Monday, December 19, 2016

A Sign (#SmallWonder Link-up)


(I am behind this week, friends.  So here is a poem I shared in my newsletter last week.  Check back last in the week for a new post and while you're here, sign up for my newsletter to receive more exclusive content during Advent and beyond.) 

. . . the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose . . . Isaiah 35:1
(also based on Matthew 11:2-6)

My office is not a desert -
though electric heat does dry the air –
and my great-grandmother’s Christmas cactus
is not a rose.  But when I pause in writing
and turn to see – lo! – pink buds prepared
to blossom, I take it as a sign.  I take, also,
the first drifting flakes of snow and the praying
mantis’ egg sack tucked inside our fresh cut fir. 

John the Baptist, smoldering in prison, sought
Jesus for a sign.  “Are you the one,” he asked.
“Or am I to await another?” Jesus gave no sign,
save for what was.  “Look, and see, and believe,”
he said, pointing to the prophet’s words.
John looked and saw and doubt
was satisfied.  So it is with those who wait
in darkness, who long to see and believe.

My office is not a desert and my great-grandmother’s
Christmas cactus is not a rose, but I will take it
as a sign.  

*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  



Monday, December 12, 2016

The Core: Physical Therapy & Prayer (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


It’s my second day of Physical Therapy for lower back pain.  I lay flat on my back on a green, cushioned table.  My knees are bent and I lift my pelvis in and out of bridge pose ten, twenty times.  “How does that feel?” the therapist asks.

“I feel it pull a little in my lower back,” I say.

“Are you using your core?” he asks.

I pause and listen to my body.  I hear no answer.  “What do you mean?” I ask.

“You want to be using your transverse abdominal muscles to lift,” he says, “not pushing up with your legs and back.  That’s why your back’s tweaking.  It’s not about how high you can go, it’s about using those muscles.”

I turn back to my body and try tightening my lower stomach, the soft section where my children grew.  “Hello,” my transverse abdominal muscles whisper as if waking from a long nap.

The therapist goes on to tell me that the lower abdominal muscles, commonly referred to as the "core," act as a natural girdle keeping the pelvis and spine in alignment.  I wonder, as I redo my bridges, how I can go through years of my life completely disengaged from my core?

//

A week later, I lay belly-down on the long, green cushioned table, my face pressed into an oval opening.  My shirt is lifted, my back exposed, and a therapist works slow circles in the muscles of my lower back.  Later, cool gel holds pads in strategic position and wires send electricity buzzing into tightened muscles coaxing them into surrender.  A layer of warm towels is laid on top, a timer set, and the therapist busies herself in another part of the room.

With my face in the hole, I close my eyes, I open them.  My contacts drift across my eyes and the world around me is slightly out of focus.  Conversations float through the air and I tune them in and out like radio stations. 

The electrical stimulation on my lumbar spine feels like hundreds of tiny ants dancing, their feet on fire and it’s not an altogether unpleasant sensation.  I open my eyes, I close them.  I rest and think of the woman waiting on a long-desired pregnancy.  I pray.  I think of the man who is dying and his wife.  I pray.  I wonder who I am here in this place.  At Physical Therapy, I am muscle and bone, slouching posture, weakened core.  But, beyond that, am I young?  Am I old?  Am I mother, daughter, wife?  I listen to hear what my life will say.

//

After the timer goes off, the pads are removed and I flip from stomach to back.  Knees bent, I practice “fall outs” and “ninety degree presses” counting slowly from one to thirty on each side.  My mind drifts, and thoughts go in and out of focus but I return again and again to tightening the core, attending in each moment to that inner space.   

This, I know, is what prayer is, a centering practice, a movement in which, putting aside all else, we tend to the core.


*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pray as You Can (#SmallWonder Link-up)

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress best known for her deep belief in the love of God, is often depicted with her only companion, a cat.  Can you imagine how happy this makes me? 

"Pray as you can, not as you can't." - Dom John Chapman

In the early morning darkness, I rise from bed and descend the stairs.  The waiting cat picks up my trail and follows me into the kitchen.  Awake for some time already, he's eager to get outside. Every morning he saunters out into the frosty cold to prowl the wilted flowerbeds, the decaying garden and I catch glimpses of his progress from the window as he seeks out scent paths left the night before.  

In the kitchen, I pour coffee and cream into a clean-enough mug and the cat leaps onto a stool, hoping I’ll open the un-screened kitchen window that frequently serves as his own private door.  When I fail to comply with his implicit demands, he follows me to the wood stove room, hurrying urgently to the front door while I kneel to stoke the fire.  He expects me to open the door to gather more wood from the porch and is visibly disappointed when I settle on the couch.  His green eyes flash in my direction, impatient, then he settles on the carpet to wait for the next opportunity. 

I woke early, intending to sit in the darkness, to absorb the silence, to gently stoke the flame of desire that draws me to God.  This is why I woke, but there on the love seat I sit with my phone in hand.  I open Facebook, I scroll. 

My mind spins and whirls with thoughts, emotions.  My mind is like the cat, wide awake and eager, wanting to get out, to explore, to hunt and find satisfaction. 

This is not what I wanted.  But it's what I’m doing.

I lift my eyes from the phone and look over at the cat.  He’s waiting, as cats do, half-asleep.  

I rise again, this time from the love seat, and gather the cat in my arms.  I sit with him cradled across my lap like a baby.  He accepts my attention complacently, then with a steadily growing purr.  I stroke his back, his head; I scratch along his jawbone.  

With the cat in my arms, I feel love rise and gratitude; prayer begins.  

I realize then, gazing at his relaxed frame, that he is showing me how I'm meant to be with God - at rest, comforted, loved.  In that moment, my cat is an icon, leading me to the holy, to my own desire.  Content in my embrace, he stretches his paws out long and they come to rest on my chest where my heart resides.   

What images or actions in your daily life lead you to prayer?

*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  




Friday, December 2, 2016

The Hardest Part (Advent Week 1)


The Sleeping Disciples by Henry Ossawa Tanner

I slept but my heart was awake.  Listen!  My beloved is knocking.
Song of Solomon 5:2

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. 
Romans 13:11-12a


In the night, they come to our room,
nose dripping blood or underwear damp.  
“Can you help me with this?” they ask,  
and we are stirred from the heavy 
darkness of slumber.  

I never want to wake in the night,
never want to throw back the warm covers,
to search for glasses blindly.
I dread the wet sheets
and sitting in the cold dark of the bathroom
pinching his nose until the red river stops. 

But when he shivers, stripping the wet
in exchange for dry, and when he waits
oddly stoic for the clotting to begin,
I feel compassion rise. 

By the time I tuck them
back in, I can say I love you and
mean it as I rub their short-cropped hair.

The hardest part is waking.