I'm conscious that my work, relationships, home, body, marriage, all work together to support that which constitutes my life.
In a focus group with other spiritual directors this week, we worked with the question, "What would it look like to foster and support vibrant spiritual enrichment in central Iowa?" At the heart of the question is the recognition that each of us, too, needs ongoing spiritual enrichment and growth.
We spoke of yearning, and what touched me most deeply was Billie's comment, "I want to be in touch with the power that is responsible for my life."
(That power, I believe, is God as well as me.)
On Saturday, I attended a Spiritual Practices workshop and heard this: "I am a hole in a flute that the Christ's breath moves through--listen to this music." [Hafiz] I also encountered this from Richard Rohr: Faith largely became believing things to be true or false (intellectual assent) instead of giving people concrete practices so they could instead know how to open up (faith), hold on (hope), and allow an infilling from another source (love).
One of the most meaningful practices for me was walking the labyrinth. I noticed my desires--ecumenism, to walk with God in new ways, to be conscious of "way open before me." During one stretch, I felt scared--aware that I was in a place I'd never been before, then noticed that I was "accidentally" headed back to the center. Next I swung outward, away from center, with feelings of being cast off and alone. The person behind me came too close. I had to focus on my own steps. I knew I needed to stay in my own place, and at my own pace. Then I allowed myself to be distracted with thinking about the future before bringing my mind back to the present moment.
As with any spiritual practice, you have to stay on a path long enough (longer than you may think, or want) in order to get in touch, for insights to come, and feelings, and in order for things to really happen.
Next, I settled in a pew in the tiny church next to a stained glass window and gazed on an icon of Christ. I wrote--a vision of full immersion in my own life, like a baptism by fire that each of us undergoes, and comes through changed and ready for resurrection. The coming through is not the resurrection. But following the coming through, the walking forward, the first step, is only the beginning. I recalled a conversation with Helen from the night before about Etty Hillesum, speaking of "God with us." And that we are to show the mercy, the love, the joy, the peace, and the hope. All of these come through our lives because God is with us, along with the grace and the light.
As I looked around, I thought of the many churches, chapels, and sacred spaces where I have been; the way they continue, even when no one is there. Throughout the days and nights, weeks, months, and years they endure and hold presence and space.
I was also acutely aware that two spiritual greats--Thomas Keating and Eugene Peterson--left us this past week.
In the afternoon, I slept and read. Rested and read. I savored Terry Tempest Williams's book, Refuge, parallel stories of the rise of the Great Salt Lake with the loss of habitat in 1983 alongside Terry's mother, Diane's, dying. I finished and ordered three more of Terry's books.
And always the awareness of things going on in our country--bomb packages targeting Democrats, the deaths in Pittsburgh at a Jewish synagogue, troops being sent to our southernmost borders. (Not to speak of the rest of the world.) And, closer to home, news that Mike and Melissa's 26-year-old son, Derek may have a recurrence of cancer. Derek was diagnosed with colon cancer less than two years ago, and his younger brother, Cody, with lymphoma a few short months after that.
[We pray for an infection, and/or the will of God (as opposed to the will of not God) and for patience, strength, and wisdom for the family, per Melissa's request.]
All of the above.
I'm reminded of the first thing I read this morning after some quiet, coffee, and journaling. It's from this quarter's Parabola magazine, and the theme is Hope. "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954.
At dusk, I walked down to the marsh behind the school and watched red wing blackbirds as they dropped into the reeds and grasses, and settled. I love the sounds they make--singing, chirping, twittering, whirring, and all the variations. I wished I had a sleeping bag and could bed down right there for the night. They'll be gone soon, I don't know which day.
For now, though, there is this day. I've never seen one like it. Nor have you.