Monday, October 27, 2008

Waiting in faith

Lately it seems I have had many experiences in which I have to step forward in faith and then, trusting, wait for good (God) to show up. I'm sure God's already there (and here), but my eyes need to adjust to the change in light. Maybe that's a core experience for many of us. This poem from Writer's Almanac this morning reminded me of the quiet gleaming reality of love as it exists even now, especially now, as the world around us seems to churn and struggle.

The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

    It is a kind of love, is it not?
    How the cup holds the tea,
    How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
    How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
    Or toes. How soles of feet know
    Where they're supposed to be.
    I've been thinking about the patience
    Of ordinary things, how clothes
    Wait respectfully in closets
    And soap dries quietly in the dish,
    And towels drink the wet
    From the skin of the back.
    And the lovely repetition of stairs.
    And what is more generous than a window?

"The Patience of Ordinary Things" by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Prayer for the Care of Animals

Dear God, precious creator of all beings loved, lovely, and loving, we ask your tender care, support, protection, and healing for all the animals who are our companions and helpers; our protectors and angels; our friends and family. Please bless all those who care for these blessed ones and help us all, together and individually, to express the compassion, tenderness, dignity, and oneness of all creation. Thank you for shaping thought and opening hearts and eyes to the need for care for all animals. May we all continue to awaken into a sacred reverence for life and relationship in all its beautiful, varied, and amazing forms. In thanks and wonder, seeking peace for all, we pray. Amen.

News stories inspiring this prayer:

  • From CNN [10-21-08]: “A $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs. Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration are trained at the base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 dogs are working with military units.”

  • From the Christian Science Monitor [10-17-08]: “America's horse-racing industry is trying to clean up its image with a new high-profile overseer and promises of voluntary certification for tracks that meet tough standards…Reform of the tradition-bound $40 billion industry will be a daunting task. The sport is trying to change behaviors of owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, and track operators across 38 different state racing jurisdictions.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elliott's Elegy

Purring lapmate,
paws spreading, pushing,
curling claws against my chin
(gently, lightly drawing caution,
like goosebumps,
to the surface)
curling like a baby
snuggled on your back.
What or who will take your place?
The siamese yowl,
a surprising voice,
chattering in conversation.
Who will ever sound the same?
The paws beneath the door
when we were separated,
however briefly,
by the artifice of the material world;
they now remind me
how blessed I am and was,
how blessed were you,
and are you now,
to have shared time and space in love
with no boundaries of species,
doors, language, or claws,
to ever separate us.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Problems Aren't Curses

This morning, driving back from the emergency vet where I just signed a $1,000 estimate for Elliott's possble immediate care expenses, I asked God to help me see this overwhelming and scary situation in the right light. In the midst of a world pitching and swaying in financial crisis, I am working for a nonprofit organization and trying to weather in my own small business the belt tightening many of my clients have undergone. I don't know what else to do but pray, love, work with integrity, and do my best to honor my commitments. And my commitments are promises of love--promises to care tenderly for all life, promises to honor my word, promises to do my best to be honest with myself and engaged with my world, trusting God and others and myself to bring forth, sooner or later, the harmony that is the ground of all being.

As I prayed for calm and light, it occurred to me that problems, when they open up in our lives like huge potholes, do not mean we aren't blessed. It's a very human thing--the mark of a rational mind--to look for cause and effect, to wonder why something is happening, and to investigate the how so that we can perhaps make ourselves safer in the future and avoid it happening again. On one level this is practical and understandable. On another level, it can be self-negating and dangerous. If I interpret problems as signs that I have done something wrong, that I have fallen from God's favor, that I've had too many blessings and now have to take some bad stuff on the chin, what does that say about my thoughts of God? Is God love or not? Is God all-powerful, all-capable, all-present, or not? Does God send us challenges and problems and scary situations to test our mettle, to "teach us a lesson," or to otherwise stir up our lives so we have to turn to God more fully?

This is not the God I know--it may be a fearful mask lurking in my own subconscious that I sometimes attribute to "fate" or "chance" or "misfortune," but it is not God. It is not the face of a loving God that constricts Elliott's heart or causes him to labor for breath. It is not the face of a loving God that causes circumstances that threaten my family's financial security. It is not the face of a loving God that brings unhappy events, scary situations, or wounds that take years to heal.

Where they come from or why they come I do not know. But both from my time as a chaplain and from my own experience of tragedy in my own life, I do know this: God is present in the midst of any circumstance in our lives. God is accessible, reachable, now. When Jesus and the disciples encountered the blind man and they asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus took the question out of the realm of cause and effect, moving it completely away from the why and the how, and put it fully in the square of the what: Now the glory of God can be known.

So Elliott's heart began to fail this morning--my sweet, tender, loving Elliott who still curls up purring beside me in the chair at night (he's the kitty in my profile photo)--and God is with us both. Good people at two vets helped; timing worked so we could get him in; I noticed early signs; and now he's stable and resting quietly, getting great care and under observation all day. There's a lot of Providence at work in that situation. I trust God to handle the finances too. In this moment, I don't know how it will all work out, but I do know there's a harmony at work here somewhere. God's glory will show up.

In chaplaincy training, I learned that "crisis" means literally, "danger" plus "opportunity." Our problems--financial, health, relationship, work, emotional--can be scary and panic-inducing, taking us to the edge of our resources and leaving us wondering how to cope. But rather than interpreting problems as signs that we've done something wrong or have fallen from God's favor, we can hold the space for faith and watch carefully for God to show up. God will, because that's God's nature--to never leave us comfortless.

Peace to you, to Elliott, and to me, and may we individually and collectively feel the presence of God today in very real and transforming ways.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

You Are Dear to Me

Looking for a simple, compassionate exercise you can do right at your desk this afternoon? Try this:

Each time you begin an e-mail to someone today, when you type "Dear Rob" (sub your own person's name there), stop a minute and think of that person's face and then say in your heart, "dear Rob..." as God might say it.

We are each and all precious to God and at the center of God's affections, right this very moment. Expressing the dearness of the person you're writing to, whether you're ordering light bulbs, editing an article, or writing to complain about something, puts you in tune with God and part of the shine of love radiating from a benevolent universe.

Try it and see how it instantly softens the energy in your office, dear reader. :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Morning Prayer

O God, our God, my God

With a grateful heart, I dedicate this day to You.
May all moments be ours together to create and bless,
may love radiate naturally from all events and circumstances,
may your peace be at the simple center of all that occurs.

May all my thoughts arise gently from a knowing of true and eternal love and safety in You.

And may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life this day contribute to the happiness and freedom of all.