Walking the ancient path and shining the Light with prose, poetry, and prayer.
Poet, writer, minister, wanderer, traveler on the way, Light-seeker ~ hoping others will join me on the journey of discovering who we are and were meant to be. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at my blog, Spirit-reflections.org.
For as long as I can remember, Autumn has been a melancholy/bittersweet season for me. Amidst the splendor of the brilliant hues of the dying leaves, there is a sense of time gone by, a memory of mourning something, or someone, that cannot be reclaimed. Yet Autumn also offers each of us a choice: we can either hang on with all our might to what we think defines us, or we can let go and trust the wisdom of this season with its unending offers of possibility as acorns fall to the ground to become trees, and seeds from shriveled flowers waft in the wind. ~ Rosemary
Flint Creek in Autumn
Forrest Gump understood the feather had a journey to take drifting through frame after frame marking time’s passage.
But the lone leaf I watch does not. It anchors itself to the slender elm, refusing the wind’s invitation. Just yesterday, its companions let go cascading like amber and scarlet butterflies down the trail to the mossy green creek. Some landed on soil some on dusty picnic tables others remained in damp clusters stuck to the muddy red bank while a few spun away riding the current past saffron asters, purple thistle enjoying their last great hurrah!
I wonder at the lone leaf’s reluctance to release its hold when all around has fallen having no choice but to become the change itself to become the very dust on the picnic table or the musty soil underfoot or the nutrient that feeds the moss upon the creek’s red bank.
But not yet. I will that single leaf to let go trust the wind will it to take the journey down the water below spinning past aster and thistle dizzying itself in the current gazing up at the limbs that released it to become itself, the messenger announcing the passing of time frame after frame.
Since January 2021, after participating in a twelve-week online spirituality/creativity workshop during the COVID-19 shutdown, I have been gathering regularly with five other sojourners whom I have yet to meet in person, via Zoom. They are workshop participants, two from Canada, one from England, and two from NW and NE states. I am the lone Southerner. We gather to practice spirituality together and to encourage each other in our respective arts—quilting, photography, painting, music, and writing. In a very meaningful way, this group of fellow artists and seekers are “church” to me because I recognize the face of God in them.
Each month, one of us leads the group in a time of reflection, meditation, and creativity. Last week was my turn. I had just returned from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park where I had asked to be open to what the Creator might send me to share. What I received were panoramic vistas of the oldest mountaintops in the US, worn down from their once sharp peaks by time and the elements and yet still steadfast in their own right. I received a multitude of mountain streams with brilliant water rushing over mossy stones and through hollows of dense-patched rhododendron. What I received were peace from the craziness of this present world and grounding in what is Real.
The Wisdom of the Brook
Rock upon mossy rock No obstacle or dam The flowing, crystal water Will find its way downhill.
While I was hiking, two psalms from the Old Testament kept echoing in my heart: Ps. 121, which begins, “I lift up my eyes to the hills,” and Ps. 42,“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” I shared these psalms and some of my photos of mountains and streams with my group and then invited them to take some time to listen for and discern what they heard the Creator saying to them, each one a creator, herself. What this group shared reflected the voice of the Spirit:
The effortlessness of water flowing over the boulders is a reminder of a way to create, to allow our art to happen without our judgment or force;
To create is an offering of love, grounded in Love;
How often are we real, as Nature is real, allowing our true selves to show and how often do we mask our own true beauty because we think it is insufficient?
Do we pay attention to what makes us thirsty for God and then spend time in those things, satisfying our thirst?
Creating is an act of being “in the flow.”
Creative energy is both steadfast, like the ancient mountains, and transient, like the wispy clouds above them. God is present in both.
I needed to hear these sacred words. I have been floundering with my own creativity lately, allowing distractions and the fears and noise of this world to usurp the desire to create. I have been floundering with my own spirituality lately, questioning my significance. So as I looked at each of my “companions on the way,” albeit it on a screen, I felt a great Love reminding me that creating out of love—for Creator God, for others, for myself—no matter who receives it, is vitally important and vitally precious. My significance, and yours, whoever you are and however you create, comes from that Love. We can let go our masks as Nature does hers.
The watercolor included in this blog is an offering from one of our artists, Lois, and the poem above is an offering from our narrative writer, Liz. Offerings of insight are from the others in this group, all an act of love.
