Category Archives: spirituality

I See You!

In his Book of Awakening, author Mark Nepo shares a beautiful, centuries-old custom of African Bushmen. When a person becomes aware of the presence of another, she or he exclaims, “I See You!” and the other replies, “I am Here!”

Today’s word for reflection is: SEE.

On the surface this seems to be a very simple greeting. Until you really consider it.

We’ve all been in the presence of someone who may be looking at us, but who does not really see us — whether in our pain or in our joy. And, we’ve all also taken up physical space somewhere without fully being present.

Think of the last time that someone was completely present for you; listening deeply to what you were saying. Or, when, during a phone conversation or an email, someone utterly validated the words you expressed. Honored them. Took them in. Think of that that made you feel.

What an opportunity we have! To beautifully enhance the life of another by fully seeing them.

Nepo ends this devotional with these oh-so-wise words:

“As far back as we can remember, people of the oldest tribes, unencumbered by civilization, have been rejoicing in being on earth together. Not only can we do this for each other, it is essential. For as stars need open space to be seen, as waves need shore to crest, as dew needs grass to soak into, our vitality depends on how we exclaim and rejoice, “I See You!” and “I am Here!”

Today, I am encouraged and challenged to see, completely, the people and things around me; and in so doing, enhance their ability to fully inhabit the truth of their lives.

I SEE You!

Through the Lens of Beloved

Today’s Lenten reflection word, BELOVED, began my day with the sweetest of memories.  In spite of all the challenges that come in any marriage, one thing that Randy could do like no one else was to make me feel absolutely and completely beloved. He used to cup my face in his hands, look tenderly into my eyes and say from the depths of his being, “Oh! Just LOOK at you!” Every other feeling thudded to the ground and I was left with the bare immensity of being someone’s Beloved. It was a feeling so true that it is not bound by time. I feel it in this moment as I did in the moments of years ago. Without a doubt, I was Randy’s Beloved.

I am now, as I also was then, God’s Beloved. Just simply loved because I am. So are you. And so is everyone else.

Think of it! We are God’s Beloved!

Every minute of every day. No matter what. NO MATTER WHAT.

With Beloved as my lens today, I’ve found that somehow everyone looks a little different. My friend across the table at lunch looked  different. My walking companion this morning looked different. The person in the car next to me looked different. Different — like they really belong. Like they are truly Beloved.

This exquisite poem by Jan Richardson says it all, and I share it with you today:

Beginning with Beloved
A Blessing

Begin here:

Beloved.

Is there any other word
needs saying,
any other blessing
could compare
with this name,
this knowing?

Beloved.

Comes like a mercy
to the ear that has never
heard it.
Comes like a river
to the body that has never
seen such grace.

Beloved.

Comes holy
to the heart
aching to be new.
Comes healing
to the soul
wanting to begin
again.

Beloved.

Keep saying it
and though it may
sound strange at first,
watch how it becomes
part of you,
how it becomes you,
as if you never
could have known yourself
anything else,
as if you could ever
have been other
than this:

Beloved.

–Jan Richardson

See the difference with your own eyes, Beloved.

(p.s. You can read more of Jan’s beautiful work at: http://paintedprayerbook.com)

Even Far Is Near

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You can run but you cannot hide.” I have found this to be true in my own experience when it comes to God’s presence. Regardless of my physical location, state of heart or circumstance, if I can awaken myself to it, I have always found that there is a Divine Presence that never leaves me. No matter what.

This Presence is not a menacing, watching-my-every-move presence that is there to catch me red-handed. Rather, when I can enter stillness, even in my darkest, most despairing moments, the Presence that I have experienced is as gentle as my next breath; as reassuring as my own heartbeat.

Today’s Lenten reflection word is: NEAR.

On the morning after my beloved husband died by suicide in our home, I found myself alone in the house after my sister had gone home for a few minutes to get a clean change of clothes. I was still in a complete state of shock; my body sensing a kind of buzzing feeling that I imagined someone might experience after being hit by lightening. My mind was simultaneously racing with thoughts and completely numb. I was as lost as lost could be. And God seemed as far away from me as the closest neighbor in the house pictured in this blog post. Never had I felt utterly and completely Alone.

