Through a Window Brightly: Telling Stories

A favorite by Henri Nouwen:

“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg two years ago, my friends Franz and Reny invited me and my father to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I first saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers.
The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.
“One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’
‘How does it work?’ I asked.
‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.’
‘You do nothing!’ I said, surprised.
‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’
“When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.’ Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.’”

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Through a Window Brightly: Favorite Stories

The story is from Robert Fulghum’s book It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It. Here it is in its entirety:

A story is told by Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister, about a seminar he once attended in Greece.

On the last day of the conference, the discussion leader walked over to the bright light of an open window and looked out. Then he asked if there were any questions.

Fulghum laughingly asked him what was the meaning of life. Everyone in attendance laughed and stirred to leave. However, the leader held up his hand to ask for silence and then responded “I will answer your question.”

He took his wallet out of his pocket and removed a small round mirror about the size of a quarter. Then he explained:
“When I was a small child during World War II, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round.

I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun could never shine. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places that I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I grew up, I would take it out at idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.

As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game, but a metaphor of what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light – be it truth or understanding or knowledge – is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places of human hearts – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.”

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Through a Window Brightly: Inch by Inch

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God shouts, “Move over!  Make room!  Clean it up!  Throw the old stuff away!  I told you.  I am making all things new.”

The spiritual practice of Christmas is living into the art of holding a sacred space and keeping it wholly holy.  Inch by glorious, complicated inch.

 

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Through A Window Dimly: Sacred Tables

The first table I remember sitting at was metal with legs that unfolded. The table fit over my lap just right. I would often sit on the floor and eat my meals from this small collapsible table. It was also a good surface for coloring.

All around me, my family sat at their individual tables while we watched the same thing on the television. The dining room table was for special days or special meals or tupperware party snacks.

It was not good or bad, it just was the way it was.

I always enjoyed those special times at table. Maybe because they were not an every day occurrence. I liked to set the table and pass the food from one person to the next and hear stories from family members we did not see very often. (I did not like the one pea my dad always made me try.)

In my current home I value the way Scott and I sit down with each other (almost) every night. It is a sacred time.

Tonight I am mindful of the table I will soon visit at the church down the street. I am aware of the gracious invitation extended from that table. I am thankful that the pastor reminds people every week that it is God that offered the invitation, not the people of the church.

I am also thinking about tables that will be more full than last year…full of babies and other new love. And tables that will not need that extra chair from the desk in the office. And I am thinking about the individual tables on wheels that will cover the laps of those who are in the hospital tonight. And yes, I am thinking of those people watching tv at their individual tables.

I think I was a teenager when I prayed at a dinner table for the first time. I was at my friends house. Her dad was my pastor. And just before eating they all closed their eyes and prayed. I remember feeling like I was being carried along in the wave of the prayer. Not knowing the words I just relaxed into it.

“God please bless this food to our use and us to your service and may we be ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen.”

That prayer is still close to my lips when called on to pray before a meal. I leave it here for you tonight. I hope it gives you words of thanksgiving to bless whatever table you find yourself near this night.

 

Visio Divina:

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Through a Window Dimly: How to be Home

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us – in the world and in nature – and within us – in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice. We need only to find ways to bring our body and mind back to the present moment so we can touch what is refreshing, healing, and wondrous.”

 

This quote was on the locked door in a monastery building I visited today.  And through the window dimly I saw this icon:

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What do you notice?  What do you see…dimly, from a distance?

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Seeing Through a Window Dimly: Some Instructions On Being

acts of faith are as natural and complex as breathing or riding a bicycle.

each breath, each act of balancing on two wheels is part miracle and wholly gift.

 

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Through a Window Dimly: Waiting Rooms

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I sat here so many days.  Waiting.

Ritual was my friend.  When Scott was called back for radiation I would make myself a cup of tea.  Once my tea was prepared I would find  spot to sit.   I started outside, but as the days got colder I would choose a place inside.  Near the door and wall of windows.  And then I would write or pray or knit while I waited.   waited.  waited.

He always thanked everyone as we exited the building.  Every time, he thanked them.  Even the security guard quietly sitting at his post.

Tomorrow it will be two years since his last radiation treatment.  2 surgeries, hormone therapy, radiation…that is a lot of waiting.

I still wait and watch, though right now there is no evidence of disease.

And I guess I will always wait.  For the next thing.

In this mean time, I live.  For here.  For now.

I clean the toilets of our house. I make dinner, I work, I walk, I read, I knit.  We laugh.  We dance.  I love.  I love hard.

We are assured of nothing.  Life is precious, to be held gently (even as we cling).

