exactly still. It has a quality of acceptance though. I seem to be the only one in any way distressed. I want it both ways. I want the peace and I want the answers. I like to believe that if I sit and wait the answers will show themselves. Perhaps there are no answers. And waiting doesn’t come easily.
Nevertheless, I remain, within the peace, asking, watching and waiting.
I know not everyone has the luxury of sitting and watching their back yards. So what do you folks do with your questions? How do you watch and wait? Where do you find peace? I wonder.
There are five beautiful, perfect eggs in the blue bird nest now. It’s exciting! Just the thought that there might be babies who live to fledge, that I might get to watch them learning to fly is wonderful!
But I’m blocked. I’m used to getting up and going outside. While waiting for my coffee I take the dog out onto the deck. Or we walk around the yard. We breathe deeply. The dog breathes many places. I like to feel the ground under my feet or at least the deck boards. I like to smell the weather – to get a feel for the day.
Now every time I step out back the blue bird flies off her nest. This is worrisome for me. It has been chilly and damp. I do not want her eggs to get too cold. I don’t know how long it takes for cold and damp to creep into a warm nest enclosed in a box. Presumably it would take a while. I’m uncertain.
So, I haven’t been going out that way. I miss it. I would have liked to take photos of the emerging changes in the plant life. I would have enjoyed sitting on the deck and reading on the few balmy days there have been. But no. I won’t.
Several weeks ago “practicing spring” was feeding me. My soul was joyful and hopeful. Practicing spring had a locus. My back yard was a place of retreat and growth. Now I’m blocked from that practice.
Sure, I can and do go out front. I don’t relax and linger in my house coat the way I would in the back yard though. It’s not comfortable to think the neighbors are watching. I know they are. There’s concrete evidence. I don’t much care if they see me, but it’s a different experience than solitary contemplation in a place of peace.
Sure, I can and do explore the neighborhood park and watch the growth and the wild things there. It’s a wonderful thing. Yet it requires preparation: eating first (there’s that low blood sugar thing) and dressing appropriately. Good shoes are a good idea. One must already know what the day is like before walking that far. One can’t be stepping out merely to test the day. By the time I get to the park I’m not just beginning my day. The day has already started.
Sure, I can and do watch developments out our lovely French doors. But being behind glass just isn’t the same. I can’t feel and smell the life on the other side.
So what do we do when something blocks our practice? When it just isn’t the same?
It’s time to feel sad—to acknowledge that I miss it. It’s time to look around for new opportunities. What new thing is drawing me? What else does or can touch my soul in an inviting, joyful way—can evoke praise and gratitude without effort? Perhaps such an impulse of joy and gratitude is unsustainable? I don’t know.
I haven’t found the new thing yet. I have to keep looking. That’s the thing right now: Keep looking.
Nevertheless, the rain keeps raining and the sun keeps shining. Day and night, springtime and harvest in their season still come and go. All manner of things will be well, even if they’re different and unsought.
And . . .there is still hope for fledglings. What a gift that would be!
What do you need to let die so a new seed may sprout?
Visio divina, Latin for “divine seeing,” invites one to be drawn into the holy
So, it’s the end of January. How are you doing with those New Year’s Resolutions?
If you’ve already left them behind or are planning to “forget” them soon, here is an alternative suggestion. Choose a word for the year—a word such as grace, trust, joy, discipline or intention. Watch for how it is at work in your life this year. Notice when it is needed. See when you can be the messenger who brings it. From time to time reflect on the word in your journaling. Use it in your art or meditation.
Less daunting than doing something you’ve never been able to do consistently, it is just a word. But words have power. There is also power in noticing and being intentional. Remembering a simple word for the year doesn’t seem impossible but it could impact your whole year.
How do you choose this word? Has a word been floating around in the back of your mind as you’ve read this? That might be the one. Is there something that keeps coming up recently? Is there something you’ve been wanting to spend more time with? Or is there something that appeals to you? If you just can’t decide, wait a few days. Sit in silence and see what comes up. Pray about it. If you have the question, “Is this my word?” choose it. It’s really up to you to decide what seems inviting. There are no rules. You may change it if something else comes up later which demands your attention.
Now that you have your word, find a way to remember it. Journal. Do some artwork. Post it on your bathroom mirror. Whatever works for you. Consider doing an examen every now and then using the questions: How have I seen __________ at work? When has __________ been absent?
Keep an open heart and mind and see where the Spirit blows. Who knows how __________ may be active in your life this year! Watch to see how this practice serves you on your journey.
With thanks to Jane Bishop Halteman. For more ideas and to learn how she and her friends have used this practice visit her at her blog.
Picture a child screaming her head off in a corner created by two different size store fronts in a mall. Now add a circle of family members encircling the child and giving her their full attention.
What do you see?
At one time I would have seen an undisciplined child who was getting absolutely too much attention for her behavior. I would have wondered why this family didn’t pack up this child, go home and put her to bed.
Now I might think that the child was in terrible distress. I would notice the noise, harsh lighting, crowds and generally over-stimulating environment. I might add in hunger and fatigue. I might imagine embarrassment, frustration and concern on the part of the family. Additionally, I might offer a prayer for their wisdom, patience and endurance.
What has changed? The picture is the same but my two interpretations are quite different. The short answer is that I am the one who has changed. The simple answer is that I hadn’t had children when I made the first assessment and I had experienced years of parenting in the second.
The deeper answer is that I have grown through my experiences. Life will do that to you. It brings us experience which changes us and deepens us. We can deepen in our conviction that we know best. In fact my second interpretation could be an example of just that. Or we can deepen in our compassion and desire to care for others rather than judge them. To know which is truer I need to examine my response and discern how I have grown and what my desire is for further growth. It is also possible that neither interpretation is correct and that I am being invited to new insights and further growth.
It’s quite difficult to know what is happening with another person’s experiences without learning to know them and listening carefully to them.
I invite you to take some time to explore a situation where your understanding has changed over the years. How have you changed and grown? How do you want to continue growing? Where might you want to pause to listen more carefully? Can you see Spirit movement in the changes in you?