Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

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Resurrection Project Day 4: An Easter Blessing from David Whyte

David Whyte is one of my favourite contemporary poets. He hails from the same part of the world as me; old trees, gritstone walls, and the hidden light in dark shadows speak to his soul, and he manages to speak from his soul to ours.    I hope you enjoy!

EASTER BLESSING

(For John O’Donohue)

The blessing of the morning light to you,
may it find you even in your invisible
appearances, may you be seen to have risen
from some other place you know and have known
in the darkness and that that carries all you need.
May you see what is hidden in you
as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter,
may that hidden darkness be your gift to give,
may you hold that shadow to the light
and the silence of that shelter to the word of the light,
may you join all of your previous disappearances
with this new appearance, this new morning,
this being seen again, new and newly alive.

David Whyte

EASTER BLESSING
from the upcoming book

THE BELL AND THE BLACKBIRD
TO BE PUBLISHED
APRIL 2OTH 2018
© DAVID WHYTE AND MANY RIVER PRESS 2018
Available on Amazon Preorder

Photo © David Whyte
Light Through Sycamores
Littondale ,Yorkshire. July 2014

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature

The Resurrection Project

Image may contain: text, nature and outdoor

“When you start living resurrection, it changes the way we see the world, it changes us.
At first you feel like an utter fool for the risen Christ.
Our first attempts to see life, and hope,
and healing and generosity,
where the world sees only death and despair,
and pinched fearfulness,
can feel foolish,
we’re clunky and diffident at it…… but……”

Every day from now til Pentecost I’ll be posting to this spot, my observances, noticings, and choices to live Resurrection here and now.  I’d love it if you were to send me your own stories to include here.  Let’s do this!

A reflection on Jesus’ actions in the Temple.

When Solomon dedicated the Temple he rightly declared that not even the Heaven of Heavens could contain almighty God,…

Posted by Malcolm Guite on Monday, March 26, 2018

“I’m all writed out!”

Way back when in another chapter of my life, when I taught history in a boys’ school in the UK, I remember one young boy for whom English was not his first language, apologizing to me for the brevity of his homework assignment.  “I’m sorry, Ms Jones, but I’m all writed out!” I’m not sure how compassionate I was to this young man who had to work harder than his classmates to complete written assignments, one after the other, in English, History, Geography, and who knows what else… my assignment was one too many, poor kid!

As a parent I remember those days when my own children were “all writed out.”  I was a wee bit wiser, and would agree with them, and suggest a complete change of activity for an hour or so – a run to the park with the dog, a quick game of pickup basketball, a game of twister, anything to give the writing brain and hands a break.

That’s my excuse for almost silence on this blog for the last ten days…. I’m all writed out!   The spare time of my last fortnight (two weeks, sorry!) has been consumed with writing up the  last appendices, proof-reading an extensive bibliography, writing abstract, acknowledgments, and executive summaries for my D.Min. thesis. While I’d much rather have been writing creative, pensive pieces here,  “I’m all writed out.”  So, come back here in the next few days and you’ll find links to the writing of others who aren’t so “writed out”, and who have been provocateurs for my own spiritual journey this Lent.

And thank you for being more patient and understanding than I may have been to my former student!

Grief’s Seasons

We’ve had one crazy winter! Long cold snaps, freezing rain (always on a Sunday, what’s with that?!) and a huge pile of snow, that has blanketed the lively earth beneath for three months, and counting. Winter this year has  been long, unsettling, and unpredictable.   Like grief.  As most of you know, my father died just after Christmas.  He had lived a long life, and the type of illness he had was like falling leaves and creeping frost slowly taking abundance of living away from him.  In his way, he was ready for death.  Was I ready for it? In my head, yes… and for the first week or so, I was able to look at the landscape of his passing with some equanimity, knowing it was somehow ‘right.’  But like this winter, grief has moved into a longer season of unsettled unpredictability,  which has included not a little irritability on my part.  I’m startled by sudden downpours of tears (freezing rain?).  I’m amazed at how energy draining it is to put on every day the heavy mantle of loving and missing.  Then there’s that inevitable shovelling to clear a path through the snowbanks of estate and probate and funeral decisions.  Grief, it seems is a wintry season. Perhaps grief’s winter will thaw into a spring grieving season, I don’t yet know. Some of you will be my teachers I’m sure, having lived the seasons of grief before me.

