Holding Vigil

Used with permission

“Vision After the Sermon “by Paul Gauguin

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”  Gn. 32:24

“…I saw God face to face, and my life was spared.”  Gn. 32:32

Recently, I enjoyed viewing the work of my favorite Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin.  “Vision After the Sermon” took me by the shoulders and shook me awake.  “Pay attention to me!” it shouted.  Initially, it profoundly disturbed me.  I identified with Jacob and felt abandoned on the other side of the river, left to wrestle alone.  I was angry that the spectators judged from afar, while Jacob fought on their behalf.  My response was so intense, I let it live itself out, unattended for a week.

Spirit has done her work in the meantime.  Today, as I return to the painting, it whispers, “They are not spectators.  They hold vigil for Jacob.”  Awe impregnates me.  What a holy thing it is to hold vigil for someone who struggles to see the face of God.  When we are aware of someone’s struggle and we set aside a time to surround him with the light and grace of God, we are in solidarity with him, even while standing on the other side of the river.  Because we vigil, our loved one, or a group about whom we care, is not alone.  We can send someone the energy of God whenever we think of her throughout the day.  In this way, the spectator becomes a participant.

I have experienced the spiritual practice of holding vigil before an important meeting.  It can have a profound effect on the outcome, because it frees us from the need to force a desired outcome, thus allowing the Spirit to guide the struggle.  When we intentionally pray for the openness to see the face of God in unexpected places- even in a business meeting- our lives as we know them are spared, changed.

It comes to me that I hold vigil with all of you who read these reflections.  We wrestle together.  We are a community in search of the Face of God.  Thank you.  Amen.

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Glimpsing Joy

JOY

ME on joy

Buongiorno!

The essence of joy is detachment. Pure joy is an experience of ecstasy, in which we stand outside of ourselves. It is like the baby featured recently on YouTube. Every time his father tore a piece of paper, the baby erupted into peals of spontaneous gut-giggles(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc. (I dare you to refrain from giggling.) True joy is standing outside of all ego-judgments, and entering into an experience feet first.

 Glimpse

Walking along the Puget Sound waterfront in 80 degree weather, I met a Vietnam Vet walking his white shih Tzu, “Pootie.” “Pootie is a service dog trained to create a peaceful environment for the vets he visits at the VA hospital. Time enjoyed with “Pootie” lowers blood pressure, and keeps the demons of PTSD at bay, at least during this sacred, liminal time. This little Shih Tzu seems to have the same effect on his owner. As we chatted there in the glorious sun, joy emanated from this vet and made its home in me.

Glimpse

A walk along Echo Lake began with my daily encounter with “Beautiful,” a magnificent Great Blue Heron. Escaping notice at first, I finally spotted her hiding among the cattails. “There you are!” I cheered. She stretched her long neck and turned her head sideways, the better to see me. I serenaded her with, “How are you today, Beautiful? It’s so delightful to see you again. Thank you for coming.” And she slowly plodded her way over to within ten feet of me. Watching. Listening. Honest.

I continued on to the lake’s end, and watched three groups of people fish. A man walked by me with an eight inch pink-speckled trout dangling from his thumb. His nearly toothless grin and tattered coveralls conjured images of Tom and Huck playing along the shores of Old Man River. I greeted the fisher with, “You caught one!” He smiled widely and announced, “Oh, I caught a few. You want this one?” I hesitated as a movie of me walking home and into the lobby of my apartment building with this fish dangling from my thumb, played out in my head. Tom caught my hesitation and in a mournful tone exclaimed, “You don’t like FISH?” I rushed to explain my dilemma, which he graciously understood. I wish I had accepted Tom’s gift. I could have mounted it on my wall and framed it with a plaque cautioning, “DON’T LOOK A GIFT FISH IN THE MOUTH.”

Glimpse

In 1982, two years after my sojourn in Berkeley, I moved from a small provincial town to Capitol Hill in Seattle. Finally, I could breathe again! Capitol Hill is home to many citizens of the kingdom of Out-of-the-Box. Last week, in 2013, I had returned for an appointment and joyously wasted time strolling down 15th Avenue. I was ecstatic to rediscover the Bagel Deli, which was established in 1980. Last year it was awarded the title, “Best Bagel in Seattle.” Still crazy, after all these years!” (Thank you, Paul Simon.)

Inside, delicious memories, not all culinary, wafted around the loft like ghosts looking for a hostess: stimulating conversationalists, friends always up for a good belly laugh, lox and bagels to die for. It had been a time in my prime, when my body and my mind still cooperated with me. I sat at a table beside a wall of windows thrown open to lure in the cool Puget Sound breeze on this warmish day. Before pouncing on my bagel, I “gave thanks for all that has been, and said yes to all that will be.” (Dag Hammarskjold)

Ciao!

Some people write gratitudes at each day’s closing. I savor these glimpses of joy as reminders of what God can do in me if I jump in feet first. Nourish us with your own glimpses of joy in the comment section, if you feel so moved.

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”: A New Twist

ME quote

I used to raise consciousness at a navy subase about the violence inherent in possessing and using nuclear weapons.  Weekly, a worker drove through into the base as I passed out leaflets.  His truck carried a rifle rack and he looked straight ahead, never acknowledging my presence.  I was convinced that he was an irreconcilable “redneck” who surely hated this “bleeding heart liberal.”  One day he seemed different.  His despondence was palatable.  I responded to it by blurting out, “How are you?”  He shouted back, “How am I?  I’m terrible.  How else would I be having to go in there every day and do what I have to do?”  I had reduced him to my erroneous perception of him.  In the spirit of today’s Eckhart quote, I would say I had divided him from his true self by dwelling on what I thought to be his flaws.  Not exactly following the call to love God with my whole heart, and my neighbor as myself.

As human beings we seem destined to make judgments about one another.  Nothing alarming about it- it’s the human condition; however, when we choose to dwell on the flaws of others until that’s all we see- it divides us from our own best self, from the other, and from God.  We are all more than our flaws.

My meditation birthed this prayer.  If it speaks to you too, I thank the Spirit:

Undivided Heart Prayer