Little by Little

If I don’t still myself I can’t welcome the birds. It is
against the backdrop of silence I hear them. Little by

little their being unfurls. First the loudest, closet to
my ear. When I release into you, relax in your arms,

beauty erupts. Flap of wing, flash and whirr, a trill
between two lovers. I hear. I don’t need to see. But

I must welcome silence first. Little by little
I become One with your Incarnation.

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Author’s Note:

Sorry, but this note is a bit long.

I go to a retreat house several times a year. Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House is a silent house, unless there is a group retreat where the participants are encouraged to share in their workshop. However, they are still required to keep silent in the rest of the house, as well as on the grounds outside. Being that this is new for most, whispered conversations, stolen giggles or phone calls home can ring through the house without the suspects suspecting anything. One does not realize how expertly silence carries sound. I don’t mind. I understand.

But this weekend there are no groups. There are only ten of us and the silence is luscious.

Except for the birds. Oh, the birds.

I have never heard such a choir in my life. It has continued through day, except for an occasional pause allowing them to listen, along with us, to the thunderstorms.

My poem came from my wide reading so far this weekend.

Nadia Bolz Weber‘s homily at the 2015 Festival of Homiletics regarding Jesus instructing his disciples to become-child like is refreshing. Also, I so welcome her choice of referring to God as God, not Him or even Her. Thank you.

Also, informing this poem is a group that is new to me. Street Psalms makes a home in Denver and my pastor, Scott Jenkins, works with them. This quote from their e-mail scripture lesson spoke volumes to me. It is adapted from their book, Geography of Grace: Doing Theology from Below, Chapter 4, by Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke

“The Apostle Paul uses another metaphor to unpack the incarnation in  Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.” The Greek word here for workmanship is poiema. For Paul, the incarnation means that “we are God’s poetry” to the world. God is speaking poetry to us and through us to the world.

It is our distinct privilege to be in community with people in hard places who live as God’s poetry in this world enfleshed in human form. Raising up poets to incarnate God’s gospel song to lost, disenfranchised, and marginalized people is a vital enterprise.”

I cannot live my spiritual life without my home base. This weekend I am reading Eknath Eswaran‘s A More Ardent Fire, bringing me back to the basics of passage meditation and discovering the path to the Way of Love and the Way of Knowing. Thanks to my meditation partner, Kathleen Gorman, for this brilliant suggestion.

Finally, I am memorizing a new passage for mediation. Who would think that this would tie everything together – even using some of the same terminology spread throughout my reading – as it was chosen first before the other readings came to me.

Ah, yes. Synchronicity.

St. Teresa of Avila:

Her heart if full of joy in love
for in the Lord her mind is still
She has renounced all selfish attachments
and draws abiding joy and strength
from the One Within.
She lives not for herself, but lives
to serve the Lord of Love in all,
and swims the sea of life
breasting its rough waves joyfully.

Here are some photos of birdies I snapped on my walks.

I don't know birds, but this one was lovely.

I don’t know birds, but this one was lovely.

Look closely. Little green hummingbird walking with me.

Look closely. Little green hummingbird walking with me.

This tiny little one was so precious, not bold in color But the song was glorious.

This tiny little one was so precious, not bold in color. But the song was glorious.

 

At first I thought he was imagining himself a bird. Then I noticed he was just looking t himself in the clouds.

At first I thought he was imagining himself a bird. Then I noticed he was just looking at himself in the clouds. His little paw is balancing himself on the tree limb. 

 

Brigid of Kildare

In the eye of fire your swirl of spirit burns,
heats my soul, blazes with love. I step to the

threshold, move out of my own way to watch
geese soar into the early eve’s welkin purpled

in cold that is not yet spring ready. In your
fire-flamed breath I watch my rise, a waltz in

sky’s opening. You called a whispered welcome,
a generous invitation. I step aside, my fear

grounded. I answer, bare feet push
against earth’s grip to join in your dance.

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Author’s note:

I had the pleasure of meeting a saint, a goddess, unknown to me only a few weeks ago. Fr. Scott Jenkins asked me to do the homily for our monthly Celtic mass as St. Brigid of Kildare. The mass would take place on February 1, Brigid’s feast day and Imbolc.