Blessings and love to you ~ Rosemary
A Psalm Song
Love creates in the steadfastness of the ancient green mountain range braced against a cerulean sky where wisps of clouds rise like incense to dissolve in a sigh, a whisper, buried deep in the longings of the heart. Love harmonizes in the clear current flowing over moss-slickened boulders, casting its score in droplets shimmering like so many bubbles in the air. Love teases in the gnarled roots and scattered stones that pepper the ageless trail; and I do not fall. In the silent soul of the forest in the abiding womb of the mountains Love re-creates and enfolds me, caressing me with the fingers of a breeze, the murmur of rolling water. Love meets me in this place where deep calls to deep where longing is cherished where tears are deemed precious where I lift up my eyes and my heart to the hills.
I live in the Southeastern United States where I am graced by the witness of Ruby-throated hummingbirds. Each March, the scouts (males) begin to arrive here, searching for hospitable courting and nesting grounds. Around late April, early May, the females arrive, and I spend a good part of my summer keeping two hummingbird feeders clean and filled with fresh sugar water. The tiny, mosaic birds delight as they dart past my windows, light in my flowers, and divebomb each other. (How they ever mate is beyond me.) I love to listen to them twitter to each other. I love the sound of the buzz when they zoom over my head. I love when they hover in front of me, as if to say, “Thank you.”
Come August, I notice the males sipping the nectar more frequently and staying longer at the feeders, and I know their return trip is approaching. Each year, these birds, weighing no more than a paper clip, make the autumn migration across the Eastern part of the country and down to southern Mexico where they winter before returning in the spring. Most stay along the coastline of Texas as they fly south, but some of the more intrepid will fly the 600 miles across open waters over the Gulf of Mexico. Come August, my heart turns melancholy.
First the males will depart, then, perhaps a month or so later, the females will follow as will the young birds, and the feeders will be empty. I will take them down, wash them, and store them, my sign of faith in the birds’ return. While I understand the persistence of instinct, I still marvel at the risks these most delicate of creatures take and wonder how many will perish along the way. I look at my own life and consider what masses of land, what bodies of water, I have not dared to cross and what I have lost because I didn’t simply take the first step.
Come August, as the birds depart, the flowers that fed them die, and the leaves begin to turn and fall, I think about all the courage it takes to let go and to trust a leap (or even a few steps) of faith. I pray that when the scouts return next March, they will find me on the other side. Blessings ~ Rosemary
Swathed in crimson & emerald, the hummingbird returns, again, to feed, his delicate, cool tongue sipping the nectar in preparation for his long journey ahead. With just a turn of his head, his glistening gorget changes from red to black in the shifting light before he buzzes away, to return in a few brief moments.
The sun sets earlier now, the saffron verbena & purple torenia beginning to fade while some early leaves tinged in orange are ready to carpet a path through the woods. It is time for the hummingbird to leave, flying solitary along the pathway mapped in memory beside the Texas coastline or across the Gulf of Mexico, flying solitary—male, female, young—low by day to a winter home two thousand miles away.
In just a few days, my window will be empty, and I wonder. Where does the resolve to relinquish come from, where the will to go forward, to abandon all, to propel gossamer wings into the wind and turn?
Some years back, my daughter authored a “good news” blog which, I believe, was called “Silver Linings.” She spent hours culling different news sources in search of something positive, and, inevitably, she would indeed find an uplifting story and post it. Her purpose was to remind her readers that good things do happen and good people do exist. Unfortunately, she had few eager followers and fewer “likes,” so she closed the blog, which says much about how we humans prefer to spend our attention. Her experience reminds me of Don Henley’s song, Dirty Laundry, and the oft reported notion that bad news “sells.”
Yes, dirty laundry and bad news attract us, if today’s headlines and social media posts are any indication. Both can become addictive which is why, I believe, so many of our great spiritual leaders urged us to seek silence and solitude in order to find solid grounding, balance, and a new vision, just as they did. Isn’t there a part of us that craves the Light? That wants the noise that the sky is falling, and we are falling with it, to cease? A part of us that seeks a reason to hope? Yes. That part of us might be called our “soul” or our “heart” or our “True Self.” And the good news is that good news does still exist.
Maia Mikhaluk is a Ukrainian citizen who lives in Kyiv. Since the Russian invasion back in February of this year, she has posted daily on Facebook about what is going on in her beloved country. If you use Facebook, you can find her there and follow her personal accounts. They are not always for the faint of heart, and there are days when I honestly cannot digest the cruelty of what her people are experiencing. Many other days, she posts about the good things that are happening, the light that shines and that keeps the Ukrainians going. Maia writes, “As much as it hurts to be a witness to the worst that humanity is capable of, we do get to also see a rise in courage, sacrificial generosity, kindness, care, and love.” If courage, generosity, kindness, care, and love can exist in the deepest voids of war-torn Ukraine, surely they can exist where we live. Surely, such acts are around us, if we have eyes to see, and are within us, if we have the courage to witness.
