Category Archives: contemplation

Disillusionment

Disappointed? Didn’t get what you expected? Maybe something more
is going on, than what meets your eye and hurts your heart.

Life has a way of disappointing us and exposing our assumptions and
faulty beliefs. Disillusionment can be a brutal, disturbing experience.
Like all adaptation and change, it takes time to accept what we have
lost and begin to see what we have gained.

Yet, ultimately, to be disillusioned is to be set free. This action of grace
removes the plank in our own eyes, dethrones our egos, and much of
the healing process is hidden from our conscious awareness.

And then, there is Paul and his experience of disillusionment. Read his testimony. Does it
sound like something you are going through?

See here, see
the proof is in my groping blindness
my stunned, numbed, nauseous soul
stumbling in a foreign land.

There are ones who can testify
that I saw well enough before,
that I did not wear this unveiled shocked look of the newly blind.
There are ones who can remember the zeal and pulse of desire in me.

READ SPRING ISSUE OF HOLY GROUND

Resurrection Passion

Oh, Spendthrift Love,
Oh, Lay Me Down Love, 
even from the tree 
you coax: follow me. 

Oh, Love That Never Dies,
could I love 
like the pear tree loves 
in heedless 
scarlet surrender 
to the grey autumn sky? 

Could I run breathless 
bearing bright bouquets 
across the fields to you? 

Could I with mad extravagance 
pour out all my oil 
upon your brow? 

Could I throw caution 
to the wind 
and fling myself 
over the lake 
in a flurry 
of milkweed seeds 
and cattail fur? 

Could we rendezvous 
in every crack and cranny 
of creation 
where you issue 
in sweet tenderness? 

Could I be held 
enthralled by wonder 
unable to move 
across a room 
for need to kneel 
at every step in praise? 

Could I place my palm 
upon the surface 
of any cheek 
and trace  
the contours
of grace
with a finger?

Oh Love That Never Dies, 
teach my heart 
to love again. 
Teach me desire 
that draws life 
from dry bones 
like orange flames 
leaping 
from kindling sticks.

Oh Way is Narrow Love, 
Oh Take Up Your Cross Love, 
teach me 
resurrection passion. 

I've had enough of death.

Perhaps you have had enough of death, as well.
Take a chance.
Go outside.
Fling yourself into the arms of your existence.
Let yourself be held in a long embrace.
Such amazing goodness and mercy is waiting for you.

A blessed Eastertide!

Loretta F Ross

The Elephant is Very Like a Rope

What is truth? What is reality? Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the tail of reality, hand it to your neighbor, and declare, “Here, look, this is it: Truth!” 
“Hoaxes, lies and collective delusions aren’t new, but the extent to which millions of Americans have embraced them may be,” writes Kevin Roose, in The New York Times. 

Which part of the elephant are you touching or bumping up against? Is there a way for us to step back and see a bigger picture than our own hand grasping a tail? Some say: Why go to all this work to root out truth? It’s a free country. Why can’t I believe whatever I want and what makes sense to me? I don’t have time to track down every piece of information.


The ideology (Nazism) which the Barmen Declaration sought to unmask, and reject is an ideology of freedom, a false and idolatrous conception of freedom, which equates it with the freedom of each individual to do as he or she wishes.”   Lesslie Newbingen, Truth to Tell

If I refuse to acknowledge my brothers and sisters, who are also taking hold of part of the elephant from different vantage points, I turn everyone else into an enemy and threat to my truth and my freedom. Is there a way out of the stalemates and battles that keep us at odds with each other?

Here is the latest issue of Holy Ground – Quarterly Reflection on Contemplation

The Elephant Is Very Like a Rope

It is an illusion that we can escape personal responsibility for our assertions of truth, regardless of how we interpret the first amendment. We have an obligation to discover our internal truth, that place of honorable veracity, where we are aligned and balanced with the larger eternal truths about ourselves and the world around us.

In the words of Charles Williams, Unless devotion is given to the thing that must prove false in the end, that which is true in the end cannot enter. Being true individually is vitally important to all of us together. Why? In the words of the old
Sunday school song – for there are those who trust me. (Howard Walter)

Truth is a communal experience that requires us all. As you are transformed by truth, so are the rest of us.

Lenten blessings!

Loretta F Ross

Ashes to Ashes

Today I came across this post from eleven years ago. In a time when Ash Wednesday will most likely be celebrated virtually, I offer this reminder of how it was to stand in line with the bodies of your friends, to walk up to the celebrant, to feel the warm thumb on your forehead and return to your pew to sit with the reality of your own sweet mortality.

The Praying Life

One by one they come forward. I press my thumb into the black sooty ash. On the forehead I make the sign of an ancient form of execution. Looking them in the eyes I say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” For some I have to stand on tiptoe to make the mark. For the children I bend down to sign their lifted brows.

After eleven years among them, I know these people – their pain, their struggles, losses, hopes, and dreams. I love them. They come to place themselves before the altar and ask for this – this sincerity, this frank acknowledgement of death. They come to receive the smudge that says they know they have fallen short and they are sorry.

