Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Happy Thanksgiving!

Vintage Thanksgiving Candles on my Kitchen Windowsill
What's cooking? Is your kitchen bustling with activity? Have you discovered yet what ingredient you forgot to buy in your many trips to the grocery store, for that seems to be inevitable no matter how detailed your lists? Let's hope you can borrow from your neighbor or you can fake it and no one will know it is missing. Are you one of those people who sets your table the night before and then needs to figure out where everyone will have breakfast this morning? Are there smells in the kitchen already luring other members of the family to wander into the kitchen and say, "What smells so good?" Are you chopping and stirring and blending and peeling and buttering?  (I don't care what anyone says, this holiday requires lots of butter.) 

Does your menu reflect old and new recipes, dishes that are required because they are someone's favorite and it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without x, y, or z or is your clan a bit more adventurous? I remember one year, decades ago, when my mother relented and said I could bring a salad. I brought a spiced fruit salad served on greens and I was never asked to bring the salad again, even though I thought it was delicious. What Mom meant by salad was what my brother calls "garbage salad," which is a jello salad of some sort, but not the kind with lime jello, carrots and celery--yuk!  In our family it was not good to mess with tradition. 

My daughter-in-love, Cricket, texted this past weekend asking for my recipe for sweet potatoes and pears. She said, "I know it's in your folder somewhere." Of course, it is. In my Thanksgiving folder are menus and lists dating to 2001 when we were still living at Sweetwater Farm. I wish I had noted who was sitting at our harvest table that year. I'm sure that information and other highlights of the day are in my journal, but please don't ask me to forage in the storage room for the bin of journals from that era. Was it the year Cricket's mom couldn't resist and turned over one of my vintage turkey dinner plates to see who made it? Was it the year my Dad and a dear friend's father sat in the living room and reminisced about Thanksgivings of their youth? Surely, our dear friends who were the first to reach out to us our first fall in Ohio were at the table. Yes, they were, for I see listed on the menu is Marcia's apple pie. Was this one of the years when along with the feast a main activity was the Animal Round-Up, which meant somehow moving the llamas and sheep and goats and donkey from the fenced meadow into the barn for the winter? Oh, how I wish I had videos of that annual action! 

Memories and stories. Thanks for indulging me. I could go on and on, but you have your own memories to share, and I encourage you to do that today, as well. While you are waiting for the potatoes to boil or while you are basting the turkey, let the smells and the sights and the sounds of Thanksgivings past swirl around your kitchen as well. I know this day is a lot of work for the hostess and host, and all too quickly, we push away from the table not able to eat one more thing, but I hope your day will include time to remember, to honor the past, and, of course, give thanks for what has been and what is, and what is yet to come. 

I know all memories are not joyful, and perhaps this year is one of those years when the past weighs heavy and the present is not easy and light either. Some years the biggest challenge is knowing when the turkey is ready, but this may not be one of those years. You may find yourself gritting your teeth if a family member says a critical word or you may discover yourself in tears, realizing this may be the last year you are all together. You may be exhausted and may not be looking forward to the weeks of holiday bustling --bustling that has already begun, in fact. You may be alone--by choice or because that is the way it is. There may be people missing from your table this year or you may not be at the table.

Still, dig deep, open your heart to a shining, glowing memory. One is enough, for in that one is a glimpse of hope and wholeness and connection. Rest in the one.

This year Bruce and I will join my sister's family for Thanksgiving dinner, and I am bringing the appetizers--my spiced nut mix, a pumpkin dip for apples and gingersnap cookies, and also pesto pinwheels made with puff pastry. I will miss not having leftovers for turkey sandwiches, but maybe soon I will fix a turkey breast and have a miniThanksgiving. What's most important is being with people I love and feeling love and gratitude for all I have in my life now, as well as all the memories of love in my life. 

An Invitation
What are your first memories of Thanksgiving? What memories are like leftovers that need to be tossed? Which memories most give you pleasure and need to be shared? What memories can lead you to deeper and wider gratitude? I would love to know. 

