Resurrexit Sicut Dixit

Photo: David Slotto

Photo: David Slotto

Resurrexit sicut Dixit, Alleluia

An empty nest lies underneath
a flowering Bougainvillea—
a sign of promises unkept
or fledgling flight?

An empty tomb that’s nestled
in Judea’s rocky hills—
another failed prophecy
or hope transcended?

The Latin title translates as “He is risen, as he said.”

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Good Friday Dirge

Artist: Lesley Oldaker Labeled for Noncommerical Reuse

Artist: Lesley Oldaker
Labeled for noncommercial reuse

Good Friday Dirge
an Octain Refrain

Upon the pond a cry of loons
begins its mournful, plaintive song.
I think of how it all went wrong.

Darkness still reigns ‘neath this full moon,
this early morn a mood forlorn
recalling loss, a cross rough-hewn.

And now in Belgium, hatred strong
prolongs the tragic cries of loons.

Written and Posted for my prompt at dVerse Poets Meeting the Bar. The form, developed by Luke Prater, is a High Octain, which I explain at dVerse. Tomorrow, Christians observe Good Friday as we deal with yet another tragic, cowardly act of terrorism. I’m also sharing this here. 

Enduring Love

Photo: pexels.com labeled for non-commercial reuse

Photo: pexels.com
labeled for non-commercial reuse

love that endures
a sestina

you sit beside the hearth and dream
of years long past, of youth
those days so filled with dance, with life
that you do not forget
you walked in worlds of swirling greens
gave birth beneath the sky

you revel ‘neath cerulean skies
and catch a glimpse of dreams
and thus the burgeoning of green
as you reclaim your youth
those signs of spring you won’t forget
for you still pulse with life

in aging, still you sing of life
your eyes reflect the sky
you smile at love you can’t forget
those memories of dreams
fulfilled when you were full of youth
midst flowers, in fields green

you stood by him in days of green
he held you throughout life
you gave each other joys of youth
‘neath bound’ry of the sky
he was the answer to your dreams
you never will forget

a love that’s easy to forget
cherishes flowers, the green
of grass and sun, the blissful dream—
can these endure through life
when clouds obscure the blue, blue sky
and aging foils youth

how easy to enjoy one’s youth
and facile to forget
the promise made ‘neath azur skies
delight-filled days of green
yet to endure the stuff of life
we need more than to dream

beyond your youth, those days of green
(lest you forget) the greatest life
soars to the skies, surpasses dreams

Throughout the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day, much is written about love–most of which is about younger people, with an erotic twist quite often. Today, I want to write about love that has lasted throughout the ups and downs of a relationship, of the years. Love that the Greeks refer to as agape, love that is about the choices we make for the well-being of another. I have been privileged to witness that sort of love in my life as a nurse, when a caregiver puts aside oneself for the sake of his ill or cognitively impaired loved one.

I wrote this in response to a challenge from a fellow poet, Bjorn, to write a sestina in which the end words of each line follow a specific pattern throughout six stanzas, each of six lines, ending with a tercet that uses the six words in internal rhyme, also following a pattern. If you want to learn more about this complex form, go here

I will post this for OLN on Thursday and on my Christian Blog: Be Still and Know That I Am God. I am also linking this to Sanaa Rizvi’s Prompt Nights.

 

Put Out the Welcome Mat!

Otto Herschel, Wikipedia Commons Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Otto Herschel, Wikipedia Commons
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse-Rabbi Reading the Torah

 

“I am coming to dwell among you.”
Zechariah 2, 14

Last week we had guests for dinner–good friends we hadn’t seen in a while thanks to those daily life events that sometimes get in the way of what we would like.

The morning of their visit, I took on the tasks of spiffing up the house while David got to work on the special meal he had planned a few days ahead of time. He’d spent an afternoon shopping at a few stores to assure he had just the right ingredients and found recipes even though his culinary genius would kick in and improve upon them. I kept busy, too, most of the day, filling in as sous-chef in between my domestic duties. We wanted everything to be just perfect, especially since our friend, Patty, is also a gourmet cook.

“So what?” you may be thinking. It’s no less than what most folks would do.

