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How do I settle myself into one way of being
where answers come from eyes that see through
one prism, many sides and angles sparkling
in rainbow light, but still within one way of being.
I walk with many, who through compassion weave
their way from one point to the next not so concerned
of the correct way, the one way, but know the only way
will unfold by staying true, moving gently as One.
I walk my path with my words freely given
patterning the road, trimming clouds, embellishing
trees, ornaments delicately suspended on branches,
perched on stems, fields baptized with me.
I am free of musts and dos, onlys that try
to explain what something doesn’t mean.
I rest under wide sky berth of Eternity
mantling every being, not just a chosen few.
I am still, I assume like many, processing the violence and the violent response that grips the world.
I ask myself what I need to do, how I can help, what is the answer?
This I know, I must start with myself. I must see the Divine in all – people as well as plant, animal, things – as we are all made of the same atoms, stardust as it seems.
I must break down the walls that separate me from others, let the box open and crumble into dust. I find it hard to be in certain containers right now. I feel the need to expand, grow bigger, see through the eyes of others.
I can no longer label myself. When someone asks me who I am, I stutter. Teacher? Actor? Writer? Catholic? Christian?
Labels are dangerous. We need to let them go. Even though they feel safe and give us confidence, labels build walls.
I take an eraser today to myself and rub away woman, wife, teacher, writer, all of the labels, except one.
As we all are, and need to be.
A Prayer for Paris
Today is the day, the moment, the now,
extinguish the flame of fear.
Smother embers of hatred beneath
steps taken in compassion.
Let smoke of bitterness rise,
dissipate into wide ocean sky.
May clemency shine through us to
quell the bleakness of terror.
May our hands join to bear our Oneness.
May our voices lift above the madness
to sing a song of accord.
Guide us to be strong in You.
Amen. Amen. Amen.
Today there can be no other way.
Friday was a difficult day from the small space inside my classroom where hatred reared its head to the streets of Paris where pain flowed from open wounds.
I learned a lesson in both spaces. I cannot give details, but I am a teacher and this week was parent conferences. I experienced something I never have seen in my fifteen years of teaching. After attempting to process the event with outside eyes, my wise friend gently offered, “Don’t internalize the violence.” Thank you, Stefan Andre Waligur.
I never looked at words in that way. Yes, I experienced the violent power of words. I felt as if I had been wounded and could barely function the rest of the day.
On my drive home, the horror was just unfolding. This time the violence came through weapons and hatred in the name of God.
I learned a lesson today about pain. Those who wound are wounded. I must see through my pain and hurt to recognize theirs. Very difficult. But that is what our Elder Brother Jesus has asked of us. Simple. No other rule. No boxes to check off. No indulgences to be paid. Simply…
…remember the root command, love one another…
Simple. Not easy.
A very special thank you to my dear and long-time friend, Michael R. Duran. Michael is an artist. He creates. The above photo was taken last evening, the evening of the Paris tragedy, at the opening night of Shrek, The Musical at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center in Colorado. He designed the set, a magical set as always. His work is beautiful, captivating, and encompasses the Divine.
These are his words:
“Little kid wearing souvenir Shrek ears at Opening Night curtain call moving into the aisles to see better because everyone leapt to their feet …….again. For a little over two hours we held the outside world at bay and watched a show about tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness…….”
Thank you, Michael, for bringing us together through your gift.
And below the wisdom from a man, long gone, but who captivated my six year-olds this week as I showed them one of his videos. We watched Mr. Rogers as he took us to potter’s studio in New Mexico. We learned about making pottery as we explore our Native sisters and brothers this month of Thanksgiving. When the video ended, the mesmerized faces turned to me and asked to watch more.
More. Yes. We need more of you, Mr. Rogers, more of your gentleness and kindness and compassion.
I vow to give them more….
Daylight Savings Time, A Prayer
The sun sleeps early now, low below mountain
brim in contrived time for convenience sake.
Darkness fills all corners of my yard, dry leaves
crackle without a seeming force, a chill girdles my
bones. I cannot move. But on this day of remembrance
thinned by seasons conjoined, a balance of eternity,
I nest eclipsed, hushed by your whispers.
