Feast

don’t wander down the dim halls of memory
lost in a musty maze of dead
ends

don’t launch out into the future
on the treacherous sea of pulp
fiction

trust this pulsing moment
tawdry, tattered, or bright
let things come to you

in the marriage
of your yes
and the outstretched hand of now

sit down at the feast
of what is so
savor swallow

eat it all

steaming-bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it is in the being of the days a thing makes sense
the clear, confusing, giddy, dull, and tearful passing of the time

 

 

Lullaby for the Little Ones

Dear ones,
I first wrote this when my daughter was around a year old. She is now 34. I posted it here in 2012. It is a lullaby worth hearing again in these times of continuing uncertainty and suffering. May you find comfort here and deep assurance in the steadfast love of the One Who Is Greater than All.

marymotherofgod

My heart is not proud nor my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters or things too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul. As a weaned child clinging to its mother – like a child that is weaned is my soul. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

The little one stood waiting. Its whole life had led up to this moment. While the One Who Is Greater than All, most gracious, almighty, mother and father, reached down and down and through and through, lifted and kissed the little one and held it tight. The little one nestled into the arms of the One Who Is Greater Than All and lay back, gazing into the dark face with starry eyes. And the two began to rock.

_____________

Like babes, we cling to the earth’s smooth furrows with tiny fingers, as it makes its daily rounds. We feel the beat of creation’s pulse against our cheeks.

What child is this? Whose lullabies are these? Whose nursery is this – this universe of spattered fire and splashing water? Souls, spilled across the Milky Way, find their way in a manger, and sway swaddled in the earth’s sweet clothes of winter snows and summer hay.

Who rocks us here, while our eyes, transfixed by Love’s pure light, discover our image reflected in the holy face? The little one stood waiting while the One Who Is Greater Than All spoke:

Come sit with me and rock a while and I will sing you lullabies that Sarah sang to Isaac. I will tell you stories, wondrous tales of adventure, danger, miracles and love. For these songs must be sung, these stories told. Not kept on shelves like jars of pickles in a darkened cellar. No spice can preserve us, but these stories can save. In the telling is new life. In the singing is good news.

How did we come to this place, this rocking on God’s lap and listening to these stories? Go back to the beginning of the beginning, before we were intricately wrought in the depths, before the forming of our inmost parts, before we were knitted together in our mothers’ wombs to when our unformed substance was first beheld. For we were held before we were even something to behold.

We began babes in Christ, smacking, sucking infants grasping and gasping at the source of life, gulping in the Spirit’s breath like ones nearly drowning in the rushing waters of the world:

O Lord, get me through this, help me, heal me, save me, free me, show me what to do! We lift to you our many hungers and concerns – our budget, our new addition, the middle East, global warming, the economy, the droughts, the poor,  those in prison, those who mourn, the sick and lonely, the persecuted and enslaved – Lord, hear our prayer – and don’t forget the little children!

And God continued to hold us, while Mary held God’s squirming son. The nursing infant is too weak to hold onto its mother. She must lift the child and support its back. She must turn its head and draw its fingers from its mouth and place it on her breast. It knows not how to feed itself.

So we rocked with God under a cloud of violence, whose mists seeped into our lives as ghostly fears. Life, never a certain thing, seemed like a runaway kite in a storm, while we grasped frantically to its frayed and thinning string. We denied and argued and pleaded and bargained with the menacing cloud, until spent and weary with making peace with death, we learned there is no peace with death and we did not go gentle, but wore out our rage in colic screams. All this while our patient God walked us in our dark nights and bore against our stiff-legged kicking.

Then came the weaning.

The Hebrew word for wean means also to ripen and repay. Wean is not a sudden loss of sustenance, but a ripening toward greater fulfillment and profound nourishment.

O Lord my heart is not haughty, my eyes are not raised too high. I do not occupy myself with ambitious desire or things which are too marvelous for me.

Done with getting and spending and proving and earning.
Done with seeking and striving and the thin piercing whine of urgent need.
Done with bawling hungers and waking in the night with stomach cramping and the terror screams that know no hope nor appetite appeased.

Blossoms on Branch

Then came the weaning, the ripening.

An early evening rain splashed gently on the apple blossoms, sending white petals sifting to the glistening grass. We heard the wet whistle of the cardinal and watched a robin listen, head tilted, for the rumble of earth worms. We saw the drops slide down the glass. “The window crying,” you said. It was dusk, the color of plums. Teddy slipped from your lap. You gazed into my eyes and smiled. And before I offered you to suck, you fell asleep. And thus you ripened. And so we rocked all night, past striving, past approval seeking, past demon whispers of ambition. And in the morning you bit into the Spirit’s fruit.