A couple weeks back, Maia described a sacrificial kindness. She and some fellow church members packed food baskets to distribute to those in villages that had been ransacked by Russian soldiers. In one such village, as Maia’s team was leaving, a woman named Anna rushed up to the truck with a pail of freshly picked cherries, giving away her cherries not out of abundance but out of gratitude. One of the team members accepted the cherries and made cherry pirozhki, fruit-filled buns, which she then took to the church the next Sunday. Those who had shared food with Anna and others like her now shared the gift that Anna had given, without ever knowing each other. Again, as Maia writes, “That’s how we survive this war—by not allowing our hearts to be consumed by hatred for the enemy, but rather filling our hearts with concern and kindness towards each other. This is how the light overcomes darkness.”
A pail of cherries. A plate of pirozhki. Intertwined lives. A light shining in the darkness. The philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote, “The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms . . .” We each have a choice as to what we attend to, how we respond, and how we ground our souls, hearts, and True Selves. We each have an opportunity, a calling, to share the Light, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.
With love and light ~ Rosemary
Pail of Cherries
Across the world, war uncurls as one country eats another like a snake swallowing its own tail like a serpent trailing itself through a saffron and indigo garden, devouring anything everything in sight with unceasing appetite.
Across the world, in ruined villages and gutted towns, men and women stumble to their gardens in futile search of what they had planted–of what they had dreamed. They lift empty hands in prayer in despair for a world snarled in black storm, inky palls, the uncertainty of gray.
Across the world, where emptiness gnaws, a stranger, a woman, appears through the dust that circles a hungry village, a pail of bright cherries in her hands, hands that have just gathered this offering of bright red cherries from bomb-singed branches, cherries to be shared, bright cherries in a pail, a spot of crimson, glowing against the gray scorched soil in a shadowed world where, for a moment, the snake pauses and blinks.
Apologies to those who follow this blog for my rather lengthy hiatus these past few months. I took some time away to discern whether and how to continue publishing a blog. During that time, so much changed here in the States that, at first, I couldn’t summon the energy to write. All my attention was on holding tightly to the white river raft: the repercussions of the 2016 election. The Covid-19 pandemic. The repercussions of the 2020 election. The Russian invasion of Ukraine. Rising food and gas prices. Mass shootings. School children murdered. Parade-goers slaughtered. Gun laws loosened. Supreme Court decisions limiting freedoms. Constant turmoil of some kind or another. I felt I was being shoved under by the piling on of one extreme event after another. Why write? What difference would it make? I felt I could barely keep my head above water. At times, I still feel that way.
Then a memory returned to me. When my two children were teenagers and wanted to go see popular horror movies/slasher films with their friends, I advised them against going. My reasoning was two-fold: 1) It can be difficult to remove terrifying images from our minds, even if they are imaginary; and 2) Giving attention to such violence feeds such violence. Better to give attention to those things that are life-giving instead of life-draining. These admonitions have come back to me in regard to my own present action or inaction. I can choose to give attention to the chaos, and only the chaos, which then gives power to the chaos, or I can choose to respond in a life-giving way. Chaos has its purpose: it WILL demand change. How we respond to the change and how we help mold the change are up to each one of us.
Let’s face it. What we knew and expected of life five, ten years ago, is gone. We can’t go home again. Across the globe, a Pandora’s Box has been opened. The pandemic didn’t help it, nor did the characters of the various people who chose to lift the lid. What had been brewing, simmering, for so long has been let loose, there can be no doubt, and that fact can actually be an opportunity for us to re-examine our cultures, make amends, and reclaim the good. To do that, though, requires that we don’t allow the chaos to suck us in. For me, that means I return to writing.
I think of my words like dandelion fluff. I ponder them, write them, publish them, and then blow them into the wind. I don’t know where they will land or who will hear them. Only the Spirit does. But I have to keep sending them into the wind, believing that along the way they will offer a bit of hope, a bit of love, a bit of resolve, and a bit of community, giving energy and intention to the good. It is, indeed, a strange new world, and it is up to us to keep the Light shining in whatever ways we can.
