The Care and Tending of Time

July 30, 2018

 

My granddaughter will soon be seven months old. Even as I am joyfully present to her, I am a little disoriented. When I gave birth to my own babies—David in 1982 and Robert in 1984—my parents were younger than I am now.  They passed from this life—Dad in 2000, Mother in 2002. Now it’s 2018. Where is their daughter, young mother of boys? And who is this new grandmother? It seems I’m still here. I’m still me, with most of my wits about me! And oh how I wish Mother and Dad could meet their great-granddaughter Amelia.

 

Time seems to fold on itself. I am trying to keep my balance.  These are not new thoughts! But they are mine.

 

As a poet I take meaning and solace in particularities, things I can touch. A clock comes to mind. It kept time for many years in the lobby of the Bank of Prescott, Nevada County, Arkansas. My grandfather Robert found employment at the bank around 1919 (he would have been twenty.) Perhaps one of the duties of this tall young man from Texas was to tend and wind the clock. For sure, he served the bank for nigh onto sixty years.

 

Later the clock kept time for Robert’s son Jim, in his law office. Now it keeps time for Jim’s son Robert, in that same office. I asked my brother to send me a picture. He did:

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Knowing he has nothing to do but serve apprentice to his big sister’s curiosity, I next asked him to see if he could find a date of manufacture. No, but he found the manufacturer:

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He also unearthed this news item:

 

May 9, 1914: The Bank of Prescott is today placing an electric chime clock on the corner of its building which will be very much appreciated by everyone passing. It has large dials facing Elm and Second Streets and the chimes will sound the hour, also each quarter hour. At night it will be illuminated by electric lights.

 

Further research reveals the clock on the corner is an ‘Eau Claire,’ it cost $800, and it was made by the Peco-McClintock Company, of Hockins, Minnesota.

 

McClintock Company, of Minnesota.  Hmmm. Whether the clock on the corner is related to the lobby clock I know so well, whether they went into service around the same time, I couldn’t say.

 

After the bank built new quarters in 1965, the corner clock was restored and reworked and placed on the  grounds of the ‘new’ county courthouse. There it stands to this day, faithfully and accurately keeping time for Prescott, still melodiously chiming the hours. On the occasion of its installation at the courthouse, the Nevada News wrote:

 

When it was first installed it was the hope of the officials that the chimes would mean something to all our people—that they would have a message for the youngster on his way to school, a thought for the business man who bustles through his day, intent on nothing but the picking up a few dollars, and a solace for the old.

 

That the chimes would mean something to all our people, as we bustle through our days. It’s good for us, ‘to everyone passing,’ to think on these things.  Also to recall the words of the poet Mary Oliver:  “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 

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–sometime pre-clock, between 1904 and 1914

 

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–1936, ready for a parade. (I’m pretty sure it’s 5pm, not 5am)

 

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–bank lobby, sometime in the 1920’s, #2 being my grandfather Robert

Mutual Shock

July 29, 2018

 

End of the day, safe in my nest—

Turn off the lights, ease toward my rest—

Turn on the lamp—and what can be said?

Small green lizard, asleep on my bed.

Asleep on my bed. Now there’s a surprise.

He made a wrong turn is what I surmise.

Now darkness has fallen, so why not compose

His emerald self for a night of repose?

Drifting and dreaming, his daily work done—

His eyes spring open, for lo—it’s the sun!

Great day in the morning! The morning looks dim:

A dreadful Giant is reaching for him.

‘You’ll not take me,’ he vows.  I say, ‘Do not fear.

I’ve got you, my friend, just behind your two ears.

And fight me you may, and threaten to bite—

Oh jaws of doom, I swoon at the sight!

Two inches of lizard? I think I can handle

Two inches of life, aflame like a candle.

So squirm and struggle with all your soul

Till out in the night I let you go.’

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–Images by Kate Hambright, July 28, 2018

 

The Sacred Art of Self-decoration

July 27, 2018

“I learned about the sacred art of self decoration with the monarch butterflies perched atop my head, lightning bugs as my night jewelry, and emerald-green frogs as bracelets.”

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD

 

Grace-note this week: My sister gave me a gardenia–the permanent kind!  Creamy white, with leaves of dark green. There’s a pin on the back, to attach it to one’s person.  To thank her, I took a selfie with my computer. I call it “duded up to go preach.”  And yes I know the gardenia seems to be poised for escape.  Pin-placement is an art, and mine needs to be refined!

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So I got to the place of preaching, began my homily, looked up after Paragraph 2, and there sat my son, who had slipped in.  On his lap, my enchanting granddaughter, six months old. She comported herself well for the remainder of my talk. Well, she wriggled a lot, but kept silence.  When I sat down I took this animated bundle of heaven into my lap.  First thing she found: the gardenia!  Already, an eye for beauty!  She fingered it carefully. As a sign of her reverence she refrained from seizing it and putting it in her mouth.

 

Yesterday I went to her house to keep her for the afternoon. Her regular sitter had bought her some small “jelly” sandals.  Clear, sparkly.  Adorning the toes: white flowers. White goes with everything!

“In Victorian times flowers were used to convey messages between people.  When a person was unable to outright express their feelings of love for another, it was and still is a  common practice to say it with flowers…Gardenias are given to convey “you’re lovely”. Used in this way, the gardenia is a flower that can be given to lovers, friends, and family. It’s a way of telling them how lovely they are. And because the color of the gardenia is white, it also signifies purity. This flower is a wonderful addition to a wedding bouquet as it fits any color theme and it also brings the message of love and purity. Other commonly associated meanings are: trust, hope, clarity, dreams, intuition, renewal, alignment, friendship, innocence, protection, self-reflection, trust.”

Explorer Preview

Dear Class,

 

In this week’s lesson we will move forward ten centuries, from  David, who wore the crown of Israel, to Jesus of Nazareth, who refused a crown (John 6:15).   The assigned Gospel reading is John 6:1-21.  Try to read it before class.  Reminder: Our lessons are now archived on my website everlastingarms.net. They are pretty much ‘bare bones’ without the conversation of our class-time, but they are there for your reference.

 

 

Last Sunday we talked about King David’s idea to build a ‘house’ in Jerusalem for the Ark of the Covenant.  After all, he himself had a brand new ‘palace of cedar.’ So he thought it only fitting that the Presence of God embodied in the Ark should have a better place to live than a tent!  Through the prophet Nathan, God indicated to David that He doesn’t need a house to live in.  But He would build a house for David–a dynasty–and He would let one of David’s sons build Him a physical place to dwell.  Our class voiced the idea that since God is everywhere, we should not say that God is only in one particular box, that is, the Ark of the Covenant. Or, to be more accurate, in the empty space on top of the box, between the angels, hovering over the mercy seat!

 

For me, the meditation below sheds some light.  Rohr seems to be saying God is indeed everywhere, AND God is in a box.  Both! Only instead of an Ark, Richard is talking about the bread and wine of communion.  Ah, a little closer to home!  Rohr seems to be saying we humans need  tangible reminders of the Presence of God. Something physical, to chew on!  Be it box or bread, it’s a gift for us, to help us remember that God is everywhere, in every breath, in every cell of our body, in every food that gives us strength.  God is in all of these! Rohr says, and I believe this, that the church (and not just the Catholic church) needs to do better at helping people know they themselves are invited to be transformed, that they can claim the very mindset and power of Jesus.

 

How to help our people? We need to be more intentional about teaching and practicing the ‘proven disciplines,’ especially contemplation.  Action and contemplation–a Divine Dance. So…as part of your practice this week, I invite you to spend some time in silence with the three images above.  They are just images, but they are also doorways to Sacred Presence.

 

As to the bread and wine, remember that our church offers them every Wednesday night at our Refresh service. 6 – 6:30 pm, Dishman Chapel.  I’ll be giving the meditation at this week’s service.  That is, tomorrow.  Pray for me as I prepare, and come if you can.

 

Eucharist- Richard Rohr

Real Presence
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

All my life as a Catholic, I have held the orthodox belief that the “Real Presence” of Christ is communicated in the bread and wine of the sacred meal (rather shockingly taught by Jesus in John 6:35-58). This is not a magical idea, but simply the mystery of incarnation taken to its logical conclusion—from creation itself, uniquely to Jesus’ body, to the human Body of Christ that we all are, and then to the very elements from the earth and human hands like bread and wine to serve as food for the journey. Why believe the universal Presence is “Real” if it is not also real in one concrete ordinary spot? (We are meant to struggle with this realization, as we see in John 6:60-66.)

The very notion of presence is inherently and necessarily relational and also somehow embodied. Note that Jesus did not say “Think about this,” “Prove this,” “Look at this,” “Carry this around,” and, surely not, “Argue about this.” He just said, “Eat this . . . and drink all of you” (Matthew 26:26-27). As Augustine (354-430) would preach later, the message is that you are what you eat and drink! [1]

We spent much of our history arguing about the “how” and the “if” and who could do what Catholics called the “transubstantiation” of the bread and wine instead of simply learning how to be present. We made the Eucharist into a magic act to be believed instead of a personal transformation to be experienced. We changed bread more than people, it seems to me. We emphasized the priest as the “transformer” instead of the people as the transformed. We made “Real Presence” into a doctrine (which has its very good meaning!), but we seldom taught people how to be really present (which is contemplation). When you are really present, you will experience the Real Presence for yourself.

The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence through our available presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery; we begin to chew on it.

We must move our knowing to the bodily, cellular, participative, and unitive level. Then we keep eating and drinking the Mystery until one day it dawns on us, in an undefended moment, “My God, I really am what I eat!” Henceforth we can trust and allow what has been true since the first moment of our existence: We are the very Body of Christ. We have dignity and power flowing through us in our naked existence—and everybody else does too, even though most of us do not know it. This is enough to guide and empower our entire faith journey. If Christians did not already have Eucharist as our central ritual, we would have to create something very similar.

References:
[1] Augustine’s message to the newly baptized, Estote quod videtis, et accipite quod estis, is often translated as “Be what you see, and receive what you are.” See Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 272, available at http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/augustine_sermon_272_eucharist.htm.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publications: 2016), 298-299

 

Tears in My Ears

Refresh Worship Service

Trinity United Methodist Church / Beaumont, Texas

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

“Tears in My Ears”

Phoebe Hambright Dishman, Lay Speaker

 

Psalm 30:5b

 

         Weeping may endure for a night,

         But joy cometh in the morning.

 

Listen to Psalm 30, to the voice of the people,

three thousand years ago:

 

The people say: We have gone into a place of terrible trouble.

We do not say what the trouble was.

We do indicate it was overwhelming.

But here’s the good news: Trouble has been powerfully overcome.

All thanks and praise to the One who saved us.

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

A thousand years later, Jesus said,

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

 

To remember the grief makes keen the resurrection,

where new life begins, as sure as sunrise.

All praise the power of the Eternal One, who breathes new life.

 

To feel and understand these things requires experience, and maturity.

 

Observe a six-month old baby. She hasn’t been here long.

Her present moment is not very big.

 

Six months, an enchanting age. My granddaughter says,

‘You ask me who I am? I am Happy. Oh wait: I am Furious.’

 

Sadly, many folks get stuck right there, at six months old,

for the rest of their lives: ‘I am Happy. I am Furious.’

No. You are not these things.

You are a person. You are my darling Amelia.

 

Other persons make it to about the second grade.

Fewer still make it to adolescence and decide that’s as big as their present moment needs to be. Rarest of all, some keep developing.

It may not be fun to grow and keep growing then grow some more.

But it’s essential. I’m afraid our survival as a species depends on the will and courage of the rare to expand the present moment.

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

 

We gather here tonight as present moment practitioners of a sacred tradition called Christianity. For me, a better name might be the Way of the Wound. The Way of the Wound. This I got from Richard Rohr.

I think such a re-naming might bring us closer to the heart of Christ.

The heart of the Christ, I believe, is to extend a hand of blessing

to the woundedness of all who breathe.

 

Jesus said, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20)

 

All who breathe will suffer. When suffering comes,

the rejoicing help the sorrowing.

The strong help the weak.

The wise help the confused.

And oh how quickly those roles can reverse.

We need to be poised and prepared.

 

And so we practice the proven disciplines.

Believing ‘the right things’ is not enough.

 

My teaching partner told me more than once

that we humans need to restore our conscience

to its proper place in our lives.

He said that conscience is the art

of feeling every single thing we feel at the same time,

surviving the shock of that,

and moving forward in a loving, constructive way.

This is the sacred work, the personal responsibility a person owes

for the privilege of being alive.

 

To work with such a person—what can I say?

He went on to name my particular part of the work.

Your particular part, he said to me, is to re-enchant the world.

To bring color, and light, and song. The world is hungry for these.

 

Thank you, partner. Like Jesus, you make it hard to settle for less

than a life of cosmic significance!

 

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy cometh in the morning.

 

I am called Phoebe Ruth.

Phoebe is Greek for the reflected brilliance of the moon.

Ruth means mercy. Mercy, I believe,

comes from the time we spend on the dark side of the moon.

In the ice-cold shadow of suffering.

 

I saw in the paper there’s a healing art called singing bowls.

The vibrations of these large glass bowls can bring us back

from the dark side of the moon.

The thing is, someone who cares has to arrange the bowls,

and make them sing. Without the skill and energy of this person,

the bowls just sit there.

 

I get that. Being a roving prayer reporter, I had to go see.

 

I was not the only one. We were stacked in the room like proverbial cordwood. Which speaks to the need.

 

The ceiling was high, but floor space limited. My yoga mat had the dubious privilege of being right beside the bowl practitioner,

her largest bowl two feet from my left ear.

 

So we sank into silence, on mats and chairs and a sofa,

and the bowls began to sing, courtesy of mallets covered in leather,

run around their rims.

 

The music of the spheres, I am here to tell you, is very, very loud.

 

At first I felt annoyed, as in, I wish I had my $25 back.

 

Then I thought of the prophet Isaiah:

Morning by morning, You awaken my ear to listen.

You awaken my ear to listen, as one who learns. As one who learns. And I was obedient. I did not close my ears, nor did I turn aside.

 

If Isaiah can pay that kind of attention, so can I.

 

Then a thrumming started in my body, in my bones,

and I thought of the prophet Jeremiah,

how his bones burned with the word of the Lord,

nor did he run from the burning. So who am I to run?

Besides, I know how to be still. It’s a discipline I’ve worked at.

I can do this.

 

These lofty thoughts came and went.

My stomach began to growl for its supper.

I wondered if my car out back had been broken into yet.

 

All in all, I was grateful for whatever brought me here,

for space in my life to be stretched out on my back in a strange place, not knowing a soul, for one sacred hour, with nothing to do but listen.

To listen, perchance to heal.

 

The music went on. The musician’s name was Ann. Ann said in the article that brought me here that when she practices this healing art, she perceives the energy in each person in the room, and matches her music to that. Now here she was, very close to me, bending gracefully over her bowls.

 

I have no clue what faith tradition Ann springs from. But the Jewish tradition has a term: tikkun olam. Tikkun olam—repairing the world. For Ann, her repair kit is her bowls.

Pretty soon I went quite still in all my parts.

I felt no particular emotion.

Then came the tears. They leaked out of my eyes, ran down my face, made pools in my ears.

 

I just let it be.

 

No particular emotion, just the sound of the bowls, the silence of tears.

Tears spilling out of my ears, and down my shoulders, to the ground.

 

When the hour ended, I felt empty, and without words.

Perhaps that was the idea. A beautiful bowl, full of empty!

A present moment, expanded.

 

The post-session chatter began, about how wonderful it all was.

I wasn’t sure yet what I thought, so I said nothing.

I began preparing to ease inconspicuously toward the door.

 

Then a man, evidently a regular, spoke from his clear plastic pool float. With good cheer he said that when Ann played the bowls this night,

he saw more color than he ever had before.

This stopped me in my tracks. Metaphorically speaking,

I crept back from the dark edge of the campfire, into the light.

 

I myself had seen no colors. But I work with colors.

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Ann replied to the man that she felt the need for color in this room,

on this particular night,

and she had worked with the bowls

to send out as much color as the bowls had in them. Then she turned and looked keenly at me, so silent and pale and listening.

She looked, and then she wrapped me in her arms.

 

She also told us we might be feeling the after-effects of our energy work for two or three days.

 

All I know is that keeping baby Amelia the next afternoon was calm and bright. It usually is. But today was a deeper kind of calm.

I didn’t need to be any particular thing for my granddaughter. Just be. And let her be what she will.

 

I decided we would spend our last half-hour on the front porch.

As soon as Amelia realized where we were headed,

she wriggled with delight.

Her present moment is expanding, and that’s a fact.

 

 

We sat a spell on the front porch,

deliciousness of baby in my lap,

watching the neighborhood:

 

Blue car.

Red robin.

Green dragonfly.

Evil housefly.

Mail truck.

 

Her downy little head swiveled this way and that.

 

From time to time she looked down at my hands around her middle.

New hands, examining the grandmother.

 

As if that wasn’t heaven enough,

she suddenly arched backward,

to see if I was still there.

When she saw that I was indeed still there,

she graced me with a huge upside down grin.

 

Amelia Rose.

Amelia means hard working.

Rose means beauty, charm, and joy.

At six months old, Amelia Rose is already that,

and poised to be so much more.

 

I sense a practitioner taking up her sacred work.

 

The deepest pains may linger through the night,

But joy greets the soul with the smile of morning.

 

Jesus said, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

 

Amen.

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Are You Weary, Are You Heavy-hearted?

July 23, 2018

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–firstborn, and his maternal grandparents, 1982

 

Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you grieving over joys departed?

Tell it to Jesus, alone.

–Edmund S. Lorenz, 1876

 

As I mature I see more and more the necessity of telling my suffering, intentionally and completely, to the right ear.  I am so grateful for those friends and loved ones who have held me and listened.  Hopefully I am growing in compassion and usefulness to others.  Or at least in my capacity to bear witness to how things are, that is, of a nature to die:

 

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From that firm foundation, we can sing of life, ever-renewed.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, Come unto me and rest.

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down

thy head upon my breast.

 

I came to Jesus as I was: weary, and worn, and sad.

I found in him a resting place.

And he has made me glad.

–Horatius Bonar, 1846

Faithful Lover, by Hafiz

 

The moon came to me last night
With a sweet question.

She said,
“The sun has been my faithful lover
For millions of years.
Whenever I offer my body to him
Brilliant light pours from his heart.

Thousands then notice my happiness
And delight in pointing
Toward my beauty.

Hafiz,
Is it true that our destiny
Is to turn into Light
Itself?”

And I replied,
Dear moon,
Now that your love is maturing,
We need to sit together
Close like this more often
So I might instruct you
How to become
Who you
Are!

~ Hafiz, Daniel James Ladinsky ~