The weaned child has attained strength and muscular control. It climbs onto its mother’s lap without help. It pats her face and nuzzles its head against her shoulder. It delights simply in the mother’s presence.

Like a weaned child on its mother’s breast is my soul.

No longer consumed with consuming,
no longer gulping and choking on life,
but content
content to rest in God.

An awareness – childlike, simple, accepting –
came to the psalmist who sings to us today,
an awareness that came to Job,
when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind:
there are some things too wonderful, too marvelous for us

that mere knowing will not save us, that understanding will not end suffering, that strategies and master plans and mission statements cannot ease our pain, that psychological acumen, administrative expertise, and a panorama of pretty programs with flashy learning centers and lesson books printed in three colors will not root out the evil in our hearts

that dedicated scholarship, facile exegesis, brilliant preaching, flashing memes, a new economy, and all that we may do and strive to produce will not ease our pain.

The way is in the manger.
Come, lift the child and hold it close to your heart as Mary did.
Hush. Speak softly. Walk on tiptoe.

Tree in the Winter Mist

What is needed is persons with quiet souls who cling to Holiness as the trees cling to the earth.

What is needed is persons with humble hearts who will mother the Christ within them, who will speak gently to all they meet for they know that each of us carries Mary’s sleeping boy.

Our work is of such utter simplicity and ordinariness that we shrink from it. Surely there must be more – than to be a friend, to share another’s burden, and to be in love with Grace.

We rush about anxious, agitated, and oh so busy. Our plans and prayers are ill-conceived and sloppy. Our eyes are raised too high. We are occupied with ambitious desires. We presume to be absorbed in things too marvelous for us.

Climb on God’s lap and rest. And a multitude of persons will find God’s rest near you.

Fall deeply in love with the Christ child, care for it ever so tenderly, and your simple presence will nurture the Christ child in others.

At that time they came to him and said: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus took up a little child and placed it on his lap and said: “Unless you  turn and become like this little child, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The little ones snuggle closer:
the humble singer of the psalm, you and I, and Eve and Moses and Sarah and Peter and Martha and that littlest one of all with the holes in his hands and feet.

The curve of time turns in on itself, bends back and threatens to disintegrate. Apocalyptic whispers and end time sonnets play in bars and senate chambers. Death watches on the TV news announce more violence, more battles, more destruction.

“We like the old songs best,” the people tell the pastor. “I sang ‘Whispering Hope’ at my mother’s funeral,” the gentle man tells her on his way out. “Thank you for letting us sing it again.”

Hope
a whisper so soft,  we must be stilled and quieted to hear it

Hope
a whisper so soft, we must be clinging close to hear it

Hope
soft as the voice of an angel breathing a lesson unheard.

Like a child that is weaned is my soul. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

marymotherofgod

May your year ahead be blessed with holy rest and whispers of hope, gentle delights and profound joy.  May you gather the strength and courage for whatever you face, secure in the knowledge of a love that will not let you go.

                                                                                                    Loretta F. Ross

Whispering Hope, hymn by Alice Hawthorne, copyright 1924 by the Standard Publishing Company

Read Latest Issue of Holy Ground Here

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Poets, Prayer, and Paradigms

Poets

I lived with two poets all summer. They accompanied  me to both coasts, places in between,  and came along on a silent retreat.  Amy Fleury and Brian Doyle are both accomplished and acclaimed writers. I met them first through Fleury’s Sympathetic Magic and Doyle’s How the Light Gets In and Other Headlong Epiphanies.

sympathetic-magicThe corners of both books are bent down, exclamation points and asterisks dance in the margins. When I finished each book, I promptly started over at the beginning again.

Fleury and Doyle’s  poems sound truth in me like a struck gong. They take me into still places, new insights, and sheer delight at their artistry.

Eventually the books will find a home on my bedroom shelf of books-to-be-buried-with. These are the sort of books I want to take with me to the grave,  in case I wake up in the shadowy corridors of the Bardos, a dank, musty Sheol, or at Purgatory’s laundramat, waiting for a load of my dirty laundry. The poets carry me out of this world like a sturdy rope hanging over a wide river. If you get a good running start and grab hold tightly, you just might swing yourself right over into the generous faith of their imaginations.

I do not know if these two poets know each other.  If they do not, I hope they meet sometime for coffee. And invite me.

There is a gladness in the green-gold tides
of wheat, in the openhandedness of oaks,
and in the river’s verdegris creep over
moss-sueded stones, and fishes beneath.
                               – Amy Fleury, Green Temple

how-the-light-gets-in

Amy, a consummate artist,  dazzles me with images and words strung on a page like bright jewels. Brian ambles into the room, leans amiably against the door jamb and begins to tell me a story of what happened on his way home, or when he was teaching a class of high school kids, or talking to his father. Then turning, tosses over his shoulder the punch line with such effortless grace and spot on truth, I grin for the rest of the day.

