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There is No “Other.”

One midnight in pristine newly fallen snow, I walked alone into a field on a hill where billions of stars gave light to the night. The silence was so profound, I could feel it like a soft comforter around me. As I gazed into an endless sky of light, I felt myself shrinking, almost disappearing into the vastness of the universe. Then suddenly, my boundaries disappeared and I was one with it all. I was inseparable from every star, every person, creature and mysterious molecule in that vastness. And I could no longer see anyone or anything as “other.”

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A Spiritual Journey: Ways of Being

Four ways of being: Thinking,feeling, doing, creating.
Thinking usually involves questioning and problem solving.
Feeling, whether positive or negative, is usually in relationship to someone or something.
Doing often involves care taking of things or care giving of people.
Creating is about possibilities and may involve any or all of the other three.
Life involves all of these and though none of us does all of them equally well, I’ve noticed that through the stages of our lives we seem to eventually be challenged by life to develop in the areas we don’t have natural gifts for. This applies to our spiritual lives also.
At different times in my life I have found grace through very different resources. In my twenties I began to question my religious upbringing and for a few years I made the world and its pleasures my focus, but my questions finally took me on a journey of studying various religions in a search for meaning. Then in my thirties, a friend helped me begin to relate to Jesus, not only as a Savior and Lord, but as a best friend, and prayer became a conversation with him. Starting to read the scriptures to get to know him better brought them alive for me and I began to see their connections to even small things in my daily life. Gradually, they opened my eyes to the struggles of people around me and I began to recognize ways I could help them. Then to my consternation, the Scriptures ceased to speak to me and health issues kept me from helping others, but then rote prayer suddenly became my way to inner peace and a sense of the presence of God. Taking up art as a hobby continued to bring me the freedom to live in the present moment creatively. Somehow, all of these ways of being came together and I felt a hunger to share my sense of the love of God expressed in Jesus, the presence of God in all things, and our oneness with God and each other. That led me to worship where I could give what I call my sermons from the molehill at Sunday worship services. We are all on a Spiritual journey whether we know it of not. But it does not go in the same order or timing or tidy little stages for us. We are all different, so our journeys will be different. And the places best for us to grow and learn spiritually will be different. But I’ve become convinced that over our lives we will experience growth in all of these ways of being. And eventually we become able to recognize God in everything and each other. This is very oversimplified, but is the essence of what I’ve experienced in my spiritual journey.

Christmas is Like Humanity’s Birthday Celebration

I so hope everyone’s Holy Days bring the blessing of God’s love to them.
For me Christmas is humanity’s birthday celebration. So, I am always ready for the Christmas season.
It’s a wonderful time of year. I’d like at least a six month holy day season and actually wouldn’t complain if it was all year long.
I love the frosty air outside here in Tennessee because it makes the warmth inside feel so comforting and the hot Chocolate so delicious. But when visiting my brother in Texas around Christmas, we all might be wearing shorts outside, but the air conditioning is turned on enough to light a fire in the fireplace.
My spirits lift with all the music whether it’s Rudolf or O Holy Night. Children’s laughter and excitement are contagious for me.
And all the colorful decorations bring special beauty everywhere. I like seeing different Christmas sweaters and get a chuckle at people wearing Santa hats. I even enjoy a lot of the cheerful advertisements.  The beauty in nature, in people, and even in things people make gives me great pleasure.  I don’t need to own them to enjoy their beauty.
I love beautiful Christmas cards with scenes of birds in snowy woods, funny Christmas cards with Charlie Brown and Snoopy or even Maxine,  and of course, the tender ones about the love of God coming among us.
I can imagine the savory smells in anticipation of turkey and dressing and pies. And look forward to being amazed at the unusual creativity of our grandchildren making Christmas cookies. Well, why not have Christmas alligators and dinosaurs?
And I absolutely delight in our family laughing together and remembering funny things like a grandson’s expression when opening a box of rocks from me. 🙂 (He was supposed to open the paints first. )
I even love our annual messy marshmallow fight!
And I refuse to give up my satisfaction from sending elaborate meal planning emails to all the family, even knowing it’s an exercise in futility!
I enjoy lunch with my LOL (Little Old Lady) groups where we bring presents for children who may not have many and share our own hand painted Christmas cards and lovingly made pot holders with each other.
I love decorating, particularly watching my architect husband doing elaborate city planning of our ever growing Dicken’s Christmas village. The moment when we first turn on its lights at night is always magical. I still laugh at the tiny crime scene tape around a stout male figure lying down and a British Bobbie standing over him. (Our youngest son created that one year when no one was looking!)
I stop each day to step outside to check for snow flakes. And even smile at the fake snow in store windows and Christmas scenes, because it reminds me of the night I walked alone in thick new snow in our field on a hilltop. The silence was so profound, it created a feeling of total isolation and the night so clear that the stars blanketed the skyscape. At first I felt small and lost in the face of so much grandeur and such infinite space. Then once again, I experienced that sense of complete oneness with everything. And being even a tiny part of all of that made time seem liquid enough that death would be simply melting into eternity’s flow.
I revel also in the small kindnesses and good wishes from strangers. Sometimes, it’s experiencing a moment of kinship that’s real and meaningful.
I look forward to grandchildren’s Christmas concerts and pageants. And chuckle when I watch Sunday school enactments of Jesus’ birth, remembering the one my first child was in, where one of the shepherds kept hooking Joseph around the neck until a hand came out from behind the curtain and pulled him out of sight. 🙂
I treasure my special Christmas coffee cup that says, “Jesus is the reason for the season” because each morning when I have my first cup of coffee, it reminds me to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Then come the joy of times when I recognize small and large blessings and the peace of the moments of sensing His gentle loving presence.
Recognizing and embracing the visible Love of God for all His Creation, including each of us in our imperfect unfinished humanity, is what makes Christmas also our Birthday Season. So, I wish you all a very Happy Birthday also in your Holy Days. May the Love of God erase our fears and free us to love one another.