A Bonus
Casserole of Sweet Potatoes and Pears

6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
6 ripe pears, peeled cored and cut into 8 wedges each
1/3 cup pear brandy
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden raisins
salt to taste

1. Place the sweet potato slices in a pot and add water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered just until barely tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain well.
2. Preheat the over to 375.
3. Arrange the sweet potatoes and pears in alternate layers in a medium-size casserole.
4. Combine the pear brandy, orange juice, brown sugar, butter and raisins in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter melted. Season with a little salt. Pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes and pears, stirring to distribute evenly.
5. Bake the casserole until lightly browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve hot. 
Makes 10-12 servings. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Thoughts about Time

Recently, two sets of house guests were not able to come stay with us as planned. At first, of course, I was disappointed. I had looked forward to spending time with my friends, and I was sorry circumstances had forced their cancellation. However, over the years I have learned to replace disappointment with the concept of "found" time. 

The Choices in "Found" Time
Those days of "found" time were instructive for me. Part of the time I continued with the pre-arranged plans. I had tickets for the Italian Fashion exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and decided to attend even though my friend wasn't with me. Yes, it would have been more fun if my friend had been with me, and I knew she would have loved it, but I decided to see it as if she were with me, to see it with two pairs of eyes. What would she have noticed? Which ensembles would she have most liked? While there, I thought about what she would like to know, and I paid attention for both of us. 

We had planned a dinner date with a mutual friend, someone I don't see very often on a one to one basis. While we both missed our friend as we lifted a glass of wine to her, we made the most of our time together, deepening our friendship. The time was rich. 

I had only vague plans for when my other friend had planned to visit, and I needed to think about how to view that open space. My husband was attending a conference one of the days my friend had planned to be here, making the time truly my own.  I always have a backlog of things I want to do or need to do, but I decided to use  the "found" days to ignore the list and instead, read and write. I sunk into our current book club selection instead of squeezing in time in which to read it, and therefore, I enjoyed it more. I floated between reading chairs and my desk where I immersed myself in my writing project. I did this and that and relaxed into each of the choices. A key word, choice. 

Views of Time
I could have been frustrated or paralyzed with disappointment. I could have felt sorry for myself, and I certainly remember times in my life when I have felt that way when plans have changed.  Sometimes when time opens up, we let it float away without respecting the unexpected gift. No matter the circumstances, we each have the same 24 hours each day, but how many days we will each have is the unknown, making the choice of how to spend our days even more important. 

I think about a friend who is not allowed to drive for three months because of a recent cardiac episode. Perhaps time is moving slowly for her, especially during these busy holiday weeks. Another friend may feel time is moving too quickly, for her husband who has been battling cancer for the past three years has now been told further treatment will not keep the cancer at bay for much longer. How will they use this time?

The Practice of Discernment 
One of the topics I am exploring in the book I am writing is the spiritual practice of discernment. Often we think about discernment when it comes to the big issues in our life--moving to a different part of the country, deciding when to retire, confronting decisions about a knee or hip replacement, or focusing on opportunities for service and for growth in our later years.  It seems to me, however, that discernment, the practice of discernment, can apply to all areas of our life.  Monika Ellis, OSB in an article in: Presence, An International Journal of Spiritual Direction says discernment is a "way of life," "a way of walking with one's heart, ears and eyes wide open, all in readiness for receiving God, who appears and speaks to us." Sister Monika encourages us to remember the wisdom of our feelings and to listen attentively to our whole self. 

If we do that -- listen attentively to our whole self -- or, as I have discussed in previous posts, stay awake, discernment can apply to decisions and choices we might classify as small ones, too; ones that seem more incidental or immediate--which book to read or how much time to spend on the internet and whether to take a nap or do the next thing on the list. In addition, practicing discernment in our lives can affect our decision whether or not to reach out to someone who is lonely or struggling with life in some way or determining how to respond to someone who has hurt you or who irritates you. These decisions might not require as much examination as the decisions we think of as the major fork of the road decisions in our life, but the practice of discernment reminds us to slow down, to visit our own heart as a voice of authority and wisdom. 

To do that, Sister Monika says we need to give ourselves three gifts: space alone with oneself, time to center ourselves and connect with our depths, and quiet. With ongoing attention to these gifts, we become more aware of our ability to discern and follow our soul's desire. 

Discerning Your Use of Time
How do you use your time? Do you guard your time? Hoard your time? Relish your time? Fill your time? Do you share your time? Waste your time, and if so what does it mean exactly, to waste your time? Do you have time on your hands? 

How we choose to use our time is how we choose to live our life.

An Invitation
What is your relationship to time right now? Are you willing to cultivate the practice of discernment as a tool for following your heart's desire as you move through your day? I would love to know. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Being Awake

In Tuesday's post I used the words, "stay awake," and "living a conscious life." I refer to being present and being awake often in this blog and in conversation with others. Those are common words in my vocabulary; words I aspire to live, as well as recite. 

But what do they mean? Today I want to share what others mean by "being awake, " in hopes that their words will enhance your understanding and recognition of being awake in your own life. 

Mark Nepo in The Endless Practice, Becoming Who You Were Born to Be:
          I use the word wakefulness as a term for enlightenment.
          I believe enlightenment isn't a place where we arrive at
          but a process we stay in. ..The first lesson of wakefulness
          is to keep opening our heart so we can meet what we're
          given… p.68

          We have moments of clarity and then we're confused.
          We're awake and then we're numb. We're buoyant and
           then we're sinking. Just as we inhale and exhale constantly,
           our wakefulness ebbs and flows.
                The practice of being human is the practice of coming
           awake, staying awake and returning to wakefulness
           when we go to sleep. We go to sleep because we are
           mortal--not because there is anything wrong with us. 
           This opening and closing is part of the human journey.
           Therefore, the practice of being a spirit--in a body, in the
           world--is a practice of returning to our center where 
           we can know the world fully. This return to center is a
           foundational form of saying yes to life. p. 67

Rami Shapiro in the foreword to Jane Vennard's book Fully Awake and Truly Alive Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul:
          You've probably grown so accustomed to sleep living
           (a far more common experience than sleepwalking)
           that you mistake your current state for wakefulness.
           Well, it isn't. You are asleep, and so is almost everyone
           you know. ..
                Of course, being asleep doesn't mean you aren't
           functioning. You get up and go about meeting the 
           obligations of your day. You may eat well, exercise
           regularly, and cultivate loving relationships. You
           may, if asked, confidently (if a bit humbly) admit to
           being happy and not a little successful. It isn't that 
           you're lying, it's that being asleep you have no idea
           what kind of happiness awaits you when you wake up…
                 In the Bible Moses tells us, "See I have set before
           you this day life and death, blessing and curse. Choose
           life if you would live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). To choose
           life is to wake up, and when you wake up, you wake up
           to the entirety of life: living and dying, blessing and
           cursing. You can't escape any of it, but you can learn to
           navigate all of it with equanimity and even joy.

Joyce Rupp in The Cosmic Dance, An Invitation to Experience Our Oneness:
          I am growing in awareness, however, and each day I
          re-commit myself to this gift as I turn my entire being
          toward the cosmic dance, longing to lean into it with
          all I am and all I do.
              This awareness is essential because my experience
          of the cosmic dance depends on whether my senses
          are alert and whether my heart is attuned to looking
          beyond what is visible. If I rely only on the rational,
          I will mss a good portion of the cosmic dance. If I fail
          to be still and to explore the far regions of mystery, the
          dance will remain aloof from my inner eye. Daily I
          must set out, again and again, to have an open mind
          and a compassionate heart. Daily I must perk up my 
          external senses and commune with my internal ones,
          as well. The cosmos holds out her cup of life to me,
          filled with invisible packets of energy. I need only
          respond with a desire and an intention to receive. It
          is then that I enter into the cosmic dance with aware-
          ness and gratitude and hear again the inner voice
          urging me toward oneness. p. 33

Suggestions for Reflection
I invite you to read these passages carefully and to note where your heart lifts, but also pay attention to the temptation to fall asleep. Allow yourself to awaken to the words offered here as guideposts for living a more conscious and wakeful life. If there is one passage that resonates with you more than the others, then live with that passage and use it as the source of meditation in your quiet time. Ask it to lead you to greater wakefulness. If you keep a journal, spend some time writing about what you mean by being awake and how you know when you are awake. 