. . . Why do
We ever bother to argue about religion? All religions are the same glorious
Wine, susceptible to going bad but capable of quiet joyous gentle elevation.
. . . Yet here I am, on Sunday morning, in the wedding reception tent, agog;
Not so much at the earnest idiot of a minister, but at everyone, sweetly, else.
– Brian Doyle, Poem After Sunday Morning Church Service in a Tent

Prayer

john-luc-seashore

PAUSE FOR PEACE
Are you looking for a group to practice and learn more about contemplation?
I am offering a four week class on contemplation and mindfulness practices here in Topeka, Ks on each of the Friday mornings in October from 7:30-8:30 am. Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28. Space is limited. We only have room for two more people. Please register at the link below or contact me by commenting here, or through my website, www.fromholyground.org

More Info and Register Here

Paradigms

What is called for is a paradigm shift, a new wineskin, a new mental construct to hold one’s life, and relationships with God, self, and neighbor. A shift in a way of understanding or a world view occurs when the current world view has reached too many anomalies or inconsistences. I can no longer cram myself, my understanding of God and others into a belief system that cannot accommodate some previously unnoticed or known, but now undeniable, realities in my own experience.

The Summer issue of Holy Ground takes a look at how we get stuck in a mental construct or paradigm which we may have outgrown. God is always calling us beyond ourselves and our current conceptions and attitudes.

Is your God too small? Mine was.

READ MORE holy-ground-summer-2016

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For Heaven’s Sake, Calm Down. Topeka Gives

TCF Topeka Gives logo final

” Hey! Calm down, for heaven’s sake,”
                       say Jean Luc and Elijah.

Here we are. Send us!

We are just a couple of wild and crazy guys, who want you to . . . 

  • Stop by The Sanctuary Foundation’s table at Topeka Gives on Tuesday, June 7, 2016,7:00-6:00, Fairlawn Mall, Topeka, Ks.
  • Get your free stress square and measure how calm you are 
    from “slightly stressed to screaming ninnie.”
  • Find other tools to relax and nurture inner peace.
Elijah, the Lab, Holding a Place for You

Elijah practicing meditation.

The Sanctuary is an interfaith center for spiritual nurture, which helps people find deeper awareness of God, self and others. Please join us in expanding our work for inner peace.   Your gift of $25 or more at Topeka Gives will be percentaged matched by a generous donation from the Topeka Community Foundation.

Do you see unmet needs in our community? Are you are weary of political stalemates, name calling, stalling, and denial? Do newspaper headlines make you angry?

Come down to the Fairlawn Mall ( 21st Street and Fairlawn) and discover grass roots, homegrown hope, hard work, love, wisdom, and imagination in action.

Look for our table with the blue and gold balloons. Stop by and say Hello! Get free stuff and a hug.

While you are there –

  1. Pick your favorite organizations – Please include the Sanctuary!
  2. Make a donation of $25 or more to each organization. Then watch your gifts GROW through the $73,500 matching fund given by the Topeka Community Foundation.

I can’t wait to see you and tell you about how your dollars make a difference to some of your neighbors. Please give us your support this year. There are many people who need safe spaces to explore their souls and nourish their spirits.

REMEMBER that to participate in the Topeka Community Fund match you must bring your gift in person to the Topeka Fairlawn Mall on Tuesday June 7, any time between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm.

Elijah 3 months 2

If you would like to support The Sanctuary and can’t come to Fairlawn Mall in Topeka on June 7. You can donate online here. Your gift will not be matched by the Topeka Community Foundation in this case, but even small gifts can do amazing things!

Ascension – Redux

While he was still with them, he said:

Don’t leave Jerusalem yet. Wait here for the Father to give you the Holy Spirit, just as I told you he has promised to do. . . . But the Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you power.  

After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1: 6-8a, 9 (CEV)

Something new is coming,
something incredible,
beyond imagination
and manipulation.

Something
promised.

Well maybe.
That is to say, we hope it is.

He said it would.

We watched him rise up
out on the hill,
wind blustering all around,
and the jagged saw of goodbye
chewing us apart.

Don’t go. Don’t go. We love you so!

And the love
filling us up
and tipping us

over with its force.

And us, breathless and blown,
rolling and tumbling down
the mountain
flung and spinning
out from the core of that splendor. 

His Words,
imprinted
on our souls like a bright tattoo.

And the angels saying, Get up. Get going!

He said to wait.
Wait.

There would be more, something else,
spirit he called it,
who will help us remember it all,

help us catch our breath,
and give us legs for such a world, as we have glimpsed.