That evening, after our friends had left and most of the dishes had been done, we went, as is our practice during Advent, to light the candles on our Advent wreath and to read a short meditation from a little publication, “The Word Among Us,” that is based on the scripture for the following day’s liturgy. And, as you no doubt have guessed by now, that wonderful promise from the prophet Zechariah was the verse the editors chose for us to reflect upon.

The parallel is obvious, isn’t it? If David and I could do so much to welcome these dear friends, to prepare with care for their visit, shouldn’t we do more to welcome Jesus into our lives? One big difference stands out to me. Yes, we are celebrating the coming of God’s Son into our world when we prepare for Christmas but HE’S ALREADY HERE. And He didn’t come just for an evening of good food, some wine and conversations. He has come to STAY. And He has come to offer us the feast of Himself.

So, I have to ask myself, what do I do on a daily basis to welcome Him, to be aware of His dwelling in me? Is my Advent preparation confined to shopping for presents and wrapping them, sending out Christmas cards, and baking goodies? What else can I do? Perhaps, it’s in taking some time each morning to pray that we will find the answer to those questions.

In case you are wondering, our evening was perfect, fun. The dinner was scrumptious and conversation flowed. But it was over so quickly, just like our celebration each year of Christmas.

Blessed Advent!

Photo: Wikipedia Commons--Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: Wikipedia Commons–Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

 

 

Advent is My Favorite Time of Year

Photo: Labeled for non-commercial reuse

Photo: Labeled for non-commercial reuse

Christmas Advent is My Favorite Time of Year

(Flash Fiction)

Amy waited, none-too-patiently, in the interminable line at Walmart, drumming slender fingers on the handle of her cart, wondering what the hold-up was and questioning the wisdom of attempting to shop the day after Thanksgiving. Especially since she abhorred the commercialism of the season, not to mention, she wasn’t at all fond of crowds.

She ignored the queue forming behind her, and a glance to the left and right informed her that it was the same throughout the store. Impatient customers sighed, complained and even argued about who got to the checkout counter first.

The teenager manning the cash registered wore a Santa Cap and, incongruously, a scowl. Frustration oozed throughout the crowd. The cart behind her was loaded, Amy could tell without turning around, and she thanked her lucky stars that she had gotten there before whoever wielded that wobbly thing on non-compliant wheels.

A small voice, almost a whisper, spoke to her. Turning she saw a wizened little lady who had to be in her 80’s, if not her 90’s.

“I’m sorry,” Amy said. “Were you speaking to me?”

“Yes,” the elderly patron said. “I just said that December isn’t like it used to be. In my day, Advent came before Christmas, we gave up candy like we did for Lent. We prayed together, waited for the Wonder that was to come. Gifts just weren’t that important.”

Amy nodded, waited for the woman to go on.

A younger voice, a man, from an adjacent line joined in. “That’s how my mother made us prepare for Christmas, too. It was about what was to come. I don’t know, but for me, that made the anticipation all the more exciting, and Christmas day, we couldn’t think of even looking under the tree before Church.”

The conversation continued and Amy mostly listened, adding only a few “I see’s.” The overhead speakers blasted songs totally devoid of anything suggestive of the spiritual meaning of the holiday, more often chanting masked messages of “gimme, gimme, gimme.”

Amy became strangely aware of the emptiness of her own life. These two people had an entirely different perspective from her own. She told herself she would try to learn more about what made Advent, waiting so special to some people. After all, she was alone in this city. Her boyfriend had dumped her a month ago and it wasn’t that easy for her to make new friends.

She surprised herself when she reached the check stand. Those last few minutes in line had slipped by so quickly. When she was next-in-line she did something a little crazy—she stepped behind the lady with the cart loaded with children’s toys. She could see her wise teacher was exhausted and a little wobbly after standing for so long.

When her new friend thanked her, she said, “I can see you wondering why I have all these toys. Oh, they’re not for my grandchildren—I have none. They’re for the collection the Marines are taking up for homeless children. You see, that’s how I celebrate the birth of Jesus now that I’m alone. His coming was all about love and…well, I’m sure you understand.”

Amy realized that she wanted to do just that.