One thing I do realize, however, is that like winter, I have no control over this grief season. I can’t make it “go away” any more than I can shift the earth on its axis to shorten the winter.  Grief, like winter, is to be lived as well as one can. It will take its own time.   As the days outside my window begin to lengthen, and the icicles shorten in the strengthening sun,  I’m learning to  hope, that grief’s harsh coldness, like snow, will yield , and Spring’s gentle hybrid holding of cold with light, warmth with darkness, will create a new season of  of grieving, one that is lighter, and  and hopeful for the growing season ahead.

No words…..

This is Lent’s Journal, week one.

Ash Wednesday.  Parkland, Florida. Mass shooting #18 in the US this year alone…. No words.

Thursday.  No words from Congress, or the President.  Oh, to be sure , there were promises of prayer, sympathy, thoughts…. but not the words we long to hear… “Every child deserves to grow up.”  or “Every child deserves to go to school without fear of automatic rifles, so we are going to do something.”  Not those words.

Friday .   I take time to read some background material on the Colten Boushie case in Saskatchewan. What a failure of justice! For this I have no words worth speaking. “Sorry” seems too little, and far too late.
No words. Just silence.  The silence of a sullen, lowering wilderness.  Stunned silence….

   “Listen in the silence…. listen in the noise…Listen for the sound of the Spirit’s voice…”

I hear the Spirit’s voice in that of  Justice Sinclair. https://ipolitics.ca/2018/02/12/words-senator-murray-sinclair-colton-boushie-case/

I hear the Spirit’s voice in that of school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/02/17/parkland-florida-student-message-to-politicians-anti-gun-rally-sot-nr.cnn

But me,  I have no words.

Ashes or Chocolate?

For the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, which is provocation for some interesting spiritual reflection. One commentator opined, “If the choice is between love or guilt,I choose guilt every time!” (Score one for Ashes) I note in the news feeds this week that according to some rather stern RC bishops in Europe and N. America, the admonition is to  “celebrate your loved ones, but not with chocolate, steak or other food indulgences” (pun!)… Take your date to a fish fry, but not before getting your yearly dose of ashes.” (Score one for Guilt). For many Protestant churches that have a less rigorous Ash Wednesday observance,some have not offered ashes this year, saying, “No one will show up,” or, “We shouldn’t even ‘guilt’ people by offering a service, and making them choose.” (Score one for Chocolate).

Does it have to either or? Guilt or Love? Ashes or Chocolate?  Is there something about this calendrical confluence that can point beyond the polarity? Or take us deeper, beneath the apparent conflict, to enrich both days, when they separate again in years to come?

Every year on Valentine’s Day,  the curmudgeon in me wants to run a mile, away from what has, at its worst, become a superficial or guilt ridden homage to an unattainable romantic ideal barely recognizable as love.

For those who aren’t romantically attached, it’s a day of being excluded.
For those whose loves have died or moved on, it’s hard, sad, aching.
For those whose love is toughened by hardship, chocolates and roses seem insultingly vacuous.

All of a sudden, the option to choose to be marked with ashes – the sign of endings, mortality, –  suddenly seems a more fitting way to mark love than with a chocolate kiss.

The legend of S. Valentine is worth sharing dusting off (oh the puns keep coming) on this confluence of his day with the Ash Day. He was killed, so the story goes, executed for his love of God, his love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and his commitment to love and serve the poor. His love, for which he died wasn’t erotic love at all, but a wholehearted, pure-hearted, clean-hearted love for others, and especially  those least likely to be able to reciprocate with steak, roses, or chocolate,

“Create in me a clean heart” sang the psalmist.  (Ps 51). “Wash the ash from me, put my feet onto a path, that though hard, is paved with love. God’s love, our love for God, ourselves and others, especially those whose lives are marked more with ashes than our own.