In a culture which denies death, sin, and personal and corporate responsibility for wrong-doing, I am moved by these who come to…

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Pandemic

 

The World today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. — Alfred Delp

  • A letter written in the fall of 1945 from the South Pacific. 
  • Stirring words from a governor in the midst of catastrophic suffering and death. 
  • A dog who wants to fly. 
  • A story told by Forest Spryte, Esq. about the olden times, when Earth Dwellers forgot who they were.

Check out the latest Holy Ground issue.  
There is something here for everyone!

“The contemplative who can stand back from a situation and see it for what it is, is more threatening to an unjust social system than the frenzied  activist who is so involved in the situation that he cannot see clearly at all. ” Karl Barth  

The Sanctuary reaches out to help people stand back and see the immensity, depth, and richness of faith.

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Broken Hearts and Weary Souls

The Christian who knows his or her business is the Christian who has the freedom to return again and again into that silent unchanging presence – the hanged God, whose love, whose generosity, springs out of depths we can never imagine. It is the sounding of those depths that is the heart of the contemplative life . . . the contemplative who knows how to enter into the silence and stillness of things is, above all, the one who knows how to resist fashion and power to stand in God while the world turns. In that discovery of stillness lies all our hope of reconciliation. – Rowen Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, May 2010

____________________

“The people of God have a long history of reaching for technical change to remedy their difficulties, instead of the adaptive change God is calling out from their hearts and minds.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, “No! We will flee on horses” – therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride upon swift steeds” – and therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
                                                                                                   Isaiah 30: 15-16

Someone is always looking for a fast horse to save us from the hard work of learning, which requires us to face into our ignorance and vulnerability.”
_________________

Here on a late March day in 2020 with the mourning doves calling from their perches, the grass slowly greening, and robins hopping about the leaf mulch in the woods, some of us are given a most remarkable opportunity. The world is gripped with the ongoing crisis of the corona virus pandemic.  We may wonder, Will I or my loved ones get it? Might we die from it?

Government and health department officials scramble to respond. Health care givers put on hazmat suits and masks. Others labor to provide the goods and services we have taken for granted.  Some of us will reach out to neighbors and others in need and develop ways to tend the tissue of human connection, love and compassion. Nearly all of us are charged to stay home and do our best to stay healthy.

In our communal enforced solitude we may have just the right hermitage for facing into the truth of ourselves and going deeper into our prayer and silence. In the Winter issue of Holy Ground, which I wrote before the virus erupted, “Deep personal and communal changes are not something we roll up our sleeves and do. Such life-giving change is something that is done unto us.” Something certainly is being done to us all. What kind of changes might God be asking of you and your communities?

Here is the Winter Holy Ground issue which looks at grief and truth, transformation and hope. It starts with another story about that little fellow,
Forest Spryte, Esq. He showed up on my couch one morning.

HOLY GROUND WINTER 2020
– Broken Hearts and Weary Souls

But first do this now or soon.

Turn off your screens. Step away from daily tasks. Sit down. Be still. Listen. Yes you will fidget and worry. That is okay. Stay there a little longer, where God is waiting for you.

Notice your breathing. Feel your body. Be present to each moment, as best you can. Give up trying, thinking, and planning. And give yourself over to this great Mystery of Love which lives beyond words in silence. This is a love, which longs to be with you and be known by you. Allow the flowing Love and Mercy of God move through you.  Surrender to your Beloved, who is beyond your knowing and to the peace that passes your understanding.

Here. Right here
in this sacred moment
of your infinitely precious life
is all you will ever need.

With you and “the hanged God” in these days
in love and prayer.

                              Loretta F. Ross

Christmas Lullaby

Christmas Lullaby 
Little Ones to Him Belong

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.

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.

___________________
This issue  of Holy Ground is a poetic reflection on Psalm 131. It is a lullaby and a song of love about the difficult struggle of spiritual growth. It is also a song of hope. 
Holy Ground Autumn 2019 Vol 30 No 4
Christmas Lullaby – Little Ones to Him Belong
What is needed is persons with quiet souls
who cling to Holiness as the trees cling to the earth.
I wrote this piece many years ago, when my first daughter was around a year and a half old. Some of you may recall it. Lines from this piece began coming back to me this fall. I think it is a lullaby worth hearing again.  May you find comfort here and deep assurance in the steadfast love of the One Who Is Greater than All.
My heart holds your heart in the steadfast Love who hold us all.
Loretta F Ross
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Learning to Kneel

I fear that we are losing our capacity for reverence and wonder. From a perusal of headlines and social media it appears that the great American pastime is one of taking offense, being outraged over one thing or another, fighting over who deserves to be the one most offended, or should be offended immediately.

The experience of reverence is crucial because it provides us with an internal check on our oh-so-human tendency to think of ourselves as superior beings, an attitude that can justify all kinds of harmful behaviors. Paul Woodruff, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.
The need has never been more urgent for people in leadership positions to be educated in all matters related to dignity – both the human vulnerability to be violated and the remarkable effect on people when they feel that they are seen, heard, understood, and acknowledged as worthy. Donna Hicks, Dignity, p 7
New Issue of Holy Ground: Snowed In – Learning to Kneel
Including a guide to spiritual practices to deepen reverence for God, ourselves, and others. 

