Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Mercy and the Little Kernels of Gold

For as the heavens reach beyond earth and time, we swim in mercy as in an endless sea. 
(Psalm 103:11)

//

We sat together in sunny silence as snow lay all around like a smooth and glassy sea and over the waters of white danced the songs of the birds.  Full-throated notes tipped and turned, floating, flitting in a chorus of call and response. 
 
"Did you know," she asked, "that birds only sing when mating season approaches?"  

This was after the first snow, unexpected, and before the next that buried us under layers of flowing white adorning creation like a bride on her wedding day.  Those birds whispered and whistled songs cloaked in the bright rainbow of spring's hues even as we waded through a world turning from white to white again.  

It was as though they knew, as though they believed in something more than what was seen.  

Those birds and their songs, guided by a wider light, a deeper knowing that arose from somewhere beneath the surface of things, like the tiny shoots emerging green from their winter beds pressing like notes against the underside of all that snow and ice.

//

The notion that God is absent is the fundamental illusion of the human condition.  Thomas Keating

// 

If you were to ask me what one thing (though in truth, there are many) I'll carry with me from our time of waiting for a home, this is what I would say:  this waiting has stretched me open wide, this gestation in the land of not-knowing, in the depths of winter's long dark.  

I have learned, am learning still, to endure the pause between call and response, to open to the space between what is and what will be and to sink down into what is there, to trust in the slow unfolding. 

//

I saw how time - all our times - are contained in something bigger: a space that is none other than the Mercy itself.  . . . And in that Mercy all our history - our possible pasts and possible futures, our lost loved ones and children never born - is contained and fulfilled in a wholeness of love from which nothing can ever be lost. - Cynthia Bourgeault in Mystical Hope

//

Maybe it's like this - the way two dancers move together across the floor, arm in arm, leaning, shifting, moving in perfect rhythm each with the other.  Such unity is a beauty to behold.  But perhaps, in truth, the real test comes, when they break apart, swirling off into separate spheres for a time.  Dancing across the floor, not touching, yet held together by the rhythm and even, also, by the space between.  

There are times in which we are asked to dance the wild, wondering dance of faith in the absence of what we long for.  What tune will guide us then, what rhythm move our feet?

If we were able to sink through the terror that comes in the absence of knowing, the blinding white that flies in the face of spring's arrival, would we not also, like those dancers, find some deeper rhythm holding, leading, guiding our feet?  And might not also the very space created by our longing be a reminder of that to which we belong, the One with whom we dance?

//

Take away everything else down to that point of final destruction, and the last little bit that's left before destruction, a little kernel of gold which is the essence of you - and there is God protecting it . . . And this is something terrific. - Thomas Merton


//

Author Cynthia Bourgeault speaks of this underlying unity as the Mercy, by which she means God - not a god who dwells apart or above, but the God who surrounds, holding us all as swimmers in a vast and spacious sea.  Merton speaks of this as the protecting presence of God, this presence that holds the truth of every created thing - those tiny glimmering kernels of gold - protecting and preserving so that nothing is ever lost.  

Maybe this is what the birds know, deep within their breasts.  

Maybe this is what guides their singing, living, loving, the light that warms them long before spring's unfolding. 

//

You are not lost, dear ones, you are held, though you may not yet be aware of it. 

This Mercy, this tender mercy, it is the key to endurance, the doorway to hope, the promise of joy in the midst of deep and tragic sorrow.  

I have only waited for a little thing - a house, a home, a promise - and maybe this song I sing seems as foolish to you as the voices of the birds did that snowy day.  What can I say to convince you?  

There are not words, my friends. 

So I'm singing today in the face of winter, singing from a place I'm coming to know, lifting notes that crack and fail to carry just as often as they sometimes soar.  I'm singing this song of hope in the waiting, pressing these tender shoots of green against the snow and ice, dancing these slow, strange steps with a Partner I cannot always see.