I closed my eyes for a moment, and heard an unexpected sound. At first it was very faint, and I strained to hear it; almost as though I was turning the dial of radio to find bring to clarity the faint, scratching sound I heard. After a few moments, I recognized the sound. Crazy as it may sound (and I know that this DOES sound crazy!), I realized that it was the sound of purring, and it was coming from the walls of the room I was in. I looked to see if one of my cats was nearby. Nope. I tuned in to hear the hum of the refrigerator. No, this was a different sound than that. I closed my eyes and let the purring sound resonate in my ears; so much so that I could almost feel its vibration.

There was a Nearness in that sound that felt like coming home, and I knew that it was God; there to bring me the sound that had always been so comforting. It was exactly what I needed to carry me in one piece until my sister returned to be with me. And somehow, I sensed that my husband, Randy, was near too. There was Beauty and Light in a moment of the ashes of despair.

I don’t have a scientific explanation for how this happened. That’s not at all important to me. God was near and that was all that mattered.

While the walls in that room have never purred to me since, I often think of that moment, and of the words of the psalmist, David, who had also seen his share of tragedy:

“God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!”

~ Psalm 139:1 – 12 (The Message)

Maybe not always in purring walls, but I know from firsthand experience that God is always near.

To Bless and To Be Blessed

“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the hart of wonder.”

This is one of many exquisite blessings from a most beloved book that was a gift from a dear friend, To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O’Donohue.

I often open this book when I want to offer Mr. O’Donohue’s sublimely-resplendent words to someone who is grieving, celebrating, or transitioning through a significant life threshold. It contains blessings not only for mothers, fathers and the elderly, but also for farmers, addicts, nurses and prisoners. There are blessings for animals, water, air and fire. It offers blessings for expected events like a birthday, marriage, new home or retirement, as well as for more unusual situations like passing a graveyard, for work, or for someone awakening to the trauma of their past.

The Lenten-reflection word for today is, Bless. In his book, Mr. O’Donohue reflects on the lost art of the blessing, and presents a compelling case for its necessity in our lives:

“While our culture is all gloss and pace on the outside, within it is too often haunted and lost. The commercial edge of so-called ‘progress’ has cut away a huge region of human tissue and webbing that has held us in communion with one another. We have fallen out of belonging. Consequently, when we stand before crucial thresholds in our lives, we have no rituals to protect, encourage and guide us as we cross over into the unknown. For such crossings, we need to find new words.”

The word blessing comes from the Old English: blestian, meaning to sanctify or consecrate with blood. Initially recoiling at the thought, I read further in O’Donohue’s explanation:

“It is interesting that though the word blessing sounds abstract, a thing of the word and the air, in its original meaning it was vitally connected to the life force.”

Blood, as in the source of life — for all of us. This insight shed a completely new light on how I understand what it really means to receive a blessing, as well as to be a blessing to another. In the written or spoken honoring of the deep-calling-unto-deep connection with another, we bless, and are blessed. And, in so doing, O’Donohue posits, tangible transformation takes place:

“I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew.”

And so, I offer, from Mr. O’Donohue’s eloquence, a blessing for you and for me, upon entering a new day:

“May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,

Clear in word,

Gracious in awareness,

Courageous in thought,

Generous in love.”

Plural Power

I believe it was Aristotle that said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” He was, of course, referring to synergy — the one-plus-one-equals-three power that comes when two or more people come together with a purpose.

With today’s Lenten reflection word, “Powers” (yes, that’s Power with an “s”), we are invited to think beyond our individual abilities and gifts, and consider the possibilities of the plural.

I recently read a story about a contest that was held in rural Canada to determine who had the strongest ox. The competition was very close, with the winning ox pulling 9,000 pounds and the runner-up pulling just over 8,500 pounds. After the competition, a question arose among the crowd of how weight much the two  strongest oxen could pull. The people decided to find out, and the wagering began. Some bet that the combined pulled weight would be 16,000 pounds; others decided to think big, and wagered closer to 18,000 pounds. The two oxen were yoked together, pulling together with all their might — a whopping 26,000 pounds.