Pema Chodron asks us to each day say aloud, "I wonder what's going to happen today." That feels like a call to be awake, a tool for awakening. Try it and see what happens.

I know I have shared these words from Mary Oliver before, but they are worth sharing again--and probably, again.
                         Pay attention.
                         Be astonished.
                         Tell about it. 

An Invitation
How do you know when you are awake? What do you do to become more aware, more present, more conscious? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Walking into a New Routine

We seem to have landed in January temperatures here in Minnesota, and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. Snow is firmly on the ground and seems determined to stay with us till who knows when. Given my hesitation about walking in these conditions, even though I have plenty of Nanook of the North outerware, crampons strapped onto the bottom of one of my pair of boots and will soon have walking poles for extra security, strolling through the neighborhood doesn't have lots of appeal. 

Still, I know I need to exercise more. I have not been given clearance from my orthopedist yet to return to Curves, and hope that will happen soon, but in the meantime I use the exercycle faithfully everyday--the best exercise for my broken ankle I have been told--but since I sit at my desk and write and read much of the day, more exercise is definitely in order. I am not eager to join a gym (No lectures, please!), however, so what to do? 

Yesterday I went to the Mall of America and joined the other senior citizens walking the Mayo Mile. I walked two of the four loops of the mall and left before the stores began to open, feeling quite self-righteous, I might add. I intend to do the same thing today. 

Doing this, however, means I have to change my routine, and I like  my routine. Very much. My routine these last few months has been to get up at 6 and go straight to my garret desk and write and read while still in my pajamas. Eventually, when I feel like it or because there is someplace I need to go, I use the exercycle, shower, and dress for the day. In the meantime my husband has left the house and gone to his coffee shop "office" to work, and I enjoy the spaciousness of the quiet. Most days I walked in the neighborhood later in the day. That has been a good routine.

That routine was the result of asking myself, "What are you willing to do to make writing a priority in your life?" 
          But what do you want badly enough to keep front
          and center in your life? To make sacrifices of time 
          energy for?
                     This Year I Will…How to Finally Change A
                     Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream
                     Come True, M. J. Ryan, p. 19 

          One thing is clear to me…You can't do everything
          you'd like to do…You must hold on to some things
          and let go of others. Learning to make that choice is
          one of the big lessons in life.

I decided it was worth giving up an hour of sleep in the morning in order to work at my garret desk without distraction. That has worked well, and I am moving forward with my book project. However, my body has asked for equal time, and that makes sense to me. I recognize the need and have decided I am willing to make an adjustment in my routine. Making the effort to walk in a safe and dry place on a regular basis and still keep writing time as a priority means establishing a new writing regimen. I am willing to do that. I am willing to establish a new routine. I am willing to exercise my power over routine, instead of letting the routine be in charge. 

The Value and Power of Routines
I think routines make us feel secure. Routines help us feel as if we are in charge, productive, and moving towards something as we navigate our way through our self-imposed routines. In one way, having a routine is a way not to think about the next step, but routines are also a way to check in with ourselves and to know if this is a normal kind of day or one in which we are in store for something out of the ordinary. Routines are part of our decision-making about how we want to spend our time. We do this, instead of that. That, instead of this. Routines signal how we live our days, and that gives power to routine. 

How important it is to keep asking the question, "Is this where we want to place our power? Is this the way we want to live our days?" 

An Ongoing Lesson
The thing is I value spontaneity and flexibility, as much as I value routine and regularity and having a plan. And I am aware of how distractions creep in as the day progresses. What I continue to learn, however, is that when I stay awake, when I live consciously, the need for routine and the need to respond to change, along with the desire to be open and spontaneous are not in conflict. When I stay awake, my body, mind, and spirit live together without conflict for the wellbeing of the whole. How amazing is that!

I don't know yet if this new plan will actually become my daily routine and if it does, how long it will last. I know there will be days when bad weather will keep me home, instead of walking at the mall, and I hope there will be other days warm enough for an outdoor walk. I assume there will be other days when the writing beckons more than walking. This routine will modify into another routine at some point, but I hope that will happen because I am awake and living a conscious life, responsive to the movement of God in my heart. 

An Invitation
What routines feed and nurture how you live your days and what routines have power over you? Are there routines in your life that need to be examined or is there a routine in your life that needs to be established? I would love to know. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Am I A Writer?

Storyboard for My Book
"I am no longer a writer, " I announced to my husband at the end of a frustrating day at my desk. "How exciting to think about all the extra time I will have because I am no longer a writer." 

He calmly sat back in his desk chair and said, "How about if we go out for dinner and have a glass of wine? Maybe two." 

That was exactly what I needed, and the next morning I was back at my desk and no longer felt stuck or at least as stuck as I had been the evening before. A way to move through the problem I was having with the assignment for the writing class I am taking, an assignment directly related to my proposed book project, magically appeared. I put my writer hat back on --until the next round of uncertainties appeared.  

I spend much of my days in writerly pursuits: writing or researching posts for this blog,  writing what Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird calls SFD or "shitty first drafts" for my book, and working on the online class assignments. I have ideas and notes for articles for various publications and have even submitted occasional manuscripts. If someone asked me right this minute, "What do you do?" I would probably say, "I'm a writer." However, underneath there are always lurking doubts.

Does having a bookshelf full of books on writing qualify me as a writer? Do the few articles I've had published along the way and the stacks of drafts I have for other projects count? What about the days I only write a grocery list? Am I still a writer then? 

"I am a writer," I stamp my feet and insist to myself. I write letters I am told are treasured by the receiver. I write in my journal and have bins of filled journals to reinforce my longevity as a journal keeper. I write two posts for this blog every week, although I have done little to promote it. 

Do I need to be read in order to be considered a writer? That's like asking if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, would there still be the sound of the crash. The tree fell, regardless. I write regardless, but I do write as if it will be read and as if it matters. I write feeling that as I reflect and clarify and straighten out a twisted ball of thoughts, it matters. 

I write because it is the best way I know to find out what I think and feel. Writing is a way to clarify, to clear the internal space, to move from muddle to understanding, to see where the outer story ends and the inner story begins, to take responsibility for how I live and move in the world. 

Writing is a God thing for me. 

Writing is a way for me to attend to the presence of God in my life, to follow the tracks of Spirit moving in my life, and to catch a glimmer of what God is asking of me right now. Write now. 

Writing isn't the only way I show up for my life nor is it the only way I connect to Spirit in my life, but over the years I have learned it is an essential spiritual practice for me, and and I trying to give it the attention it deserves. That's why I spend much of my time these days actually writing. If not now, when? 

An Invitation
What is essential in your life? How do you sense God's movement in your life? Is God nudging you to make central to your life what is essential for your spiritual growth and what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Bittersweet

I love white tulips in the spring, daisies in summer, Christmas greens in December, and yellow roses any time. And in the fall bittersweet is my favorite. Early this fall I resorted to buying a bunch. At great expense, I might add. My mother always said one should not have to pay for rhubarb or bittersweet, but I knew I couldn't depend on spontaneously finding some just waiting for me and like applesauce and pumpkins, bittersweet is a fall must for me. 

When we lived in the country in Ohio we knew just where to find it, and my lust for it was also fed by a good friend in Pennsylvania whose backyard was at the foot of a mountain where it grew in profusion. She shipped me a large boxful--if it had been my birthday, I could not have received a better present. I swagged it on our white picket fence from the driveway to our backyard. I was bittersweet rich!

One day last week my bittersweet luck was restored. My husband and I spent the day roaming an area in southern Minnesota along the Root River. The day was grey and overcast, clearly forecasting the winter that arrived yesterday with the first snowstorm of the season. We drove about two and a half hours to Lanesboro, a small town which bustles with bikers in the summer and is the home to artists all year. After a delicious lunch at Pedal Pushers, we crossed over to the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River for our return home. Throughout the day we took in the sights--hawks and eagles, tundra swans, and cornfields dotted with fat round bales of cornstalks, giving a playground air to the vastness. Stripped trees, a mix of lead grey, sturdy as new pencils, and the tarnished silvery bling of the birch, reinforced the outline of the river bluffs. 

Bruce reminded me to keep my eyes open for bittersweet, but he was the one who spotted the intense orange in the unlittered branches. Were we prepared for the harvest? We certainly didn't have a ladder to capture the entwined vine nor did we think we had a scissors or pruning shears. What kind of adventurers were we?That didn't stop Bruce, however. We parked off road, and off he went to capture the flag. Success! My hero! 

Yes, I know it is an invasive vine and can be destructive to the host trees, but I love the intense orange of the berries and its twisty, turning, even scraggly appearance. It adds a pop of color to fall arrangements or bunched together makes a statement all on its own. It is well named-- bitter…sweet.

How much of our life can be labeled "bittersweet"? Growing older definitely has its bittersweet moments--being retired and having more time to reflect and make choices about how we most want to spend our time, but perhaps not having the energy or the ability to pursue what we desire or not being sure of what that might be. We finally have flexibility, but perhaps money or health issues get in the way or time may need to be devoted to aging parents. We are grateful for the gifts of our life, but my, it has gone so fast. How did we get here? There is the lightness that comes with downsizing, but the challenges of letting go. Regrets may shadow the choices we have made, even those that have served us well. As the years add up, the days go by even faster. Summer becomes fall becomes winter. Bittersweet. 

One could get quite melancholy, but then there is that orange, almost red, surprise. Just when you least expected it. Bittersweet.

An Invitation
What aspects of your life in the past felt bitter sweet? How about now? In what ways do those times nurture you? I would love to know.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thursday Reflection: Starting a New Garage

Yippee--work has begun on a new garage at our house. Our tiny one car garage may have looked sweet and would have been a perfect garden shed, but when it came to squeezing in my car and a lawnmower and other garden tools, all sweetness disappeared. Every time we parked the car in the garage was a new adventure, as if we had never done it before, and my Jeep has the scuff marks on all four corners of the car to prove it. 

We have been waiting for the project to begin, worrying that winter would arrive, and we would need to wait till next spring--not a happy prospect, but Monday morning machinery arrived and a dinosaur ate our garage, according to my husband who watched the destruction from the garret window. The next day the crew arrived to pour the new concrete slab, which is now curing. We were told that was the crucial pre-winter step, and we will have a new garage in a month or so. I repeat, yippee! 

Different Perspectives
What I see when I look out the window is the future; what it will be like to have a truly usable and functioning garage, but, I realize that may not be what others see as they look at the lonely slab. My husband sees, along with the serviceable new garage, a smaller backyard, but at the same time he is beginning to imagine how he wants to garden in that space. 

Our neighbors, however, may see potential difficulties maneuvering the alley because of trucks coming and going as the garage is constructed, and they may not be happy about the noise of construction. Or seeing from their windows the contents of the disappeared garage now invading our backyard, may wonder if they will have to look at that all winter long. Will this be one of those unfinished projects with good intentions, but interrupted by weather or lack of funds? Will the fence be repaired, and what will the garage look like when it is done finally? 

A middle schooler heading to school through the alley may wonder if we are configuring a basketball court and will watch for the erection of a basketball hoop. A younger child may see this concrete slab as a perfect place to ride his trike or test out the training wheels on his first bike.  Or is this the basis for an ice skating rink? I am sorry, but they will be disappointed. 

The workers see a job and income. The construction company sees all the steps that need to happen as promised, along with future referrals and business, if it is done well and on time. 