In Our Hearts We Are One

When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced. This is our chance to come out of our self-protecting bubble and to realize that we are never alone. This is our chance to finally understand that wherever we go, everyone we meet is essentially just like us. Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us to a loving relationship with the world. ~Pema Chodron
From the blog: Make Believe Boutique

My Tiny Personal Creed

There is a place of grace within each of us that I and others call God.

God is NOT a very old man with a beard, but the creative spirit or force both within and without us that can free us to begin wanting to live as one and can show us how to draw on resources not limited to our tiny personal part of the universe.

For many of us it is reached only in surrender either when we “hit bottom” or when we finally just recognize that we can let go of our ego without losing our unique place in the universe.

So the heart of Spirituality is about letting go of our illusion of being separate/better than the rest of humanity or even of the rest of creation and realizing we are only one tiny unique aspect of an awesome whole and that we sink or swim along with that whole and the rest of the tiny parts.

Since I am a relational kind of person and God and the universe are pretty much beyond my understanding, Jesus is my translator for learning how to grow in a creative relationship with what is beyond my grasp.

Humbled by a True Poet

I just discovered a blogger who says what I feel better than I even knew it.  Here are a couple of quotes that resonate with me.

“Coming from a full heart prayer is a place of union, rather than one of needing and taking; separateness. There is a connection that’s comfortable, familiar…real. In this flow, what used to be designated time for prayer/contemplation, becomes a never ending conversation. The word faith loses its usefulness, for it’s been replaced by trust. Unable to feel alone anymore, you’ve been embraced…with a love like no other.”

Another quote:

“From a heart that deeply cares, life is deeply experienced. Taken root is an understanding, that what looks like many is actually one. A silent acknowledgement of the connectedness existing within, without, above and below erases the illusion we are separate from anything. And it is from this …that what you give changes.”

These are from Sharon Brooks at http://www.arevivaloftheheart.com

But Can He Dance?

I loved to dance. Ballet and other dance alone type dancing, but my favorite has always been ballroom dancing with someone who was light on their feet, and smooth, with subtle but good leading cues that let you just trust and follow. Frankly, through many many high school and college dances, there were only one or two people that lived up to that. And though I was never in love with them, dancing with them was like entering a different level of existence. It was like being one person simply flowing with music.

My husband of fifty-five years is a loving, kind, wonderful husband, but he is not a dancer.

We were dating seriously my junior year in college when I was elected to represent Rice at the May Festival at Baylor University. This involved the difficult intellectual achievement of wearing a formal gown and walking onto a stage and sitting with all the representatives from other colleges while some sort of presentations were made to students at Baylor. But a really big name band was scheduled to play right after this, so I was excited about it. Thinking I would get to bring my own escort, I selfishly invited one of the better dancers I knew. Needless to say, this was not a kind thing to do to my husband to be.
Of course I did not get away with this, since Baylor informed me I would be escorted by one of their football players. The football player turned out to be just that, a football player. He thought he was God’s gift to women, never having a clue that he was God’s lesson to this woman. But the really cruel part was that as a Baptist College, Baylor only allowed us to sit in an auditorium and listen to the famous dance band.

I know without a doubt that I married the right man, even though evenings spent where there has been a dance band have brought about a bit of toe tapping frustration over the years.

One night in my early thirties when we were out with a group at a club with a band, a stranger at a near-by table suddenly came over and asked me to dance. I glanced sideways at my husband and good sport that he is, he nodded cheerfully.

That young man and I never said another word to each other except “thanks ” at the end of the dance. I have only a vague memory of what he looked like, but I can shut my eyes and still relive the dancing. It was one of those moments in time when my inner self and my outside self and the world were in sync. It was sensual, but not sexual. There was an amazing sense of oneness, but not intimacy. Almost fifty years later, good music can bring that memory back whole. I’m realistic enough not to romanticise it. I probably would not have even liked the dancer, but I have always treasured the experience.

The other day, while praying about my difficulty in staying in sync with God in my life, it hit me why dancing like that is such a magical, mystical experience. It’s a symbol, an infinitesimal taste of oneness with God and the universe that we unconsciously desire.

Lord, help me hear the music of your dance and trust enough to follow.

 

The Night Watch

Keeping night-watch
By a silent stream
Stars spilling
Like glitter
From an open hand
A lavish marquee
For choirs of katydids

Tired children sleep
By a dancing fire
Snug in cocoons
Sticky sweet
With chocolate hands
Marshmallow mouths
And memories

Earth holds its breath
As the flames leap higher
Reaching for the stars
Melting me
Into a sense of
Simple oneness
With everything

Once Again He Has Come

Once Again He Has Come.