Spring will come, love will unfold, and when it does, you will be found in its midst, held, protected, embraced.  

Linking this week with Laura,   Jennifer, and later in the week, Diana.

17 comments:

  1. Oh my, this is a piece of beauty Kelly. I know this place between call and response and you've described it so eloquently. Sometimes when we are in the season of low hanging fruit after a long waiting period it is easy to forget how it felt in the midst of the bleakness. Thankful for this, for the remembering. I don't ever want to forget the way he created a place of deep intimacy in the wide expanse of silence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shelly. Yes, that's what it is, this hard-earned fruit of "deep intimacy" as you say. A gift worth the struggle.

      Delete
  2. Kelly, the first sound I heard this morning as I woke up (in the Pacific Northwest) was the joyous call of birds, different than I've heard of late, and I wondered, "How do they KNOW.....how do they know Spring is coming?"
    I think it has something to do with the light.....there's more of it.

    Hmmmmm....may God's light continue to reveal to you the path forward on your journey to finding a home. And thank you for sharing such beautiful words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmmm . . . even that, Jody, is a lovely thought - I've been noticing the light too lately, but it seems a little cruel, these elongated days while we're still in the grip of such cold. We did find a home (I've yet to post about it) and are set to close a week from today. One of the things I like best about it is that there are several bird feeders spread all around the property just waiting to be filled. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  3. Holey moley, girlie - you just soar, you know???? I teared up when I saw you're planning to link this one on Friday. It is perfection - plain and simple. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Diana - you're a superb cheerleader :) Yes, I'd just finished thinking I wouldn't know what to say for Friday's link-up when I started to write. I was thinking of that tragedy I mentioned when I wrote, trying so hard to be held by the belief that God's great mercy holds us in all things, holds even those we fear are lost and those who feel they are being lost.

      Delete
  4. Kelly, There are so mny ways, so many words to talk of the presence of God, and you, my friend, have found many ways that I had not heard before. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much. I think it is the desire to understand that drives it all, the need to be able to explain - this is how it feels for me, might it also feel that way to others? So glad you stopped by.

      Delete
  5. I used to think, if I ever wrote an autobiography, I would call it 'Songs from midnight'... because the dark was so dark and all-encompassing, and yet there was the still small voice of hope which wouldn't stop singing deep inside me.
    I love what you have written here so much - I have no words! Just fantastic! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What lovely imagery, Donna and I say write it, even just for yourself - there's such therapy in writing, in being able to come to an understanding of and claim God's unswerving presence in your own life. So glad you stopped by.

      Delete
  6. beauty here
    again and again
    space for mercy indeed
    and grace, great grace

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is beautiful. There are so many times when our question should be rather 'What am I learning here?' and not 'Why am I here?' Trusting that we are indeed always held in God's love is one of the most important things we have ever to learn.
    My only proviso, is that sometimes there is an injustice that caused the suffering. And sometimes we need to discern whether God is calling us to act, to join in Kingdom building. This is not always easy.

    Juliet
    http://stilllearning1.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's true. I wanted to say, not so much what is the cause of our suffering, but what we may hold as true in the midst of it. From that place of grace and mercy, we're able to discern a way forward. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  8. Oh, Kelly. Even better, deeper, richer the second time through. Thanks so very much.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kelly, this is such a breathtakingly beautiful post! Thank you for sharing the dance with us. We come away all the richer for observing its rhythm and finding courage to join in. God meets with us at whatever point we enter it and His arms encircle round to hold us steady through every swirl and turn. Bless you for seeing so much in the dark places and being able to write about it all with depth and insight. Love the quotes too! I'm currently reading Cynthia Bourgeault's book on centering prayer, but I can see I have some more of her books to search out. :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Joy. That's funny, I've been trying to find my copy of that book on centering prayer, but unable to as we pack and repack in preparation for moving. Her book, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, is probably my favorite.

      Delete