the rain

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I know a lot about rain: different types of rain, different words for rain, different descriptors. I can relate to the Inuit and Yupik people, who supposedly have hundreds of different words for snow.

However, one of my most memorable experiences of rain happened in Osaka, Japan. I went out for a jog one morning hoping to get my exercise before the rain began. I made it almost up to the Castle (about two miles) before I felt the first raindrops. I pressed on a little farther. I thought, a few drops of water can’t hurt. It might even cool me off. It’s so hot I’m sweaty. By the time I finally turned around the rain was getting serious. I turned down a street lined with small shops. Each had a small awning overhanging the sidewalk where I could get a little shelter. Unfortunately, with the businesses closed the awnings were retracted and covered only about a foot of the sidewalk. I ran from awning to awning and plastered myself against the buildings to stay dry, then dashed to the next.

To say the rain increased in intensity would be an understatement. It was as though someone from the roof was throwing down buckets of water—huge buckets. The water in the gutters began to run over the shallow curb until it was like a river running down the sidewalk. At some point I realized that keeping any part of my body dry was impossible and I made a mad dash for the hotel.

Arriving at the hotel, I stood outside the entrance attempting to wring the water from my clothes. My socks and shoes were waterlogged and entering the lobby, I looked like someone just stepping out of a swimming pool. I casually walked to the elevator across the marble floor, making squishing sounds and leaving huge puddles. The employees and hotel guests were too polite to say anything, but I felt eyes boring holes in my back.

I love rain. It’s what makes our area so lush and green. It’s good. But that day, it was just too much of a good thing.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL, regardless of weather

 

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the wind

It’s quite windy today and I was reminded of a time when a horrific windstorm ripped through the Anchorage area. I was working as a flight instructor at Fort Richardson. People were scurrying around tying down anything that could blow away. I bundled up and headed out to the flight line, wanting to double check the tie down ropes on my airplane. As I opened the door of the Quonset hut, I was greeted with a blast of frigid air. I put my head down and cinched my hood closer around my face. It was impossible to breathe facing into the wind. As I walked across the open area between the building and the airplanes, I was at the mercy of the wind. Barely able to control my movements on the snow and ice covered slippery ground I thought maybe I should return to the safety of the building. But my plane had to be secured. Going downwind, I was practically flying; and walking upwind, I had to lean forward more than forty-five degrees to keep from being blown backwards. I learned later that gusts up to 100 miles per hour had been recorded.

We waited out the storm next to the cozy heater in the office until dark. Knowing there was nothing more to be done, we all finally went home, hoping to find the airplanes safe when we returned. The next morning, under calm and sunny skies, we surveyed the damage. My airplane was untouched, but others were not so lucky. The tail tie down rope of one plane broke and the plane was flipped over onto its back, wing tie downs still intact. Several others had been blown into each other with crumpled wings and tail sections. The force of that wind was a graphic reminder of the power of nature. “The Spirit, like the wind, blows where he wills and no one can control his movements.” John 3:8

Ruah in the wind

Ruah in the wind

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weather

“There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God’s.” St. Teresa of Avila. At this time of year I often hear talk about bad weather. The wind, rain, frost, and snow: all have their detractors. The clouds hide the sun and I hunker down inside. Being an outdoor person, I find it difficult to adjust to spending more time indoors. I love those fair summer days when the breeze brings smells of ripening fruit and flowers. But I am fortunate to live in a climate where, with only minor adjustments in clothing, I can be outdoors every day. I find something to appreciate about whatever weather surrounds me, enjoying various types of weather perhaps because I basically like change. How boring it would be to have moderate temperatures and sunny skies every day! Some of my favorite memories are of being out in extreme weather. In my next blog I’ll share some of those memories. And maybe you can tell me some of yours.

On this feast day celebrating one of my favorite saints, I’m happy that St. Teresa of Avila shared this bit of wisdom.

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So much of my life is centered on planning and striving. When do I have time just to be? Eckhart Tolle said, “We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be.” When life throws curve balls, I find my plans thrown into confusion and I realize that without goals and plans for the future, I flounder and lose the zest for living. I don’t know how to balance the needs of making plans and being in the moment. Both, at times, fill me with life giving energy. To sit and meditate and breathe in the goodness of life as it is can be exhilarating. But being still and doing nothing can make my life a stagnant mess. On the other hand, working towards a goal carries me along like a rushing river. But ceaseless doing is exhausting and makes me crazy.

Maybe the answer lies in openness to the spirit. I must listen and pray to know what is appropriate for each moment, to know what brings love into the world.

I guess I had forgotten the word I chose to focus on this year. Now I remember! My word is: Open. That’s what I need.

an untended garden

an untended garden

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labyrinth walk

Labyrinth

Labyrinth

The path I walked the other day was distinct and easy to follow, although somewhat circuitous. I wish my path through life would be as clear. Sometimes that path seems to go through brambles and is not very well lit. But that day the sun was shining as four of us walked the labyrinth in Arlington. As soon as I stepped onto the flagstones inlaid in the grass, I knew the journey would be meaningful. I relaxed, took a deep breath and walked. Many people mistake a maze for a labyrinth. In a maze one can get lost—like I do sometimes in my journey through life. A labyrinth has only one path to the center and one way out. The certitude of getting there (to the center) helped me to relax and focus on the steps along the way.