It was a whirlwind three weeks. Research, writing a script, addition of a baptism at the mass (oh, so appropriate!), making a costume, rehearsing, and regular life chores of a first grade teacher, wife, and caregiver.

It was well worth it.

The homily was a transforming experience for me. My church, A Church of the Holy Family, is a place of loving and wonderful people who accept all. We are part of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC). I am only a member for slightly over a year, but have been embraced and my gift of writing and acting has been encouraged and honored. I cannot have found a more welcoming home.

Also, I found Brigid, a saint and goddess I will treasure.  I was lucky to have gone on a private silent retreat during this time at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House allowing me time to explore Brigid and Celtic spirituality in some depth.  I find that Brigid is leading me in a discernment process right now. I wake to her blessings each day.

And I not only discovered Brigid, but was also connected to an artist through a dear friend, C.J. Prince, a writer who lives in Bellingham, Washington. The artist, Joanna Powell Colbert, was creating this new portrait of Brigid at the same time I was creating the homily. A print of Ms. Powell Colbert’s Brigid’s Fire now resides on my mediation altar. Please visit her site to see Brigid’s Fire, other beautiful work, and a blessing for Imbolc, the beginning of spring.

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It is hard to believe all of this  happened in a few short weeks. It is the beginning of what I hope to be a good journey.

Tender

Her feet planted firmly on the ground
back arches, head bends to the vine

she pulls, roots for tubers to fill her basket.
Hands caked with mud from the depths of

earth she shakes, brushes, and releases each
prize with care into a community for all. She

hasn’t time for worry of the sun, only feels its
burn on her back through gossamer cloth. When

she stands to stretch like a child rising from
slumber, her face, her heart now lifted to the light,

in the blaze she shines, moist in the heat of his
life source. In the muck covering her hands she

smells his sweat of creation. From the basket
she holds the stuff of his sculpting. In her heart

she burns with his love. Her labor raised in
praise, she tenders her harvest.

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Author’s Note:

Retreat. In my silent retreat I find there is hard work to do. But, in the end, as long as I tend my job, there a way evolves and shows itself.

Written Saturday, January 18, 2014, Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, Sedalia, CO, a silent house.

Archangels

Archangels

They lose their wings in battle,
Michael, Gabriel, Raphael.

Amid the chattel of war
one may never notice

dried sticks of grace left behind
unceremoniously scattered

among the leftovers.
Michael, Gabriel, Raphael,

phoenix, paragon, paradigm.
Through His unyielding love

warriors again are adorned,
valor once more apportioned.

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Author’s Note:

This weekend brought me back to my oasis on the outskirts of the city. I am again spending the weekend at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado.

This is my fourth or fifth retreat in the last several years. It is a silent house. The only ones who talk are the Jesuits or Sister Eileen who run the sessions. Of course, there are always those who try to whisper and don’t realize that when you are in a silent house, a whisper is just as obvious as the coals trains passing by.

But I welcome the coal trains. They are soothing. I grew up near train tracks and lived most of my years somewhere close enough to hear them if you listened very carefully. I no longer live near this sound that is so comforting, so I eagerly await my stay here.

This weekend brought a change for me, though. It was a surprise. One reason I always attend guided retreats is that I have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fill my time alone. Well, I have grown in my ability to be quiet and alone and not get bored. Hoping to put a very stressful few months behind me, after attending several of the talks, I told Sister Eileen I was taking a break. I needed more quiet. I hope I didn’t hurt her feelings.

I walked. I did my daily passage meditation that I am in the process of learning near a statue of St. Francis with little birds chirping all around me. And I walked more. I walked around taking photos of the deer and rabbits and the flowers. I walked to the gazebo on the hill.

On my way back from the gazebo, I noticed the once fully covered bark path was now getting a bit sparse. Earlier storms carved tiny valleys, now dried, in the path. Mud curled drying in the sun and sticks of bark were spread thin. It was here that I was inspired to write. During liturgy this morning, Father Kinerk mentioned it was the feast day of the Archangels – Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Putting these two events together gave me my idea for Archangels.