Shame

I’m ashamed. I have been so negligent in posting to this blog and the reality is, my life is a Christian is so much more important to me than poetry or photography–the subject of my other two blogs.

But then, I think about a book I read over 25 years ago by John Bradshaw, a popular self-help guru at the time, Healing the Shame That Binds You, in which the author describes the toxicity of shame because it focuses on self image, the perception of our failure. As Christians, we have the ability to take our guilt to Jesus and accept his forgiveness, his loving compassion.

I suffer from the spiritually deadly disease of perfectionism and I can’t tell you how often I turn in my prayer to the image of the parable of the Prodigal Son and soak in the unconditional love of God for us. I say disease because, like shame, perfectionism focuses on self not love of God and others.

So I offer, once again, a copy of Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, and image I like to visualize when I’m turning inward instead of upward.

 

Image: Rembrandt The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt–Detail
The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

As for my shame in not posting for a while, I will do what Bradshaw suggests: let go, do what you have to do to change (or to accept the lack of time and inspiration it takes to blog) and move on! Have a blessed week.

 

In Memoriam

A number of years ago Easter fell on April 8th, the anniversary of the day my father lost his life in WWII. He was 23 years old, as was my mother. I was 3 months. Periodically, I re-post this and since today is Memorial Day in the USA, I thought I would share it here.

p1020550

April Eighth

An article in the Smithsonian
alluded to the Holy
Shroud of Turin.
The image of Christ
seared radiologically
into a burial cloth.
A violent burst of energy.
A life-seed
in a closed space
blowing out boundaries.
Stories of an empty tomb.

Easter comes early
this year.
Daffodils explode in
the front garden,
sheltered by a warm wall.

April eighth,
nineteen forty-four.
A seed plummets to earth,
wrapped in a metal
death-womb.
Ejaculated from heaven,
it burrows into dank soil.
Buried.
Fragmented.
Combusted in another
surge of energy.

Months go by:
a year to the day.
Someone in the
War Department
types the letter on
a piece of onion-skin paper.
Words smudged by an
over-used ribbon tell
the woman to move on with her life.
The child will never call him
daddy.

Oh, Chosen One

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah--Wikipedia Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah–Wikipedia, labeled for noncommercial reuse.

This morning, my reading took me to the second book of Isaiah, known as The Book of Consolation in my translation. I never tire of reading this, the voice of God through his prophet reminding me over and over again that, in spite of myself, God continues to choose me.

I’m revisiting a book that I read years ago,

Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey

that helps us explore avenues of prayer suited to one’s personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs. For people like me who can’t exist without time for prayer and quiet (Intuitive, Feeling) one prayer form that the authors recommend is Lectio Divino (Divine Reading), that is reading and entering into dialogue with God about what one has read. They suggest when reading Second Isaiah, to insert your own name whenever God is addressing Israel.

Check out these verses, for example. I will leave a blank, for you to substitute your name:

“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, ________, and formed you, _______:
do not fear for I have called you by name.
You are mine.” Is. 43: 1

“Hear then, ________, my servant,
_________, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, __________, my servant,
____________, whom I have chosen.” Is. 44: 1-2

This is what it is all about, isn’t it? Bringing home scripture, making it alive today in our own experience. Remembering that we are God’s chosen and he is speaking to us. Divine reading, indeed!

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, may I suggest this book, a simple test and analysis of all 16 temperaments…helpful not only for prayer, but also in understanding personal relationships. My husband and I are the exact opposites on one another–complementary and challenging! (Click on the book titles to access these books on Amazon).

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

By the way, for the fiction writers among you, this is the book I use to help me to develop characters who are consistent, but who will also throw in an occasional surprise by acting out of character.

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.

 

Get Over It–God Does

Photo: V. Slotto Zoe

Photo: V. Slotto
Zoe

I have a Jack Russell Terrier who is deaf. You may know that this is not a calm breed–independent, reactive, they require an extra dose of patience even when they are hearing. But they are fun, full of surprises and so lovable. Zoe is my little prayer partner, cuddling at my side when I spend time in prayer and reading scripture–her buddy, Sparky, usually flanking my other side.

First thing this morning, when I took the dogs for their walk and “duties” (we have no yard here in the desert) Zoe went ballistic, as she tends to, when a friend drove by in his golf cart. This is not unusual…sudden movements scare her, no doubt because of her hearing impairment. Usually I’m prepared, but this morning I lost it. I won’t go into detail.