Oh, why not Him? Why this spirit thing,
when we had a love
we could hold in our arms and look in the eye?

The Father, reaching down into humanity,
snatches back the offspring
of his selfless, effervescent generosity.

Dear God,
you catch up very God of very God,
begotten not made,
by the scruff
of his collar
and draw him back into your joyful dance.

What are you thinking,
cutting in like this, sweeping off with our partner?

Life is eternal – that is good news.
But what to do with the life and the love,
left here as we are, knocking about in the flesh?

Don’t ask of us such vulnerability,
this being clueless, with nothing to hang onto,
suspended between cloud and fire,
dangling
from only a dim memory
and a bright promise.

I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. Ephesians 1: 17 (CEV)
(This post is adapted from post originally published in 2010.)

Valentine’s Day

But standing by the cross of Jesus was his mother…
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near,
he said to his mother, “Woman behold your son!”
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”   John 19:25-27

It was Valentine’s Day.  She held his limp body across her knees, as though she could rock a full grown man.  His head rolled back against her shoulder, his throat bared to heaven’s jaw.  She reached for his torn, red smeared hand.  Did she remember the valentines he had made for her…the way his tiny hand gripped her finger, and the dear sounds he made when he nuzzled her breast?  Did she remember the valentine gifts…the pretty rocks he brought her, the bird feather, the ripe olive, shiny and black?

It was Valentine’s Day. And there on the hill called Skull she held her Valentine and sang him a love song, a lullaby.  It had no words, but was a mixture of the sound of angels’ wings, the smell of frankincense, and the taste of dust and blood.  She looked at his eyes, the muscles of his chest, the strong sweep of his thighs, and thought of how divinity had swelled within her, of how she grew big and awkward as she puffed up the hills of Nazareth.  My, it seemed only yesterday.  She thought of him moving within her and of his birthing out of the dark pain.  And she remembered how she felt that she could not bear his sweetness.

It was Valentine’s Day.  He lay slumped on her lap like a great heavy mail sack stuffed with the cards and letters of creation’s lovelorn.  They spilled from him with the blood.  “Save me.  Heal me.  Help me.  Love me.  Save me.  Heal me.  Help me.  Love me.”  Over and over the messages were the same.  Some were written in the scraggly script of the old, some in the sprawling letters of the very young, some on the finest stationary.  Others were on scraps of newspaper, prison walls, and sheets from hospital beds.  Some were stamped out in the snow, and some were imprinted on faces, especially around the eyes and mouth.  “Save me.  Heal me.  Help me.  Love me.”

It was Valentine’s Day.  She sat there with God on her lap,holiness in a heap.  From all appearances the love affair between God and creation had gone terribly awry.  The Valentine sent to us had been trampled, torn, spit upon, and rejected.

She held her Valentine and her heart broke, and he, broken for her, for us, allowed himself to be held.  And holding him she held all the others spilling from him, the whole aching lonely hearts club. And in that moment she became a Valentine herself sent from Love to be Love.

Those who follow God’s ragged Valentine, Jesus, get their hearts broken over and over.  For Christ dwells in them, swells in love, and bursts their hearts with compassion. Such are the lovesick fools who hold creation’s broken ones.  Such are the lovers who mother God’s children and in their mothering discover their own brokenness is mended.

It was Valentine’s Day.  Some will come to call it Good Friday.  It might even be fitting to call it Mother’s Day.  But calling it Valentine’s Day helps me remember what love is all about.

This piece is from a collection of monologues and reader’s dramas I wrote a number of years ago titled Blessed Are the Poor.
 This post first published Feb 12, 2009

Sighs too Deep – Incomprehensible Presence

What does it mean to love a Both/And God
who consents to be held, but who will not be confined?

you
come
swaddled in mortality
docile
small
to suckle
eat
out of our hands

still when I lay you
down
in rickety word
cages
your wildness lunges
though the bars
howls
whimpers

mountain3

What word cages do you use to attempt to hold the Mystery of Human and Divine, the Utterly Beyond and Holy, yet also Utterly Present and With us?

In 325 in the city of Nicaea (present day Iznik, Turkey) the First Council of Nicaea adopted a profession of faith widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called the Nicene creed.

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became truly human. . . .

Today some people have trouble finding their experience and understanding of God in these particular words for the Word With Us. I love them myself for their poetic, evocative nature. They point me to mystery. However, others struggle, refuse to say them in worship, or work to find new word cages to hold, however briefly, their experience of Holiness.

How about you? Today is Epiphany – keep a look out. Set a trap. Put out some cookies. See if you can catch a glimpse of Light from Light, True God from True God, Born and Fully Human in your own hallowed life.