So many lessons can be garnered from the seemingly silly undertaking of walking a labyrinth. This ancient, cross-cultural practice holds a mystery, which I’ll never fully understand. I only know the metaphor comes to life in the simple walk to the center.

As the four of us shared what the labyrinth taught us that day, I was struck by the variety and depth of insights. I hope to hold and carry those lessons into my circuitous walk through life.

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beholding

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I’ve gone from writing one a day to one a month. Where does the inspiration go? I’ve realized during these last weeks of not writing I need to become more aware and see what and who is in the world around me. I have been so busy doing things; I haven’t made the effort to really see.

A couple of things have made me more aware of the importance of seeing. I was on a silent weekend retreat at the beginning of August. The retreat director stressed the importance of maintaining silence, even to the point of not making eye contact with others in the group. We all know much communication with others is non-verbal. Simply beholding another person—or thing—we accept them into our lives and they become a part of us. When we do not look at others, they do not exist for us; our reality is directed inward. In the case of the retreat, that was a good thing. I was able to focus on the interior life of the Holy Spirit in me. At the end of the retreat, when I could finally look at others, I was able to see their beauty because I looked at them from a place where I knew my true self. The exercise suggested by the retreat director held great meaning for me. Temporarily not beholding helped me to appreciate and value truly seeing others.

One of the most meaningful looks I have ever received was from my mother on the day she died. As we said our goodbyes, she gazed at me with such warmth and love; it communicated a lifetime of love and caring. I didn’t know then that I would never see her again, but I still remember the gift she gave me with a simple look. It gladdens my heart.

In my daily walk, I often refuse to look at others and I know that has hurt many. My refusal to look at them and acknowledge their existence makes it as though they do not exist. They’re not a part of my life. So many: the poor panhandlers at intersections, people I do not like, people who hurt me, people I envy, old people, handicapped people, unappealing people. If only I could look at them all with the same love my mother showed me. It could change their lives—and mine.

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Good ground

The gospel reading yesterday was the parable of the sower who sows seeds on various types of ground. Only those seeds landing on good ground grow and produce fruit. I wrote a poem a while back about my desire to be good ground. Here it is:

Being Good Ground

The seed planted in good ground thrives.

It yields a hundred-fold.

But how do I become good ground?

 

The river gathers and deposits—

Year after year—the best soil from her banks.

Earth quakes to break apart the rock.

Then sun and wind do their part

Whittling grains of sand to add into the mix.

Clay—the fine, so moldable when wet—

Is stirred in for coherence.

 

Yet, without the humus, the ground is sterile.

The rotting, decomposing mess makes it whole.

Then worms and crawling, hidden things stir and boil,

Making all disparate parts

Ready to receive the seed.

Oh, the precious seed!

 

I want my heart to be the fertile ground

To receive and foster

That great seed of life.

 

Break apart my hardness.

Let your life giving waters flow

And bring the raw material of my life to settle.

Then let the fine, all permeating spirit

Hold me close together in your hand.

 

And, Lord, let me not shrink from welcoming

That dying, smelling excrement

Which lowly worms labor to transform.

Let me yield to this great process

And wait patiently

To accept that blessed seed.

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choices

After a month without blogging, it is difficult to start again. I have no predetermined theme and I wonder what I could write that has meaning and significance. What is important to you? What kind of stories do you like? I asked myself those questions. I’ve often puzzled over stories I read of a person overcoming grave difficulties and rising above them to love and appreciate life; you know, those feel good, human interest stories. What, within the person, makes the difference? How is it that some are knocked down and come up kicking and fighting; some are bowled over and lie there, giving up; some are turned to bitter, vindictive people wanting to strike back; some are like those dolls weighted on the bottom to spring back up, smiling and forgiving.

Wow!

Wow!

I know it sounds clichéd, but I really like the idea of, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” In my case, I believe my mother’s good example of a positive outlook on life was transmitted to me. But what about the kids thrown away by their parents, handed from foster home to foster home? Many others are given extreme physical or mental challenges at birth. How do they overcome? Where does that spark come from that makes one say, “Yes!” to life? I want a little bit of it next time I face an insignificant inconvenience and am tempted to wade into those deep waters of self-pity. I want to make the choice to accept and embrace life whatever the day brings.

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thinking

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

I have been accused of looking at things through rose-colored glasses. But is that so bad? I know there are problems in the world and I am far from perfect. My failures and my struggles are always before me. I do acknowledge them, but press on towards the perfect. If I keep that in sight, I just might reach the finish line. Like in a marathon, if I focus on the agony of each step, my energy sags and I give up. I’ve got to focus on the glory of the end and it makes the running of this race of life a joy in the midst of all its trials. So much in this world is excellent and worthy of praise. My thinking of these things might be enough to tip the balance to the side of love.

Hawthorne

Hawthorne

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The Word

my Golden Chain Tree

my Golden Chain Tree

“If you make my word your home, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

This has always been my favorite bit of wisdom. I have always valued freedom, truth and words. As I pondered what it means for me today, I began to question and look for deeper meanings. “My word,” Jesus said. Did he mean simply the things he said, like his advice and parables—his teaching? John also says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. All things came to be through him…The Word became flesh.”

So to live in that Word would mean to dwell entirely in God. But how can we do anything else? If all things came to be through the Word, we exist because of it. That’s where we already live. The Word is so much more than lines on a paper, stories or chapter and verse. It’s the very life force behind and beneath it all. Our little words are like puffs of wind across a barren plain without the power of The Word.

 

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