Tag Archives: remembering

A Legacy of Love

My brother reads from a letter my sister sent to my parents in 1956. She was a young bride living in Washington, DC in her first teaching job. “Here is your history,” he says, handing her the pile of typed correspondence. Neatly bound in boxes tied with string, stacked in baskets, stashed in closets, my mother saved every greeting card and letter she received.
We find our baby clothes – tiny booties, bonnets, and blankets – saved in the original boxes. My sister looks over a list of the names of people who came to visit when she was born. Holding the evidence in her hands, she says, “I was well loved. I was doted on.”
There are other treasures, Grandma’s pin, which on sight immediately conjures the navy blue dress she wore it on, and her austere, no nonsense personality. We all agreed that the most boring place on earth was Grandma’s house on an endless Sunday afternoon, listening to the clock ticking.
We find Great Grandmother’s worn, wooden butter paddle, carefully preserved and handed down to the eldest granddaughter. The paddle was saved in an enameled box along with an ivory fan from Switzerland. The enclosed note explained that the fan was brought back from a trip abroad by one of two women preachers in the family, Great Aunt Hannah Beard.
We are sifting the memories, treasures, and love from the chaff of well lived lives. As a friend put it, we are discovering the essence, the pure, best parts of what our parents and their parents and their parents have given us. My father died in 2001 at ninety three. My mother celebrates her ninety seventh birthday this week.
When I went to visit her, after a day of sorting and remembering, we ate some pop corn. Before she put a kernel in her mouth, she told me she likes to look at it to see what is there. “Look! Two eyes, ears.. a rabbit! Now what is in this one?” She turns the kernel over and then laughs, “Oh dear. Well, here is one leg, and another, and see what is in between?” We hoot and cackle till tears run down our cheeks, and we give that one to the dog. She holds out another kernel, “Now this one, tell me what you see in it.”
She has a poet’s ear, an artist’s eye, and a sense of humor born of suffering, endurance, and the grace of God. She sees the hidden essence of things and then sets out to show the rest of us. The house is full of paintings, wood carvings, sketch books, poetry, and natural history books. My father’s notebooks of clippings and tales of local history line the book shelves.
Dad, hunting arrow heads in the soil heaved up by spring plowing, and Mom, peering into pop corn kernels, were always scratching below the surface, turning up treasures their whole lives. My siblings and I wonder if we need a dumpster or a museum.
Love – between the legs, the eyes, the ears, and the beat of our hearts – expresses itself and leaves traces all over the place. Love sees beneath the surface of things, hopes enough to save what is special and worth doting on, passes on its truth and generosity, and leaves a priceless legacy. “We loved you so. You are so special to us,” the piles of boxes say.

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Prayer Boots – Part 2

This post is a continuation of last week’s, Prayer Boots – Part 1, a chapter from my book, Letters from the Holy Ground.

This summer a friend and I had a yard sale.  For a week I hauled boxes from attic and basement.  The children and I lugged baby clothes and infant swings to the dining room, where the kids promptly set up house.  “Remember this?  O Mom, look!  I remember this cute little dress.  I really looked so sweet in it, didn’t I?” they chirped sounding like they were eighty years old.  Cicelia spent two hours playing with the Johnson and Johnson baby blocks.  They had a tea party with the chipped china sitting at the little red table with their knees up to their chins.  Each box held wonder.  “Look mom, these beautiful curtains.  Can I have them in my room?”  Diana crowed, pulling out the tattered remains of the drapes that hung in our first apartment.

 Later that evening she came to me.  Holding a tiny blue sock to her lip and tucking her head under my arm, she said softly, eyes glowing with the rapt smile of one who has seen a vision of angels, “Oh Mommie, I remember me.”

Something forgotten, something precious, tender and pure that Diana called me had been recovered for her in that tiny sock.  When I asked what she meant, she said, “Well I just remember myself when I was a baby.”  That tiny sock I could never keep on her foot took her back to a pre-verbal time where she was held, rocked, nursed, sung to. It was a place where me dwelled, the essence of her being in the holy ground of the womb.  And she stilled her non-stop seven year old inquisitive mind to forget herself, to pay attention, and remember who she is: a child cradled in the loving bliss of One who is larger, kinder and more beautiful than she, and in whom she lives and moves and has her being.

She still crawls in bed with me in the mornings, her coltish long legs and arms poking, thrashing around, giggling, telling me jokes and that she loves me so much. She seeks herself in that safe place, before she bolts into her day of dolls and math and spelling and exuberant surprises. I wish we could all come to our prayer with her trust, playfulness and devotion.

I stared in shock whenever I passed the dining room with all those cartons brimming over with my past.  This is the room where we gather to pray, to recount our salvation history, to remember and receive the Eucharist.  Boxes lined the walls.  Infant seats and infant carriers and infant bottles and infant sleepers, undershirts and socks spilled all over the space where we sing songs of love to Mary’s baby.

My daughters poked about in their past, where we come to poke in our past, holding it to the light, turning it over in our palms, wondering what sort of price it would bring, praying God to be merciful.

The sale was one day only.  My friend and I sweated it out, swilling ice tea, tallying our profits and losses. During lulls in business, stricken with visions of having to haul all the stuff to the dump, we rushed about with markers slashing our prices.  “Everything must go,” we resolved, as we paused to fold one last time the sleeper we had laundered and folded so many occasions we had lost count.  We smoothed tiny collars and wrote $.10 on the stickers.