As for me, today?  I’ll mark my forehead with ashes,  and I’ll take  with gratitude the chocolate heart that is offered,  and offer some myself. And I’ll remember that today – Valentine’s Day  or Ash Wednesday – is not about guilt, but about the sort of love we want to spend our lives living for, and the sort of love I want to die still living.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of noticing (a prayer for Isaiah 40:21-31)

Prayer for Gathering  

Through your prophet-poet,
you ask us if we’ve not seen,
not heard,
not known
that everything in creation
is your love-child.

 
 
 
We have known,
but we forget,
We have seen sun on snow,
waves on a beach;
we have witnessed
the plume of a volcano,
the rush of an avalanche,
but we ignore.
We stopped noticing.
We unlearned the wisdom of awe.
We are too busy finding ourselves
to take notice of you in the language of creation.
We are sorry.
Teach us again, Holy One,
to see, to hear, to listen, to notice,
and in so doing, to find our place again,
wise and humble, open to mystery,
within the vast community of your creation.

In Memoriam

On Saturday September 30, as my Sabbatical Journal records,  my father and I sat together for the last time.  For the past two years he had suffered from multiple mini-strokes, which robbed him, week by week, of more and more mental and physical capacity. For all of my life my father has been a fount of knowledge, with a vise -like grip on the intricacies of the English language, an encyclopaedic knowledge of British industrial history, Icelandic and Norse mythology,  ornithology, botany, astronomy, classical music… and more. He walked faster than most( a memory all of my children share – trying to keep up with Grandpa!),  and  he loved to be out on the moors, or in the limestone and grit-stone valleys of the White and Dark Peak on a perennial hunt for an orchid, a rare bird,  or traces of a long-forgotten cottage industry.

On September 30, most of that was all gone.  His body could barely transfer from chair to bed, one side no longer responding to any mental intention, and  his speech, once erudite and prolix, reduced to “Yes” and “You see.” Thanks to a wonderful book I’d found, filled with photographs of British fauna and flora, I was still able to connect with  the man within  that day.  Recognition of various animals and plants provoked memories for both of us, and for a while we could go, in memory, to places now beyond his reach.  I wasn’t sure how much of this reminiscing was my wishful thinking, and how much he was still “with me”, so  with a couple of bird photos, I deliberately mis-named them. Immediately his one good hand tapped the page, and the “yes” became a clear “no.”  Ever the professor, he was still teaching his daughter to correctly identify a rose-breasted grosbeak, not a pine grosbeak, words or no words.  That day was more gift than I could have known at the time.  On December 28, a chest infection allowed his body to release his intelligent spirit back into the universe he had studied all his life with such intimate precision.

The death of my sister nearly fifty years ago robbed him of any trust in a benevolent deity, much less in an institutional religion that dared to tell him that she was better off in heaven than with her family (something you will never hear from my lips, ever!)   When I was ordained nearly twenty years ago he declared himself to be a ‘religion-free zone,’  but remained  interested in the academic side of my vocation, and we both honoured the border restrictions he imposed.  That said, I believe that for my father,  his restless soul found its sanctuary in the cosmic wonder of the night sky, and in the furled intricacy of a budding harebell, in the deep resonance of a bittern’s call.  In keeping with his wishes, there will be no church funeral, nor will a coffin or grave confine his body. Instead, at some point in the Spring I will return his mortal remains to the moors that so shaped his life, and mine.

He will not begrudge me the need to be surrounded by those who share my religious faith in the coming days, and I am more grateful for your prayers  than you can know.  As I walk now into a valley shadowed by his death, and deepened by his absence,  I am grateful to keep company with others who have walked this road before, or walk it still, and trust that even here, there will be new mysteries of life to discover, new ash-born newness to burst forth in due season.

I pray for him: a peace of soul, a rest of body, an an eternal adventure of discovery of the reaches of the universe that has beckoned his inquisitive spirit all his life.  Rest in Peace, Daddy.

 

Beyond the Sabbatical: Refugees

Please take a few moments to read this poem by Brian Bilston.  (Keep reading to the end). It has served to provoke and inspire my preparatory reflections for our worship on Christmas Eve, particularly at the 10 PM service.

“Flight to Egypt.” Nicholas Mynheer. (Mynheer-art.co.uk)

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top) 

 

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