Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Black Friday Still Life

teaandtoastMy 96 year old mother
dozes in her chair
toast half eaten on the tray.

Frost last night,
morning sun streams
through icy windows.
Refrigerator hums.

Outside gnarly cedar
silvered bark
thick trunk
when did it get so big?
spreads shelter
like a heavy old quilt.

The dog stirs, turns on his side,
inhales deeply, exhales long and slow.

Memories –
laughter, faces,
snatches of conversation,
four dogs romping in the backyard,
mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie –
twinkle, ignite, and go out
on the mind’s firmament.

Only twenty eight days  ‘til Christmas.
No rush here. No need to shop.

In the house on Madison Street,
whatever it was we thought we needed, or must do
has given way to being,
to watching leaf shadows dance on the  brown grass
and peering long into the deep blue sky.

 This is a revised version of a blog previously posted in 2009.

_________________________________

Keep your eye out for holiday Still Life works of art 

My mother, who died in 2012 was raised as a Quaker on a farm near Salem, Iowa. Here are a few words from Thomas Kelly,  American Quaker mystic, to put on your refrigerator door to help you not miss the tender, mild moments of grace unfolding right before your eyes. 

This amazing simplification comes when we center down, when life is lived with singleness of eye, from a holy center, where breath and stillness of Eternity are heavy upon us and we are wholly yielded to Him. 

Some of you know this holy, recreating center of eternal peace and joy and now live in it day and night. Some of you may see it over the margin and wistfully long to slip into that amazing center where the soul is a home with God. Be very faithful to that wistful longing.  It is the Eternal Goodness calling you to return home, to feed upon green pastures and walk beside still waters and live in the peace of the Shepherd’s presence.  It is the life beyond fevered strain.

We are called beyond strain to peace and power and joy and love through abandonment of self.  Thomas Kelly,  A Testament of Devotion

Please share your “Still Life”  in the comments  here, or with your  photos on The Sanctuary Facebook Page . Let’s gather a whole gallery of “the amazing simplification where the breath and stillness of Eternity are heavy upon us.”
Tender peace and love to you in the season of gratitude. 
                                                                                                Loretta

Kairos

I thought of you this morning
while the dove cooed under the feeder
and I knew how I had utterly failed.

How is it with you, really?

Words fill the distance between us
pushing in drifts
against your door.

Discarded costumes, masks, disguises
lie
on the fitting room floor.

I step out to tell you what I want
what I am trying to find here
is the one
true moment

which strips off
the tight suits of expression
to expose
the bare naked beat
of love.

_____________

I cannot tell you how deep
is this need to communicate,
how vast the reach of longing.
We plead face down in the dirt.
You who know no separation,
make us one.

Still Not Enough? ~ Redux

Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough hope, not enough money, not enough jobs, not enough room, not enough love, not enough peace …

not enuf nuthin !

So goes the lie.

As the holiday season of plenty, hope, and generosity opens its arms to us, some of us brace ourselves, suspicious of the season’s glittering wares. The family, who lost their home to foreclosure, the unemployed factory worker, and other despairing and heartsick souls may feel plenty is beyond their reach and scarcity their new normal.

The media depictions of holiday cheer play on our insecurity and sense of lack. They insinuate that no matter how much we have, we do not have the latest and greatest. Advertisers lure us with promises of more. We may find ourselves stumbling after ghostly phantoms in the desperate hope that this year we might find that illusive wholeness we are seeking.

How does one feel whole and fulfilled, when one is more aware of scarcity in one’s life? Perhaps abundance in the midst of scarcity occurs for us as it did for Jesus, when he fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish.

We welcome what we have,
however meager.
We give thanks,
and watch it multiply.

Practice a Miracle: The Welcoming Prayer

Here is a simple, yet demanding, exercise to practice such a miracle in your own life. It is called The Welcoming Prayer. It was developed by Mary Mrozowski, one of Thomas Keating‘s closest associates and a prime mover in the development of centering prayer. She based the Welcoming Prayer on the 17th-century French spiritual classic Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade as well as Fr. Keating’s teachings and her own lived experience of transformation with its underlying attitude of surrender. There are a number of variations on this prayer. Here is one.

FOCUS AND SINK IN:

  • Become aware of what is troubling you or occupying your mind. For example, your sadness, anger, or fear regarding scarcity of some kind in your life. Focus on your feelings, both cognitively and physically, noting how and where the feeling affects your body.

  • Instead of resisting, or feeling ashamed or denying, welcome the truth of what is troubling you. Welcome the feelings with curiosity and compassion.

LET GO: (Here is the hard part)

  • Let go of your desire for power and control over the situation. Release your desire to be “right.”
  • Let go of your desire for affection and esteem from others.
  • Let go of your desire for survival and security.
  • Let go of your desire to change the way things are.

REST :

  • Allow yourself to sink into the abundant flowing love of this moment.