 

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now. Mr Rogers

Sanctuary News

New life is stirring at the Sanctuary – ideas, insights, and learning as I begin to ponder possibilities in our new location. I attended a Day of Mindfulness held at a stunningly beautiful building, built by the Unitarian Universalist Society. They had expected 50 people. 100 signed up.  There is a hunger for depth and the wisdom that rises out of silence.

Spiritual guidance is keeping me busy. I am grateful for Zoom and other ways the internet helps us stay connected. Speaking of connection, I am also taking time for extended prayer, which I neglected for most of a year. The call to pray intentionally, as the heart of this ministry, seems stronger and more essential than ever.  I have returned to setting aside one day a week for this, Mondays. Feel free to join me in Spirit. Let me know if you do.
When I consider what may be emerging for ministry here, I am struck by the awareness that The Sanctuary has always been about relationships, where we see, where we are seen, and held in the Presence of God.

Don’t miss any opportunity to exert the power you have to remind others of  who they are: invaluable, priceless, and irreplaceable. Remind yourself too. Donna Hicks

 

Quote

The Conversion of Paul

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. Here is a repost of a blog I wrote 9 years ago. The notion of people, who think they know it all, getting blasted by the Light of truth and knocked off their high horses seems particularly relevant today. May we all experience such re-orienting conversion.

via The Conversion of Paul

Like a Trap

You will find three invitations in this post,

1. A spiritual practice for the new year.
2. The new issue (Autumn 2018) of Holy Ground: Like a Trap. (Yes I know it is winter and now 2019. I have had a very hectic fall with my move to Iowa. Things are finally settling into new routines. Thanks for your patience!)
3. Update with our Annual Letter
A Spiritual Practice 
for a New Beginning  
       A new year with its promise and possibility of new opportunities  stretches out before us.
       Take a few moments to ask for and to listen for the Word from God to you for 2019. Will you discover a word of  challenge or encouragement? Perhaps you hear a word of correction or hope or purpose. Pay attention to what attracts or repels you. Pay attention to your inner life, images, music that come to mind. Look at your dreams and your heart’s deep yearnings. What might God be asking of you in relation to your work for the Realm of God?
       When the Word comes  – silently in a dream, or knocking you on the head like walking into a tree – take time to explore your word or words. Look up the words in a dictionary. If they come from the Bible, track down their origin. Draw or paint them. Write a poem or song. Find an object to symbolize the word of God to you. Build or bake something. Take your word for a walk, as you  repeat it softly to yourself.  Chew over and live into the word, allow it to take flesh in you.
           Take action in relation to your word. Set an intention regarding your word. Write down some goals. Make some phone calls or appointments. Share your word with a friend and pray together about your call from God.
       It need not be a gigantic task. It may be quite simple and seem very small. One year I heard “rest.” “In returning and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30: 15-17 Your gift is important. It may be something you and you alone can give. You are on this earth at this point in time for a purpose. Trust the angel who whispers through your life. Say yes.

New Issue of Holy Ground: Like a Trap

       “I opened the door on apocalypse. I let it in and then kept draping throws and bright afghans on it. It brought news of my demise, my slow decomposition. I was weighed down with distraction and worry. It was like a trap.  . . .”
       “The universe is saturated and dripping with the power of Holy Love, oozing like sap from every crack and cranny of being. I trust the tenacity and persistence of life pushing through the cracks, pouring over the dam, carving out canyons, and pulsing in our veins, drawing us to ever fuller expression of being. The Word – the creating energy of being – inhabits all that is, unfurling itself in kaleidoscopic formations and scintillating complexity. . . .”
 
 

The clamoring demands of a paralyzed present

       Living in a time of apocalypse and reckoning brings both chaos and opportunity. We face great changes and challenges. We also bring particular gifts for this time, not the least of which is our faith. We look forward to the coming Realm of God manifesting more and more throughout the world.  It is important to deepen our roots into the bedrock of our faith. May these words from L. Daniel Hawk encourage us all “to look to the restorative end toward which the Lord is moving . . . rather than the clamoring demands of a paralyzed present.”

       “The vision of a future beyond the contemporary horizon, therefore, calls the people of God to look beyond the present moment, with its violence, disintegration, and failed leadership, to the restorative end toward which the Lord is moving, and so to orient faith and decision making within the context of God’s ultimate power and purposes, rather than clamoring demands of a paralyzed present.
       The parable of the fig tree and Jesus’ admonition to pay attention to the signs of his coming remind readers that God is not absent or inactive in the interim but, to the contrary, powerfully at work in every present moment to bring about the redemptive end foreseen by the prophets.”
-L. Daniel Hawk, Connections – A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship p. 3
“The Sanctuary heals me. It has brought peace and serenity to me in the chaos of the Twenty-First Century by regularly reminding me of the serenity that comes through the stability of…following the teachings and life of Jesus in good times and difficult times.” Ron  -Sanctuary Annual Letter