Don’t be surprised on Monday (Christmas Day), even after Jesus shows up with the perfect gift (bread and wine for all), if you are still waiting and watching.  Paying attention is our real job.  Our gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Through a Window Dimly: Carrying the World in our Belly

mary and joseph

one foot lifting placed carefully and then the next. the road long. but worn by our ancestors.

each footfall an act of trust. each stumble a recognition of fear.

forward by command and demand.

carrying the world in our bellies.

 

Visio Divina:

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Through A Window Dimly: Jesus at the Dump

“Good thing you weren’t here yesterday. I threw baby Jesus and the angels away. Now they are probably in the dump by now. Jesus is wrapped up in tissue paper in a ziplock bag in the dump.”

I quickly realized she was not referring to anyone real, today, in 2017. It was not a confession made to me, a stranger, at a holiday craft fair. The seller was referring to the small ceramic Jesus I was holding. Jesus was part ok a nativity set displayed among the light up trees and menorahs and a variety of Santas.

“Good thing I had another Jesus ready to go,” she continued. “People think this is easy but it takes a few days to get Jesus. You’re lucky I had him already.”

I wanted to say, “YES, yes he probably is in the dump. Jesus often shows up in the dump, at the margins, in the muck and mire and the mess that others treat as trash. And yes, I am lucky to know the stories, promises and commands of Jesus to love and speak justice.” But the woman in the Charlie Brown Christmas sweatshirt was not looking for a sermon. And I did not particularly feel like giving one.

Instead I said, “I’ll take it.”

She lumbered over to the pile of bags and wrappings and pulled tissue paper and ziplock bags and a brown paper bag from the pile.

Then she began to wrap each piece.

“I start with the angels. They look strong but they are the most delicate.”

Each piece held an instruction as it was gently laid in the brown paper bag.

Soon, only Jesus and a few stray sheep were left on the table.

“Jesus will be in the wrapping, in the ziplock bag, on the very top of this here bag. Got that? and you should really find a sturdy shoe box for all these pieces when you get home.”

I had a feeling if I was not able to garner her trust this Jesus would not be mine.

“Yes. Got it. Tissue paper. Ziploc bag. On top of everything else. Find a sturdy shoebox to keep him and the others safe.”

And just so she knew I was listening from the beginning I said, “And the delicate angels should be watched carefully.”

Satisfied with my earnest reassurance, her job as midwife of this particular rendering of Jesus was done. Except for one last piece of business.

“That will be $16.20,” she said.

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Through A Window Dimly: Waiting and Discipline

A recent writing prompt from a teacher requiring us to think about the topic of discipline unearthed this poem from my heart.  I share it with you in the spirit of waiting that requires the discipline of ancestors.

Poetic Reflection:

“On Discipline”
for all my grandparents

Grandma washed every dish.
every single one.
every day.
but she never learned how to swim

Standing on the chaise lounge in Grandmas bedroom
ready for bed in a nightgown too big for me
i would watch out the window as Granddaddy swam laps in the dark

Gone all day (every day) selling cigarettes, ice cream and stories
we would wait for him to come home.

I don’t remember his voice.
but I remember his eyes
& I remember his hands like helicopter blades chopping rhythmically through the water

I remember how he would take his place at the kitchen table
I remember how he held the knife to the skin of the apple,
peeling it to flesh in one long spiral
while his cigarette burned, ash threatening to drop to the floor,
caught at the last in the amber tray near the plate of peel and apple.

And Grandma would wash the dish.
and knife.
before bed.

 

My other Grammie, she always ate exactly half.
and wrapped the rest
for later. for her dinner.
but she had an abundance of jello and popsicles in her refrigerator always

And I remember how mad she was
at my long dead Grandfather
when she finally got a new refrigerator
and found
used cigarette butts
in a pile when they moved the the old, dead machine.

And I remember standing on the couch in Grammies house,
studying the picture of the men in a boat.

“Which one was he? That one there? Was that my Grandfather”
I could never figure out which one he was because I was too young
when he died
to know him
on sight.
And she would show me every time.
And I would always be surprised because
he looked so different than the man in the picture from the shoe box
in the closet
(the one where he was very, very skinny and
he was wearing pajamas in the day time
while sitting on the side of a hospital bed.)
He looked really happy.

 

and I
swam in my Grandma and Grandaddy’s pool
At Grammies house I, I ate popsicles ’til my tongue became deep purple and puckered

and now, like Grandma, I make sure there is not a dish left in my sink when i go to bed.
and now when I eat a sandwich I think of Grammie as I wrap half for later. (And there are always popsicles in my freezer.)
and I still cup my hands so I can go faster when swim just like Grandaddy taught me.
and make the best of the life I have while I have it like my Grandfather smiling on the boat.

 

Wondering Questions:

Who taught you about discipline?  How?  Why?  Is it helpful now?  Was it helpful then?

Visio Divinia:

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