The present is ever filled with infinite treasure; it contains more than you have capacity to hold. … The will of God is at each moment before us like an immense, inexhaustible ocean that no human heart can fathom; but none can receive from it more than he has capacity to contain, it is necessary to enlarge this capacity by faith, confidence, and love…French priest, Jeanne Pierre de Caussade

You may find the letting go section of the prayer difficult to do. One or two of the desires may be harder to release than others. Think of this as useful information about what things, other than God, are of primary importance in your life. Notice which desires might be getting in the way of your freedom in Christ. If you find you cannot release one of these, you might simply pray that God give you the desire to desire to let go.

The Welcoming Prayer invites us to trust in God’s presence and providence and to discover the infinite wealth of God available to us in each moment. “The divine will is a deep abyss of which the present moment is the entrance. If you plunge into this abyss you will find it infinitely more vast than your desires,” writes de Caussade.

I believe this is absolutely true. Over and over in the midst of distress, I have wrung my hands about there not being enough of one thing or another in my life. Yet as I have focused and welcomed the feelings and my present reality, let go of my ego’s desires, and rested in God, my need has been supplied with an abundant depth and power that swept away all my grasping and anxiety.

I heard the geese honking at dawn last week. My dog halted at the door and cocked his head and we listened together in wonder. I love the sound of them moving over head, giving themselves to the skies. Trusting in their ancient faith they make their way.

In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I believe there is enough.

The Wild Geese

Abandon, as in love or sleep,
Holds them to their way
clear in the ancient faith:
what we need is here.
And we pray not for new earth or heaven,
but to be quiet in heart
and in eye clear.
What we need is here.       Wendell Berry

I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God.
My times are in your hands. Psalm 30:1

 

This post is a lightly edited version of a previous post. May this season fill your cup with overflowing goodness and a steady supply of all that you need!

Mr. Collins Serves Me a Scone


 –  Love and Gratitude in a Season of Sorrow


I had breakfast this morning with Billy Collins, American poet laureate. We met on the patio at dawn. I chewed my breakfast bar, while I watched him chew his thoughts –   snatches of his days – savored, digested, and transformed in that warm oven of his imagination into tasty little scones.

And, the Lord is my witness, the man reached across the table under the tan umbrella and deftly placed the buttery sweetness into my mouth with his long, elegant fingers.

The trees were full of glad chatter, tweets, and whistles. Down the block a car started up. I slowly relished Mr. Collins’ scone, so rich and luxurious, beside my sensible protein bar. My dog, snoozing at my feet never noticed, when I fell in love with charming Billy. But that brown squirrel on the power line might have seen the cockeyed gratitude oozing out the corners of my mouth and running down my chin.

Here, help yourself to one of Billy’s scones:


As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse

I pick an orange from a wicker basket

and place it on the table

to represent the sun.

Then down at the other end

a blue and white marble

becomes the earth

and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.

 I get a glass from a cabinet,

open a bottle of wine,

then I sit back in a ladder-backed chair,

a benevolent god presiding

over a miniature creation myth,


and I began to sing

a homemade canticle of thanks

for this perfect little arrangement,

for not making the earth to hot or cold

not making it spin too fast or slow


so that the grove of orange trees

and the owl become possible,

not to mention the rolling wave,

the play of clouds, geese in flight,

and the Z of lightening on a dark lake.


Then I fill my glass again

and give thanks for the trout,

the oak, and the yellow feather,


singing the room full of shadows,

as sun and earth and moon

circle one another in their impeccable orbits

and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.

              Nine Horses – Billy Collins

I know. Life is hard, even horrific. I wish I could give you answers and take away the pain. All I have is Billy. Take down a glass. Fill it to the brim with homemade gratitude. You know the kind, fermented with what is handy – the cat sleeping in the sun, the hot coffee in the brown cup, the yellow feather –

and sing a little cockeyed canticle of your own.

Thanksgiving Reverie

My ninety six year old mother dozes in her chair. Her toast remains half eaten on the tray. The dog sleeps at her side.

Frost last night. Now bright morning sun streams through the windows. The refrigerator hums. Outside the gnarly cedar with its silvered bark shelters the house. When did it get so tall?

Memories – laughter, faces of loved ones, snatches of conversation, four dogs romping in the back yard, good food – play in the mind.

Today is Black Friday, the make or break retail sales day of the U.S. economy. Only twenty eight days until Christmas.

There is no rush here. No need to shop.

All is calm
All is bright
Round yon mother and dog.

Here in this old house on Madison Street, whatever it was we thought we needed to do has given way to the art of being – of watching the leaf shadows play on the trunk of the cedar, and peering long into the deep blue sky.

The mother dozes. The dog stirs, turns on his side. His breath is slow and deep.

The air is tender and mild. Nothing to disturb the flow of grace.
Relax. Christmas already came here a long time ago.

Read more about prayer at
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Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

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