Waiting for Hope
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
Into the womb of the Sacred deliver us.
Brood us, Lifegiver.
Warm our crippled core
with the elixer of your hope.
The immalleable membrane of despair
Stretched to the limits against
We dared to imagine-
© Rita H Kowats 4-10-2017
(Inspired by The Lord’s Prayer, New Zealand Prayer Book)
The video takes a few seconds to begin…don’t give up!
Photo Credit: Lynn Schooler, Juneau AK
Sometimes we have so much difficulty seeing clearly what is ahead of us. Recently I was at Holden Village, a retreat center in the mountains. The top photo was taken out my bedroom window, which was covered with snow. The colors were beautiful, but I couldn’t tell at all what was beyond my window, other than the snow. Less than 48 hours later, because of melting snow, I was able to see the trees and buildings beyond my window. Life can be like this—we struggle and struggle to make sense out of life, not seeing our way out of a difficult situation.
Then something happens that changes our vision and brings sudden clarity. The confusion and struggle melt away as the snow did, opening up to an answer. The snow melts when the temperatures get warm enough. One can wait for that to happen or use a shovel to dig your way through the snow. When our vision of a situation is blocked by something, we may have to wait or perhaps there is something we can do to bring clarity. What or who helps you when you are in the midst of confusion and struggle and need clarity? Since my blocked window was on the 2nd floor, I wasn’t capable of removing the snow. I had to wait. Are you able to wait when nothing you can do removes the block, when struggling is futile? How is God a part of finding clarity? How is God a part of stopping the struggle and waiting?
1 Corinthians 13: 12-13. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Marcia Mclaughlin is my colleague in spiritual direction ministry. She ministers as spiritual director, pastoral care counselor, and retreat leader at Richmond Beach UCC. I am delighted to share her wisdom with you.
Link to Marcia’s Linkedin Profile:
to the world
that the world may see
who I am;
not the mask that hides my flaws
not the mask that hides my beauty.
I bask in the light and
I take off the mask.
– Jocelyn Soriano
Do you see what I see? Retired, and contemplative by nature, I have the time to dedicate an hour each morning to read posts relating to spirituality, poetry, justice, psychology, and LGBTQ concerns. I try to be present to bloggers’ experiences and expression. Often their stories stay with me throughout the day, and as I recall them I am in solidarity. A pattern has emerged which gives me hope in the midst of the incessant ego-driven political chatter and gratuitous violence our world continues to spew out.
This is the hope I see: a longing and a commitment to be real. Where my baby boomer generation learned to wear masks, the millennium, (generation “Y”) and generation “X” bloggers, are unafraid to show their mistakes, even their deepest wounds. I am not talking Dr. Phil Show here…What I read is not for show; rather, the sharing seems to come from an authentic desire to grow. They face the truth with courage. They do not wait for a guru to tell them their “truth.” They strip down until they find it themselves and they bask in their humanness instead of cowling in shame. When I was their age the false humility I was taught made me ashamed of being human and kept me from growing. The masks I wore became very heavy.
I put my hope here. Do you see what I see?
While looking for food, a nomad in the Namib Desert might see this little Fringe-Toed Lizard doing his gymnastics to survive the otherwise unsurvivable heat. He lifts one appendage at a time, removing it momentarily from the sand’s heat. At noon he will burrow into the cooler sand beneath the surface. At dawn our nomad would enjoy the cool mist blowing in from the ocean, and with many other plants and animals, sip from its moisture left on leaves. The Sidewinder snake adapts its behavior by heaving its body across the sand, touching down in only two places at a time.
Adapting. And how do we human beings adapt our souls to meet the overwhelming challenges thrown at us by our environment? Like these desert animals, we are a resilient lot. We survive and we often thrive. Adaptation of the soul is analagous to adaptation to environments; however, unlike other animals, we can make choices- choices which get us and others into dire situations, and choices which redeem us. Apartheid imprisoned Nelson Mandella for twenty-eight years, and his spirit adapted and thrived. I can only conjecture about the details of Mandella’s adaptation. You have developed your ways of adapting to spiritual challenges, to “The Dark Night of the Soul,” as John of the Cross called it. These choices have redeemed me at times:
1. Be Faithful
To mantras that focus me, affirmations, rituals, other prayer forms.
2. Be Helpful
Seek out viable and positive service opportunities. Service takes us out of ourselves.
3. Be Creative
Paint, draw, write, compose music, play music) Creative activity often puts us into an altered state where we can forget our despair for a while, and unite with the Other.
4. Be Communal
Talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend.
These adaptations get me through the heat of the day: Old truths embedded in a new metaphor.
Canada geese cast
On the now-rumpled lake,
Announcing Autumn’s Advent.
Flys with the geese,
Her feathers borne
On the breath of God
Rescued for the moment
From shadows of
War. Hate. Greed.
This moment of ecstasy was shattered by the loud, strident voices of three homeless men who arrived at the lake eager to party. Imagine, life getting in the way of spiritual revelry! All efforts to keep my feathers flying failed, so I continued on my walk. Once disappointment faded, I realized that this is life: feather and shadow. I resolved to use these gifted moments of flight to prepare for battle with the shadows of injustice.
Thanks to my soul-sisters, Emily Dickinson and Hildegard of Bingen, for the loan of their sacred images of hope and feather.
In an effort to protect our egos, we leave in our wake, a destructive landscape of regret. Our acts of protection are as much an animal response as protecting their physical lives is for other animals. The difference, of course, is that we can strengthen our egos sufficiently to withstand attacks and move beyond them for the sake of the common good. The process of moving beyond ego creates a soul-landscape rich in variety. Remnants of ego caught on jagged crags, conjure memories of lies to self and others; charred skeletons of timber stand in witness to courageous suffering endured, and hopeless suffering self-inflected.
Our soul’s geography resembles the terrain of active volcanoes years after they have exploded. Destructive lava flow has given way to affluent bursts of bold, bright, wildflowers- the acts of justice and compassion sown as seeds alongside germs of ego. Patches of green miraculously inch their way through the bowl of impenetrable metamorphic rock.
Just as rock can be intrinsically altered by the flow of hot lava, so is the soul dramatically altered by the movement of the Spirit, and our response to her. If we trust the Spirit, and trust ourselves to grapple with our instinct to protect our egos, seedlings will dot the horizon. Wildflowers, once extirpated by fear, will burst forth like fireworks on Independence Day.
I recommend frequent road trips through the terrain of our souls.