When I returned home, I didn’t want to pray. I couldn’t bring myself to God after such a miserable failure…and really thought about just skipping that part of the day and getting on with my domestic chores. Then I happened to open my Kindle, which was on a page of “The Practice of the Presence of God”–a little volume you may have read by a 15th century monk named Brother Lawrence. This is what was on the page that I had highlighted:

“When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to doing so: I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself. I fail not, I give GOD thanks, acknowledging the strength comes from Him.” In other words, “Get over it.”

And so, I prayed. And after some really hectic weeks and prayer doldrums that accompany being too busy, God allowed me to know He is with me, even in my most pathetic moments.

Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com

I highly recommend this small volume. Find various translations on Amazon.com

 

The Prodigal Father

Yes, you’re reading it correctly: the PRODIGAL Father. Sure, the son was prodigal in his wasting of his inheritance on vanity, but check out this definition of prodigal:

adjective: marked by rash extravagance

And so it is with the Father’s extravagant love that could be judged by some as rash. His loving kindness is poured out on us, no matter how low we go. Isn’t it wonderful? Forgiveness abounds.

Image: Rembrandt The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt
The artist represented the abundance of God’s parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

The Wayward Son–the Leave-Taking

Image: spcnorfolk.com

Image: spcnorfolk.com

I have a confession to make. After introducing (on August 3!)  what I promised would be the first of a series of articles about the parable of the Prodigal Son, I faltered. I developed a psychological and spiritual paralysis, and for that I apologize. I felt it was beyond my ability to express, and it is. What I forgot was, it’s not about me. It’s the Holy Spirit who taps my keyboard.

So here is the next consideration: the youngest son and his leave-taking–that kid who was so self-absorbed that all he thought about was his share of his loving father’s inheritance and all the pleasure, all the fun things he could enjoy with it.

His request of his father: “Give me what’s going to come to me now, I don’t want to wait for it any longer,” was the equivalent of saying, “You’re living too long, Dad. I wish you were dead. I want my money now.” Yikes!

That is what sin is, saying “I don’t want to belong to you anymore. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” Just to prove his point, he went to a distant country–he got as far away as he could so that there would be no confusion in the mind of his father.

Isn’t it true that our culture bids us to always look for something better? The boy-man denied that he belonged to the father and lived out his own version of the sin of Adam and Eve: “I can do it myself. I can do it on my own.”

A lot of times when we read this gospel passage, we focus on the sins the son committed–wasting his fortune on prostitutes and debauchery! But the greater sin was this–that he left his father.

I don’t want this to be too long, so I’ll continue next post. In case you need to refresh your memory on this wonderful parable that Jesus shared, you will find it in its entirety in my previous post.

Thank you. Have a blessed week.

Based on notes I took during a Parish Mission offered by Father Patrick Mowrer.

Rev. Patrick Mowrer

Rev. Patrick Mowrer

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

“Catching Sight of God”

“Immediately, upon catching sight of Jesus, the whole crowd was overcome by awe.”
Mark, 9, 15 (NAB)

Photo: consecratetheday.com

Photo: consecratetheday.com

This verse from Mark caught my attention this morning. It occurs at the beginning of an account in which Jesus heals a boy possessed by a deaf and mute spirit that threw him into what we would describe as epilepsy. The disciples lacked faith to heal him themselves and Jesus got on their case for that before asking the lad’s father to believe. The entire story is full of lessons and points to ponder–but it’s that verse I quoted above that commanded my attention today.

Two points: the preceding account is that of the Transfiguration in which Jesus gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of his divine beauty–or perhaps it was the Father’s doing. I have to imagine that after that, Jesus still had a radiance about him that struck the crowd.

I’ve seen that among his followers, haven’t you? The knowledge of God, an experience of his presence in our lives, really does transform us and there is a certain joy, a radiance that shines through our physical person. In my work with death and dying, I’ve even seen it in the midst of pain and impending loss when there is an undercurrent of faith that supports both the patient and their loved ones.

Second point: we, too, can catch sight of Jesus in the unfolding of every single day…perhaps in another person, perhaps in moments of prayer, in those moments that we can cultivate when doing the most menial of tasks like laundry or dishes, during a commute, working in the garden where we can appreciate the wonder of creation and the need of the constant attention needed to pull out those darn weeds (guess what I did this morning).

Jesus shows up, sometimes when we least expect it…if we look for him. Would you share (in comments) how he took you by surprise today. Or is there an event from the past you would like to share. Maybe this will help a fellow follower to zoom in on the Presence.

Thank you.