That’s Powers with an “s,” folks!

I wonder, what kind of powerful change could be made with my brains and your brawn? What could we co-create with your drawings and my words? What injustices could be overcome with my patience and your passion? What problems could be solved with your logic and my intuition? What is possible when the unique power of one comes together with the equally-unique power of another?

Maybe somewhere between the three and the 26,000? Or maybe, there is no limit at all.

synergy push pull marketing 

In the Garden

I love seeing posts from Facebook friends from places like the beach, a favorite restaurant or even their local Crossfit gym, declaring, “I’m in my happy place!”

This morning, when I saw that today’s Lenten-practice word was PLACE, I remembered a cross-stitched saying by Dorothy Frances Gurney that was on my grandmother’s wall when I was a young girl:

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.”

My happy place is in a garden. Any garden. Or, in a nursery; full of plants that will eventually make their home in someone’s garden. I love the ritual of planting — of digging just the right size of hole, loosening and, when needed, augmenting the soil, adding fertilizer, arranging the roots, filling the hole, watering in the plant, and stepping back to see the fruits of my labors.

I like to read the plant tag that tells me how large the plant will become. The photo in this blog post is from my own garden. I bought the pink and white sunpatiens in the spring, when they were very small. I could scarcely believe the plant tag when it stated that these puny starter plants would become 18 – 24″ across. With time, and water and fertilizer — Voila! these lovelies graced the stone path through my garden for nearly an entire summer.

That’s what a garden is for me — a place of possibilities.

In my view, James Taylor hit the nail on the head when he penned the lyrics to his song, Up Er Mai (named for a trek he made up a mountain in China):

“We could never have guessed

We were already blessed

There we were, where we are In the garden.”

I’m with you on that one, Mr. Taylor!

What’s your happy place?

Leaving a Mark

Admittedly, I am not the most graceful person on my feet. “You’re like a bull in a china shop” was a exasperated phrase uttered frequently by my mom when I was growing up. Last week, I bumped my shin into the side of my dresser. As someone who bruises easily, I thought, “Well, that’s going to leave a mark.” Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed a nasty bruise on my shin. It took me a minute, but I remembered my recent not-so-pleasant encounter with a piece of furniture. Sure enough, it leave a mark.

“REMEMBER.” That’s today’s word in the continuing Lenten-practice. It’s about leaving a mark.

On my silent, contemplative walk today, I saw a tree that had been burned at one time. I wondered how it happened. Was a child, a teen-ager or an adult to blame? Was it accidental? Was it as a result of a childish dare, or of adolescent rebellion? All I know is that whatever happened, whenever it happened, left a mark on this tree’s trunk for all to see. And, if the perpetrators still live in the neighborhood, I can imagine that they remember what happened, every time they see this tree.

Because it left a mark.

Today’s encounter with the burned tree deepened my awareness of the mark that the words and actions of others left on my life. Like, the day in sixth grade when my teacher told me that I had a beautiful voice after my first-ever (nerve-racking) public solo of “Streets of Loredo.” Mr. Dunn’s words left a mark. I also remember the sting of shame I felt when my first grade teacher held up my ditto homework paper (Note: those of you who are younger than 50 might need to look up what a ditto is) and announced to the entire class that I had gotten every one of the problems wrong. “I can’t believe it,” Mrs. Paul said, “because the assignment was as easy as pie.” At the time, I didn’t understand whether making a pie was easy or hard, but I can tell you that those words also left a mark. Another vivid memory, all of these years later.

Today’s encounter with the burned tree also deepened my awareness of the mark that my own words and actions have left on someone else. I remember the look of delight on a friend’s face when something I’ve said or done left behind a mark of love. I also remember hearing the catch of hurt in another’s voice when something I’ve said or done left behind a mark of judgment or pain.

Our minds are filled a lifetime of memories that are added-unto every day, as our life continues to unfold. We remember a fun day, a caring hug. We remember an unkind word, a shove on the playground. Each of these experiences leaves its mark on how we see ourselves.

Please, God, I pray, help me remember the crucial lesson of the burned tree trunk as I move through my days.