The Age of Aquarius macrame went, along with the tires, decrepit lounger, ice crusher, and malt maker.  We carted off my friend’s wedding gown, the fondue pot and five or six boxes of baby clothes to the thrift shop.

It was afterwards as I was picking up hangers and empty boxes from the floor of the room where we, breaking the bread and lifting the cup, do as he asked. Gathering up scraps of newspaper and tags, I saw the little nightie on the table.  It was then, forgetting myself in the mystery that rocks us all, and holding the soft worn flannel, sweet with baby scent to my cheek, that I remembered me.

One of the deepest mysteries of holy ground is the mystery of identity.  When God meets Moses at the burning bush, the two exchange their identities.  God calls, “Moses, Moses.”  The call is unique, distinct.  There can be no mistaking who is being summoned.

Moses’ response is the classic prophetic response to a call from God:  Henanni, or Here I Am.  After Moses receives his mission, he presses this burning Reality for its identity.  “Who shall I say sent me?” he asks.  And God responds, “Tell them that I Am.”

Holy ground is the place of exchange where I Am meets Here I Am, where What I Have Been will be transformed by Who I Am Becoming, where I forget what I thought I was and remember I am.

On just about every communion table I have ever seen are carved the words:  “Do this in remembrance.”  The little sacraments of our lives are those graced moments of holy communion when we do something prayerfully and in remembrance.  We release our grasping and coping. Then bread is transformed into the body of Christ, a blue sock into an angel’s wing, and a mortal being into a being in God.

God instructed Moses on Mt. Sinai to make holy garments for Aaron and his sons, including a plate of gold engraved with the words “Holy to the Lord,” which Aaron was to wear on his forehead, apparently to help everyone keep their parts straight.  My boots came with a tag that read: “Genuine Leather, Ozark Trail.”  They didn’t have any with gold plates.  I’ll try to remember my part anyway.

These days you can buy all kinds of prayer paraphernalia:  crystals, incense, podcasts of famous pray-ers, cds of words of power, icons, statues, pictures of Jesus in a startling array of poses, holy bells and whistles, oils and unguents.  My hunch is that it’s best to travel light, and you could do a lot worse than to get a good pair of boots.

Why not do it in remembrance?  Maybe we’ll meet on the trail.

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Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

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Prayer Boots – Part 1

I am off to do some teaching and visiting with family. This week and next, I offer here in two parts a chapter from my book, Letters from the Holy Ground. Get some boots and go pray.

bootsI went to Holton Farm and Home Store last week and bought some praying gear, boots, warm socks and gloves.  I selected a pair of sturdy waterproof boots from the row of five buckle galoshes next to the watering troughs.  I think I am ready now.  I purchased the boots with money friends at the church I served gave me when I left. I kept the money, which came attached to the leaves of a prayer plant, for a whole year not knowing just how to spend it.  I considered books, office supplies and liturgical accouterments.  Now I see that proper prayer vestments include boots for walking over this land we call holy.

The more we pray, the more we discover prayer’s richness and power, and the more we hunger for it.  In its essence prayer is simply paying attention to God.  And that turning of the will to God, that choice to attend to God, is how we participate in making holy ground.

There is a temptation in the spiritual life to talk about praying, to read about it, to write about it, to attend workshops on it, to preach sermons about it, to feel guilty about not doing it, to build edifices where it is supposed to happen- anything but the scandalously simple, yet arduous task of doing it.  In contrast to our institutions of theological and religious education, the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray; and Jesus taught them by simply praying. “Here, do it like this,” he said.

So I am praying, turning my attention to God more intentionally and for longer periods of time with no particular result in mind beyond a simple open presence to the Holy One.  A good deal of this praying is happening on the land.  And when you stalk holiness in autumn in Kansas, you need a good pair of boots.

Crouched under the cedar in the rain, sloshing along the winding creek, following the deer trail up the gully, I try tocedar branch forget myself in prayer that I might remember who I really am.  I imagine hiking toward a place of being so self-forgotten in God that one needs nothing external to validate oneself.  Is it possible to follow the path to holy ground where the communion of prayer alone feeds and sustains us and the earth?

Perhaps our task is not so much making holy space in our lives, as becoming holy space ourselves. One way of becoming holy ground is to remember who we are.  And we are often quite convinced that we most certainly have been forgotten. That may be because we just can’t bear the wonder and joy of love.  Is that why Love stood before us that night before we killed Love and told us: “This bread is my body…this wine, a new promise sealed in my blood.  Don’t forget!”?

“Don’t forget,” Love said.  “I beg you not to forget.  For when you forget, you hang me back on the cross with your lies and self deception and fear and heedless stampede over my tender presence in all creation.”

communionStill we do forget.  Psychiatrist Gerald May writes that we often do not remember experiences of communion with God, because they are so threatening to our egos. The loss of self-definition characteristic of unitive experiences arouses unconscious fear. Wiping off the chalkboard of our spiritual experience, our officious ego scolds, “Let’s just forget this ever happened and go back to worshiping me as almighty in your life.”

 What might you need to remember?

 More next week…

 Gerald May in Will and Spirit (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987) Chapter 5.

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Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

 Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross