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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter - Friend or Foe?

It’s cold outside this morning, the first really cold morning in these waning days of fall.  The light of day is getting shorter and trees are bearing their limbs.  Soon the starkness of winter will be with us.

It’s about this time of year when I recall the first few lines of a poem I memorized in a high school French class.  Through the marvel of the internet I found the entire poem by Charles d’Orleans that was eventually set to music by Claude Debussy.

Yver, vous n'estes qu'un vilain;
Esté est plaisant et gentil
En témoing de may et d'avril 
Qui l'accompaignent soir et main.
Esté revet champs, bois et fleurs
De sa livrée de verdure
Et de maintes autres couleurs
Par l'ordonnance de nature.
Mais vous, Yver, trop estes plein 
De nège, vent, pluye et grézil.
On vous deust banir en éxil.
Sans point flater je parle plein,
Yver, vous n'estes qu'un vilain.

Winter, you're naught but a rouge.
Summer is pleasantness and kindness,
as we see from May and April
which accompany it evening and morning.
Summer, by nature's order, clothes
fields, woods and flowers
with its livery of green
and many other hues.
But you, Winter, are too full
of snow, wind, rain and sleet.
We must send you into exile.
I'm no flatterer and I speak my mind.
Winter, you're naught but a rouge.

The other side of this poem is that during these short days we also experience some of the most vibrant blue skies of the year, the long nights bring crystal clear heavens that are often obscured by the heat and haze of summer, and there is regenerative mystery in the barrenness and dormancy of nature where new growth is nurtured.

It is no wonder that at this time of year we also begin to decorate our houses and streets with light and celebrate the coming and Presence of Light in the world.

By the way, tonight is a full moon.  I hope the skies are clear where you are – enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks!

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
- Meister Eckhart.

O give thanks to the Lord, for Lord is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever
- Psalm 136

Giving thanks is a liberating and cleansing act. When we are thankful there is no room for lack or scarcity of anything.  When we are grateful our world is bigger and brighter.  Thanks and gratitude are thresholds into the fecundity of creation.

The expression of thanks and gratitude is perhaps the most important practice we can have in our lives, not just one day of the year, but every day.

As we sing every Sunday in our congregation while bringing our offerings:  “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One.”

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"...And Beyond"

"Thin place" is how 20th century reviver of the Iona Abbey in Iona and founder of the Iona Community, George MacLeod described Iona, Scotland - a place where the temporal and eternal meet, the visible and invisible mingle.  - from One Eternal Presence, Sabbatical - Oban and Iona

Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico is a thin place. To get to Box Canyon you hike up a gently graded stream bed that is easily crisscrossed. The farther up stream you go the larger the rocks in the bed become as the mesa walls get closer and higher. After climbing over and through one final stand of bolders you are in Box Canyon.  

It is a natural cathedral with high concave walls that arch overhead framing a circular section of sky above.  Except for the sound of trickling water from several places in the wall, the silence encompasses you.  There is a large bolder with a flat top near the center of the canyon floor serving as a natural alter.  It is truly a place where the temporal and eternal meet, the visible and invisible mingle.  Once you get there you don't want to leave.

About half way up the trail to Box Canyon, before the mesa walls become steep and narrow there is another trail marked with a sign:  "To Upper Camp and Beyond."

This trail is winding and steep and goes to a natural "campsite" several hundred feet above Box Canyon.   "...And Beyond" goes even higher to the lower levels of Mesa Montosa, which on its top is close to two thousand feet above the trail head to Box Canyon.  From "...And Beyond" looking back down on Box Canyon (which by the way you can't really see) what you see is an ancient river bed winding down a valley until it comes to a drop off that was once a waterfall. It becomes evident that Box Canyon cathedral was once the plungepool for that waterfall.

My observation here is simple:  from "...And Beyond" what we had thought and experienced as eternal becomes more temporal and what was invisible to us before is now more visible.  From "...And Beyond" we discover a different "eternal" and "invisible" - another thin place.  That is until the next "...And Beyond." 

When was the last time you explored "...And Beyond?" 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Day(s) After

I’m writing this on Election Day not knowing the outcomes, while knowing you will read it the day, or days, after.  To some, whose candidates won, it is a time of relief, celebration, and anticipation. To others, whose candidates fell short, it is a time of melancholy and reflection, with retreating glimpses of what might have been.

Regardless of election outcomes, what really matters is our knowing who we are and how to live in the present moment, fully embracing our joy or sadness.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

- Rilke, Book of Hours, I,59.  Translation, Barrows and Macy

I heard this poem on the radio program / podcast “On Being with Krista Tippett” and strongly recommend you listen to or read the transcript of one of the most moving interviews I’ve heard there: