damp appreciation

Drip drop
goes the rain
hitting the ground
streaming down the drain.

It’s not raining today, but it has rained enough recently in Seattle to force my still hooked on summer attitude to shift toward darkness and dampness—and how to appreciate them.  My heart and soul have barely emerged from the dark night, and now the weather patterns emulate the cold dark feeling I thought I’d left behind.  Time to enter a seasonal appreciation for the night and for the rain…

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Prodigal Wanderings, Returning Home

Return of the Prodigal Son

I left home quite some time ago. Here, I do not write of the leaving home I did at age 19. No, I mean that over a year ago I left the holy sanctuary of God’s surrounding love and squandered away some of my blessed life.

Leaving home…is a denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God with every part of my being, that God holds me safe in an eternal embrace, that I am indeed carved in the palm of God’s hands and hidden in their shadows…Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one.
(Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 37)

Henri Nouwen so beautifully writes his journey home from depths and dark places in The Return of the Prodigal Son. Long ago acquainted with Nouwen’s work, this is one I missed—until now. His writing and life bring hope to me in an otherwise heartbreaking period in my life. Years of balance, strength, and peace have met their demise in the wake of rage and resentment. I am broken, shattered by a series of events in my own life, the choices I have made; and swallowed by similar downfalls in my family. Oh, what have I become that I obsess and rage instead of listen and pray?

In this moment of night I find myself emerging from melancholy to feel the embrace of God, rejoicing in another day, and thankful for shelter and food. I want it to linger, so I keep awake long into the night.

Nouwen says of home:

Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.”—the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus…the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. (37)

I have so many places, physical and emotion that have been “home”. Nouwen introduces the home that only a loving God can bring, and this home, I believe is expansive enough to encompass all places and times of being at home. These are “home” because I am loved by God.

Fearful of failure, I forge on. This is not the first time I have been at these crossroads, nor will it be the last. I should hope, however, that I am through one horrible cycle of self-destruction. The fear in me waits to fall again, and it says to me in a hurried tone: this time you may be on your own, even if you break through the darkness. Enter the image of the prodigal son—broken and shamed, he is embraced by his father. It is at the same time comforting and heartbreaking, as I prepare to welcome God’s embrace, and yet still have broken family and relations that are unresolved.

Faith keeps me going. “Faith,” Nouwen writes, “is the radical trust that home has always been there and always will be there.” Come what may with family, community, job, finances, health this radical trust believes I am home.

Annie Dillard writes of running from this love, too. In her book, Teaching a Stone to Talk, she writes:

Even now I wonder: if I meet God, will he take and hold my bare hand in his, and focus his eye on my palm, and kindle that spot and let me burn? But no. It is I who misunderstood everything and let everybody down. Miss White, God, I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. Sone once in Isarel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid. (p. 141)

So here I am. Unsure of what lies ahead. But, for the time being, safely held by God.

My Friend and Guide, the Heron

Tonight I became convinced that the Great Blue Heron is my animal spirit guide.  I have seen the Blue Heron many times this year, and each time has been a spiritual encounter.  I saw one at Discovery Park and multiple times at the Ballard Locks.  I haven’t been to those places lately, and I miss the walks I used to take.  Lucky me that Herons inhabit near my home.  The following is my winter encounter with the Blue Heron, and has awakened my spirit to her guidance of me…

Heron

Tonight I met a friend—or should I say, tonight a friend met me.  Her sudden appearance was a welcome sight along a dark road on a cold night.   Head bowed, body tense, I walked along a path next to the canal, lost inside my wandering mind.  With a deep breath of chilly December air, I looked up and saw the silhouette of her body atop a rock against the lights across the canal.   Silently and still, she stood, as if she, too, were in contemplation.  My feet stopped and body paused.  I called out to her.  “Oh friend!  I see you.  Where have you been?”  And I realized that I too, have been absent from these waters where we used to meet.  I called out again, “Oh me!  Where have I been?  Too long has it been since I saw you last.  Let us stand here and know each other.”  I stood there, breathless, recalling past encounters with my friend, the Heron.   Each time she stood in water, off at a distance, but the essence of her presence near to me.  Each encounter was mostly silent, though rich with meaning.  When it was time for me to go, I said goodbye and strode down the path.   Oh Blue Heron, watcher over my life, protect me and guide me through this cold winter night!

Mist and Shadow

If I were to put an image to my life in this moment, it would be a misty mountain scene.  This photo was taken in British Columbia this summer.  After the ferry ride from Skagway, AK we docked in Prince Rupert, BC and began the long drive down to Seattle.  What cannot be seen, are the beautiful peaks of mountains, hidden behind the mist.  They are there, and what a sight to behold when they are not shrouded by clouds!  This too, is a sight to behold in its mystery of dark and light.

Misty Mountain

Yesterday, Resurrection seemed an empty word.  I know this is not true, but a mind sunk beneath shadows senses not what good may be out there.  It is instead lost and fixated on gloomy predictions forecast under pessimistic conditions held tightly by a clouded and cluttered mind.  Unseen joy is shrouded by some part of me that would rather shiver in the rain without a coat, and slowly sulk through puddles than to stretch my arms out and breathe in the cool air.  Why is this so?  What part of me has the warped desire to remain in sad shadows and depressed depths?

Today I have experienced joy, though with night-time, anxiety and fear return as the knots tighten around my throat.  The times when I am joyful seem fleeting these days.  Again, I know what gives me joy and that there is much to rejoice about now.  On occasion, I am drawn out of the muck and dreariness into sun-splashed daylight.  I recognize the journey to be lived is marked with perils, uncertainty, loss, joy, love, hope…

I imagine myself walking through the mist and shadows.  And I can imagine this being a time of renewal.  The mist wets my face as I walk on wet earth.  This is a time for exploration, adventure (oh, there is adventure ahead of me.  Where have I been, that I have forgotten!).  The fog that surrounds is mysterious and mystical.  Now is the time to be filled with wonder and let go of anxious thoughts and the desire to forget all that is good.  Let it go. Let it go.

I am reminded of a song from J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  The words were written by Bilbo and sung early in the journey of Frodo with the ring.  Walking on a path after dusk, the hobbits sang to lift their spirits.  The song appears in the movie, though much abbreviated, and that is what I quote now:

Home is behind, the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night
until the stars are all alight.
Mist and shadow, cloud and shade
all shall fade, all shall fade.

Mist and shadow, indeed.  May my wandering in the mist be transforming, and may the shadows not overcome me.  There is still hope left to find, there is reason to sing.  God is bigger than my hurts and the hurts I cause to others.  God is bigger than darkness, for light shines in the darkness.

I am on a journey through mist and shadow.  And I shall see the goodness and glory of what lies beyond the shadows.  I am on a journey…

This is for all the lonely people…

Curious about my blog stats, I am looking at how people find me and what they are looking at.  The top two posts of mine are both about loneliness and darkness.  This isn’t surprising as loneliness comes up often in my writing. The late night post with a poem by Hafiz is number 1 by far.  Apparently, many people search for Hafiz, as “don’t surrender your loneliness” shows up often in various forms on my search terms list.  This is followed closely by, “Light Within My Darkness,” which is close to the most often searched phrase, “light in the darkness.”  Both are from the winter, when was dark and gray outside, and what I felt inside, too.

I find this interesting and poignant to this week.  It hasn’t gone very well, but today was an emergence into light from a dark three days.  And as I read the two posts again, I remember the thoughts rolling through my head as I wrote.  So confused.  It has been an intense spiritual battle with the distorted part of me; I still fight with those voices tonight—the ones that eat away at my self-confidence, that tell me lies about relationships, and try to connect dots from past to present.

Life five months later is different than I was imagining.  For I’m not moving away, and although my intuition was right about some things coming to pass, I have not lost what those fears would have me believe. Vague, I know.  But hear this:  Reflection on one’s life is a beautiful thing; over-thinking can be destructive.  Still trying to figure out the balance.

I’ll repeat what I wrote back in February, because I think it’s important:

Sigh. such is life. There are beginnings an there are endings; there are sweet partings, and painful partings. The only thing I know for sure is that I love God and I am God’s beloved. This love is so deep within me that it overflows in compassion. The growth here is in being able to write this: I love myself. I am beautiful.

It’s really hard to be content with God’s love alone, when it seems as though everyone around me is getting married or finding someone to hold them at night while I am alone and untouched.  And I’d like to think repeating the words, “I am beautiful” would be easy, but it’s not.  More on that spiritual struggle with my body (and disease) later.

Anyway, I hope this space has invited reflection among those who stumble upon it…

Light Within My Darkness

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“In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Albert Camus

Barely past 5pm these days and already darkness falls here in Seattle. The winter darkness can be cold and lonely. I am reminded of the suffering of humanity, those who suffer depression, and the wounds of my own past. Yet also the winter can be a time for quiet contemplation and inner light. I’ve been thinking about this recently as I search for my own inner light amid a dark night of the soul. For me, some places in my journey have been dark, and at times terrifying. It is my faith that has sustained me; God is my light in dark times. In those times of darkness and winter, I did, as Camus said, find an invincible summer.

Today I found myself drawn to Psalm 13. It’s a lament that wonders, “how long?” How long must this sorrow in my heart continue? At the end, however, the writer sings to the LORD. I asked God this morning how long…how long must I hold this sorrow within? I doubt there will be an answer. What else is there to do but continue to walk the journey of life with hope for healing.Thomas R. Kelley in his book, A Testament of Devotion, writes,

“Meister Eckhart wrote, ‘As thou art in church or cell, that same frame of mind carry out into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness.’ Deep witin us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice to which we may continuousy return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with imitations of an astounding destiny, calling home into Itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life.

Many times I have had to return to this inner sanctuary of the soul for healing. This light within has healed me and as a spiritual director I can walk with others in the healing process. This night I pray with a song, written by Sue Wallace in England (and arranged on a new CD from my church community, details forthcoming). It speaks to the healing within myself and what can happen in others:

Light within my darkness
Hope within my pain,
Truth within confusion
Let me live again.
Set me free,
O my Jesus
O my Jesus
Rescue me

warmth within my coldness
joy within my tears
peace within my anger
courage in my fear
set me free,
oh my Jesus
oh my Jesus
Rescue me