Adding my light to yours ~ Rosemary
Brothers of Joseph
O Joseph, favored son of the brightly colored coat, see how all your brothers gather again in these strange and foreign days. Watch them tear at your garment, again, ripping it to shreds in their envy, destroying what they do not want others to possess. They turn their backs on ancient Jacob in his grief, their hands splattered with innocent blood. Joseph, your brothers have arrived, raising their guns high and taking aim. They toss freedom of conscience into your dusty pit, burying it with the innocent victims of their rigid rights, shaping their own morality into a golden calf. Watch them take their scythes to nature, destroying it with their open, hungry mouths, selling their (our) birthrights to the highest bidder, chiding old Jacob in his grief. See them judge love: who can love, how to love, when they themselves have no love. Joseph, your brothers are here, unchanged, trampling on others, unraveling the good, filled with the hot passion of the anger and envy that almost killed you. Joseph, your brothers are here, and we turn our heads, plant our seeds, raise our hands to the sun, lift our prayers, and wait to dance with Miriam in freedom.
Our flag slides down the silver pole once again stopping halfway again its trajectory now rooted in its memory. This time it pauses and wavers in remembrance of nineteen children two school teachers trapped and murdered in a classroom, each crumbling one after another onto the blood-stained floor. I see their photos, smile after smile on brown faces, white faces, hopeful faces, one child wears a t-shirt “Difference maker” emblazoned in white. Gone, they are gone, sacrificial lambs placed upon the great red brass altar of the American Gun, copper, tin, and zinc bow down, and all the priests in royal garb and meaningless chant surround it with their “rights” and their endless hungry fear. I go outside where my summer plants have begun to bloom, and I prune them, setting each loose blossom to the wind in prayer for children who will not race in the sun.
Thank you to those of you who have followed my prayer and spiritual reflections this Lenten Season. I have tried—and continue to try—the three basic tenets of Zen Peacemaking: the not knowing what will happen at any point in time; the bearing witness to all the different feelings (“parts”) of us without judgment but with compassion; and taking action in any situation as a thoughtful response instead of a reaction: https://zenpeacemakers.org/the-three-tenets/.
Along with that practice, I have incorporated the Welcoming Prayer, as together we’ve looked at the spiritual concept of “relinquishment,” of being able to let go of those things/people we think we can control or fix and to instead open our hands to accept what IS while making room for the Divine Spirit to pray for and with us often wordlessly, “in sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). None of these actions includes apathy or fatalism. We aren’t called to be doormats and victims. Instead, we are invited to listen to our deepest selves and to live in this ever-changing, often broken and dark world, from a place of serenity and calm that then influences the choices we make.
This Saturday before Easter is an in-between time, a waiting time, but not, no, a passive time. God, by whatever name we choose, does God’s best work in the dark. By being led in the ways of peacemaking and grounded in the prayer of acceptance, we find that resurrection in all its many forms does happen.
May new life flourish with you. And speaking of new life, I will be taking some time away from this blog to discern and listen for what the Spirit is inviting me to do next: to continue with this format, to concentrate more on my poetry, to produce a newsletter, or to do something entirely different. I ask your prayers, and I will let you know where I am led. Thank you so very much for walking with me. ~ Blessings, Rosemary
Listen When the wind blows across your skin, listen for the voice of an ancestor guiding you toward your dream.
When you catch the glimpse of silver dancing across the waves, listen for the ancient secret that directs your path.
Listen to the way the breeze forms grooves in the sand and learn about the symmetry of your own life.
Listen to the way the pelican rides on the currents or glides across a cloudless sky, inviting you to let go.
Listen to the hibiscus when it unfurls its orange petals to receive the Light, holding its breath at its own glory and be amazed at each bright word it utters.
Listen to your own heartbeat, what it calls you to remember and listen for the One seeking that same heart.
Listen and become the sacred vessel that treasures each sound it’s given with reverent awe.
Palm Sunday is a fitting day for reflection on the third “relinquishment” of the Welcoming Prayer, a prayer I have visited in the previous two blogs. It is also a fitting day for reflecting on our response to the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine and to any injustice that invites us to act, to “walk our talk.” The Welcoming Prayer is a contemplative practice in which we are invited to open our hands and hearts and “let go” of our desires for power and control, for affection, esteem, and approval, and today, for safety and security, perhaps the most difficult.
This prayer offers us a way of being. When we let go (or try to let go), we welcome the Spirit and make room for it to work within us, instead of clutching and clinging to all we believe to be important or essential which, in reality, is transitory illusion. This prayer welcomes us to put our faith and trust in something bigger than us and so is not an easy prayer.
“I relinquish my desire for safety and security. Welcome, welcome, welcome.”