Everyone has their own perspective and see something a little bit different.

Learning to See
Recently, I attended training for the Art Adventures program for elementary schools offered by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and a key ingredient in this program is to help young people "see." To say what they see and feel free to say what they see. As the volunteer "Picture Person," it is my job to see with them and to see what they see and to help them see beyond and through and within and not to correct or judge. 

At another museum not long ago I heard a guide ask a group of middle school students about a detail in a painting. All sorts of possibilities were offered, and each time the guide responded, "No, that's not right." Well, maybe technically the answers offered were not right, just as our garage slab is not going to be a basketball court, but it could be! I wanted to hear more from the students about what they were seeing and why they had responded the way they did. I wished the guide could see what the students saw. If he had, they all could have sharpened their own abilities to see--to imagine, to apply what they know to a new situation, to trust their own perspectives, even as they come to understand someone else's perspectives, and to not worry so much about right and wrong answers. 

The View from the Garage
We were invited to attend a neighborhood party not long ago--a party held in a garage, as a matter of fact. People from both sides of the alley were invited, and we so enjoyed meeting neighbors we had only seen as their garage doors closed. A good chunk of the conversation, as it happened, focused on garages, for we are not the only ones with a garage challenge and others have built or are contemplating building a new garage. Lots of opinions were expressed and probing questions asked, and some people seemed to know the ways things should be done. I didn't say much, and Bruce explained our plans without spending any time justifying why this way as opposed to that. No one asked if we had considered not having a garage and instead would provide play space for the neighbor kids. This is Minnesota, after all, and we need a place to park when the snow piles up. 

We all see the need for a practical and functional garage, but we all have a different image in our mind of what that looks like. We see more than what is in front of us. We see from our own perspective. Deeper seeing happens when we can see from someone else's perspective and when we know in our minds and in our hearts that there is more to seeing than seeing. 

My prayer is that we can begin to see with more than our own eyes. 

An Invitation
Is there something in front of you that needs you to see it or her or him or them? What aren't you seeing clearly? What awaits your fresh way of seeing? How can seeing become a spiritual practice? I would love to know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday Reflection: Past, Present, and Future

Dear Friends, Today I offer you the words of a choral piece I heard this past weekend at a performance of the National Lutheran Choir.  I offer this as a source of reflection and meditation as you move through the day--through this month, which always seems to surge towards the holidays and into the beginning of winter. 

The Present Tense
(From Magnificat For A New Millennium)
Fred Kaan

                Thank you, O God, for the time that is now,
                for all the newness your minutes allow;
                keep us alert with your presence of mind
                to fears and longings that move mankind.

                Thank you, O God, for the time that is past,
                for all the values and thoughts that will last.
                May we all stagnant tradition ignore,
                leaving behind things that matter no more.

                Thank you for hopes of the day that will come,
                for all the change that will happen in time;
                God! For the future our spirits prepare,
                hallow our doubts and redeem us from fear.

                Make us afraid of the thoughts that delay,
                faithful in all the affairs of today;
                Keep us, Creator, from playing it safe,
                thank you that now is the time of our life!

Suggestions for Reflection
Read through this poem slowly and note what resonates with you. What words and phrases stand out for you? Reread it and pay attention to where you want to glide over the words and move on to the next thought. Of course, those are the exact words of opening and discovery for you--pinprick words that invite you to pay attention and go a little deeper.

Read this piece aloud. After each stanza pause and let the words roll around you and within you. Stop reading them the way we read the mail or the headlines of the newspaper or the novel on our bedside table and instead, listen to them. Whose voice do you hear? What are the words beneath the words being whispered to you? What is the call within these words just for you? 

Are there lines that bring someone else to mind? If so, those lines can be your prayer for that person, but let those lines be an invitation into your own heart. Where do you need to open? What is the message for you?

An Invitation
In the present where are you not alert?
What parts of the past need to be left behind?
How can you move into the future without fear?
In what ways are you delaying and playing it safe?
I would love to know.

"thank you that now is the time of our life!"