Photo: V. Slotto, 2014

Photo: V. Slotto, 2014

Abba, Dear Father

Last month my faith community offered a Parish Mission–three evenings of “retreat” preached by Rev. Pat Mowrer of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The theme of his talks centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son–a gospel I’ve read and heard treated in sermons so many times, The saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” comes to mind. These three evenings gob-smacked my spirit–it was one of those moments when one can see something so familiar as though for the first time.

Using Rembrandt’s stunning oil of the Prodigal Son, Fr. Patrick divided his talks over the three days by person: the youngest (wayward) son, the older (faithful) son and the Father. My goal is to focus my next three posts on each of these. But for today, let’s just look at the underlying message of each sermon:

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

URLoved

 In case you’ve tucked the Luke’s account back in the recesses of your archives, let’s take a look at it. 

Luke 15:11-32New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

To prepare for the next few posts, I invite you to sit quietly with this gospel and adopt “beginner’s mind.” Read it as though you were there in the crowd when Jesus told the story for the first time.

In the next post, I’d like to share a few insights a la Father Pat…a new look at the wild child, the younger son.  I’ll venture a guess most of us will be able to identify with him to a degree–and yet we are loved!

Keeping Sabbath

Image: oneyearbibleblog.com

Image: oneyearbibleblog.com

Most Sundays, I try to practice Sabbath—a tradition that was a strong factor in my growing up years, but that had waned with my work as a nurse…patients need care every day of the week. Most of us know and understand the concept of a day of rest, but our frenetic lifestyles tend to get in the way.

The concept of Sabbath crisscrosses most cultural, spiritual, religious and secular societies, even predating biblical times. The Babylonian Enuma Elish prescribed a day of repose. In the Genesis creation story, God rested after his six days of work and, I suppose it worked out well so that he added it to those tablets of stone he handed on to his people through Moses. Wicca, Islam. Buddhism, Cherokee teaching and others all caution humans to take a break, chill out, and rest.

Wisdom, it seems to me, embraces our need for refreshment, for replenishment of body, mind spirit and emotion, for regeneration and reflection.

For many of us, well, for me anyway, the need to be in control seems to take hold and it becomes oh-so-hard to let go of time, accept idleness and unproductivity and, perhaps, the feeling of uselessness. I suspect that there is a trust issue here. Can I really believe that God will take care of things in my absence? Can I believe that the work of creation on this particular day will go on without my amazing intervention?

So, how do I, Ms-Doing-Not-Being, make Sabbath?

• Meditation—a bit longer than my ordinary routine.

• Worship—with my Parish community.

• Journaling–and in the process really waking up to what is happening around me. I may write of all the wonderful sensory experiences that a pristine summer day offers—the finches’ songs, the brilliant orange of the male oriole at our feeder, the spicy scent of new-born flowers and the basil in the vegetable garden. I can pay attention to the play of light and shadow in the now-expansive boughs of the ash tree we planted almost twenty years ago and watch the hummingbirds fly back and forth sipping nectar from both flowers and feeders. I may feel the gentle kiss of a breeze and delight in my dogs’ warm bodies flanking me on either side. I will listen to David busy chopping spices in the kitchen.

• Spa Stuff. I can pamper myself, thanking my body for its seven decades of service and praise the many scars that it bears, a reminder of the life-threatening illness I have survived, for now.

• Creativity. Maybe some consider engaging in the creative process to be work. For me, I allowed the muse to come out and play, more by way of brainstorming than actualizing any project. Sabbath time allows ideas to gestate and gives clarity as to where to take them.

• And, yes, a final confession. I might do laundry. So, it’s not a perfect Sabbath, but for this woman who tends towards OCD, that’s probably not a bad thing. Besides, we need clean clothes!

Sabbath is not something that comes easily to many of us. I am aware that it doesn’t have to always be on Saturday or Sunday, or even occupy an entire twenty-four hours. How is life different if, each day, I remember to tuck in an hour or even minutes for the divine repose, sitting back and letting go?

Would you add, in comments, some ideas on how to keep Sabbath?

Photo: sroabji.com

Photo: sroabji.com