But for me, winter has an even greater gift to give. It comes when the sky is clear, the sun is brilliant, the trees are bare, and first snow is yet to come. It is the gift of utter clarity. In winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque with summer growth only a few months earlier and see the trees clearly, singly and together, and see the ground they are rooted in.
A few years ago, my father died. He was more than a good man, and the months following his death were a long, hard winter for me. But in the midst of that ice and loss, I came into a certain clarity that I lacked when he was alive. I saw something that had been concealed when the luxuriance of his love surrounded me—saw how I had relied on him to help me cushion life’s harsher blows. When he could no longer do that, my first thought was, “Now I must do it for myself.” But as time went on, I saw a deeper truth: it never was my father absorbing those blows but a larger and deeper grace that he taught me to rely on. Continue reading “The Winters Will Drive You Crazy Until You Learn To Get Out Into Them …”
Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. Continue reading “The Way Out Of Fear …”
Love is what carries you, for it is always there,
even in the dark, or most in the dark, but
shining out at times like gold stitches in a
piece of embroidery.
— Wendell Berry from Hannah Coulter
Notes On Hope
The news of late has captured the fever dream of modern life: everything exploding, burning, being shot, or crashing to the ground all around us, while growing older has provided me with a measure of perspective and equilibrium, and a lovely, long-term romance. Towns and cities, ice fields, democracy, people—all disappear, while we rejoice and thrive in the spring and the sweetness of old friendships. And families are tricky. There is so much going on that flattens us, that is huge, scary, or simply appalling. We’re doomed, stunned, exhausted, and overcaffeinated. Continue reading “Love Is Why We Have Hope …”
The watchers of the night,
the keepers of the Inner Longing
enchanted by music of the skies,
hurried on midnight feet
and found the One who waited.
unlike what they had they expected
and surprisingly beautiful,
all those night watches,
and the deep Inner Longing,
now they knew
now they knew Continue reading “Advent Meditation: The One Who Waited (Winter Solstice) …”
Quiet me within,
Clothe my body in peacefulness,
That your Word
Once again may take flesh –
This time, within me –
As it did in holy Mary,
Long Advent days ago.
— Edward Hays from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim
The Growing Edge
Look well to the growing edge! All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; All around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree; the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! … This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and [people] have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of the child — life’s most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!
— Howard Thurman
The new thing that God seeks often occurs in times of disruption, when the familiar world has collapsed and the future is in doubt, when days grow shorter, and we wonder if darkness will swallow the light. The new thing that is being born in our lives emerges out of the hidden womb and the dark soil. God’s new thing is the vision of “something more,” a hovering possibility that challenges the world as it is. It is the moral arc toward which history bends, filling us with a divine restlessness with the way things are that inspires the quest for what may be if the world embraces God’s vision of Shalom. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Threshold Of Winter …”
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
— Luke 1.10
God of fear,
God of the night,
God of the expectation,
You visited shepherds in the night
with songs and sights of joy.
In all of our nights, turn us
towards hope, because
hope might just
keep us alive.
Amen Continue reading “Advent Prayer: Life Itself Is Grace …”
We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.
— Pema Chodron from When Things Fall Apart
Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Widening Our Circle Of Compassion …”