Joe, grandfather beekeeper, Globeville cobbler,
you taught me how to tie my shoes.
Agnes, grandmother prayers ascended day and night,
your gentle silence offered wonder of the Divine.
Annette, mother chef, tap-dancing seamstress,
you filled me with your singularity and sweet creations.
Leo, father craftsman, steadfast protector,
you taught me how to do it myself, never give up.
It is not perfected saints that light my path.
Miscues, omission, infirmities, offense do not
bypass any foot that falls upon earth. It was your
patient touch, your noble grace, your broken soul,
and your constancy that formed me,
still guides me from obscurity towards radiance.
I walk my way because of you,
held in tenderness, brave in my passage.
I sing to you in gratitude. Amen. Amen. Amen.
I celebrated All Saints Day twice this year. Once at Sunday Mass. The second will be at our Celtic Celebration. I think, after too many years gone by, I at last understand this holy day.
Oh, a once-and-not-so-perfect Roman Catholic, I knew my saints. I knew who to pray to in order to get what I needed. You see, I was not important enough to talk straight to God. I was not a mother or a nun or a man. So I needed someone else, not as high up the ladder, to hear my voice and send it on. There is a hierarchy in the RC church.
Jesus was also too busy for the likes of me. Mary took care of families and mothers. It took a while but I found my saint. St. Therese of Lisieux touched my heart with one story in particular. She would sneak into the kitchen late at night and eat the leftover chicken! Ah, perfect. Or, should I say, not so perfect a saint, perfect for me.
So, I prayed to her and roses came into my life, especially during my bout with cancer. Roses were everywhere. The scent. Vases of silk ones in corners of doctor’s offices and in pictures in radiation rooms. A wreath on my door still hangs. She was my saint who spoke to God for me.
But three years ago when I walked through the doors of a little storefront church named a Church of the Holy Family, ECC, things changed.
This season, I understand. It’s been a wonderful journey to this place, learning of the light that is inside of me and of those not so perfect saints who were and are present in my life and shine a light on the path for me.
I am reminded of the beautiful words of Linda Hogan from Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living, “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”
The St. Theresa image above is by Teri Shackelford Harroun. Teri is a woman who some people call “Father.” She is a priest in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion atLight of Christ in Longmont, CO. She is also Vicar of the Rocky Mountain Region of the ECC, a mom, a poet, an artist, and a just a delight to be around.
I surely must move those
leaves to their proper rest
before flakes, surely not allow
them to stay where footsteps
will grind together snow and
leaves to become a musty cake
making an impossible run.
There are rules I must follow
to keep my path clear, ready
for its pilgrim to walk safe
Yet, I ask if rules are a good
matter to seek my attention,
give over my time. Rules beget
more rules until rules are all
that cover what was once a
simple way, now made less clear.
Instead I listen, start inside
with a whisper, learn who I am
from the Source. And I see a path,
simple and true, still covered with
leaves and snow. Only then
can my hand stretch to yours.
Together we will divine our way.
This Sunday we celebrate All Saints Day.
It is a time when we look back and remember those who have gone before us. More importantly, we thank them for making our path easier to follow and for supporting our growth into compassionate lives.
If we learn to see inside ourselves, discover the Divine within us that is always present, we cannot possibly look into another’s eyes without seeing our Holy One looking back. Then can we take this path together as One. But we must acknowledge that place inside of ourselves. Our ancestors, saints, and mystics help guide us to this place of realization.
I thank Ryan Taylor of Access Denver for his reflection, in Street Psalms’ Word From Below, on the reading from The Revised Common Lectionary this week. And a sincere thanks to Fr. Scott Jenkins from a Church of the Holy Family for his prayers and the Beatitudes that will be read in the Celtic Celebration of All Saints this coming Saturday. All are welcome to join us in this celebration.
About the author:
I am Lexanne Leonard, Artist-In-Residence at a Church of the Holy Family,ECC. I am also a first grade teacher who has found her ministry in sharing the word through poetry and presenting monologues of women from the New Testament.