Saints, heroes, and martyrs exist in many of the world religions, and in these people, we witness a letting go of what the world claims we must have in order to be worth anything. They face down what our spirits and souls know is wrong, unloving, and unjust. In my tradition, Jesus Christ is the prime example of relinquishment. On Palm Sunday, we recall how he rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of his followers and the waving of palm branches, but by the end of the week, he was dead, crucified by the occupying government (Rome) for speaking his Truth that challenged those in power, crucified for offering light, love, and inclusion instead of darkness, hatred, and repression. Christ relinquished his own safety and security, his very life, for a Higher Good.
“Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.…” Phil 2: 7-8.
Yesterday, April 9, was the anniversary of the martyrdom of 39 year-old German theologian and minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, imprisoned for his active work against Hitler and Nazism. After two years in prison, relinquishing his own safety and security, Bonhoeffer was transferred to Flossenburg concentration camp where, without jury or witnesses or legal aid, he was sentenced to death and hanged, one month before the arrival of the Allied Forces and the end of WWII.
“When a madman is tearing through the streets in a car, I can, as a pastor who happens to be on the scene, do more than merely console or bury those who have been run over. I must jump in front of the car and stop it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The list goes on and on of those who have relinquished safety and security for a Higher Good: Mahatma Gandhi, Oscar Romero, the four religious women raped and murdered in El Salvador, Martin Luther King, Jr, the unidentified Chinese man who stepped in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, etc, and etc, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Now, we watch President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine relinquish his own safety and security to stand up against the Russian warmonger Putin, along with the Ukrainian soldiers who have relinquished loved ones, homes, security, and safety for a Higher Good, just as their wives/husbands and children have done. We can follow the war through the courage of Maia Mikhaluk who posts daily updates on Facebook about the reality and horror of living in a war-torn country, risking her own safety and security. We can hear (and heed) the words of Rev. John Burdin, a Russian Orthodox priest, who has ignored his own safety and security by speaking out against the war and Russia’s invasion.
“I don’t consider it possible to remain silent on this situation. It wasn’t about politics. It was about the Bible. … If I remain silent, I’m not a priest.” Rev. John Burdin
We need only glance at the news to witness the thousands of Russian people who have been fined, or worse, imprisoned for choosing to voice their dissent to this illegal, immoral, inhumane invasion, surrendering safety and security for Truth.
нет войне.нет войне.
No to war.
If we are engaged in the lives of others, in those across the world, we marvel, and we wonder. And we are welcomed to go deeper. In the silence of our hearts and our souls, we can ask the question: How much of my own safety and security am I willing to relinquish in order to act for the Higher Good, or, for those of us who are Christians, are we willing to follow Jesus Christ, or just worship him? Opportunities abound every single day to set aside our own comfort, safety, approval, security and esteem and face down the evil and unjust forces of this world. Do we have that courage? Do I? May it be so.
Walking with you ~ Rosemary
Whip. Spit. Thorns. Nails. Noose. Rifles. Shot guns. Poison. Rape. Murder. Hard labor. Isolation. Bombs. Tanks. Deprivation. Isolation. Betrayal. Cut off. Death. The reaction to words that speak Truth. The reprisal for words that demand Justice. The program for words that Enlighten. The fear of words that Reflect. The consequence of words that set safety to the wind words that rise up against all that is shadow darkness denial oppression repression words that swallow lies words that will not die words that survive to nurture the soil in a small rocky corner of a field where a sunflower lifts its yellow head, a daffodil nods in the breeze.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
This poem, The Second Coming, was penned by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats in response to Bloody Sunday, the aftermath of the Irish revolution of 1916, and the continuing quest for independence from England. Yet how relevant it is for this day, this world, as the inhumane Russian invasion of Ukraine continues and so much radical division exists in our world. How can the “centre” hold?
Much of my Lenten journey this season has been focused on how to stay grounded to the center, which, for me, is God. For others, it might be something or someone else. Today, I continue to look at the Welcoming Prayer, a contemplative prayer that invites a Greater Power (in my case, the Spirit of God) to work within us to let go those things that keep us imbalanced. The first “relinquishment” is power and control. The second is the relinquishment of “affection, affirmation, and approval.” As I said previously, the Welcoming Prayer is not easy because it goes against all we’ve been taught to cling to and obtain.
From our birth, we long to have people love us, like us, admire us, reward us, and praise us. Perhaps you are like me, raised on the mantra, “What will the neighbors think?” and so have spent too much energy doing everything you can to make sure the neighbors (parents, spouses, partners, bosses, co-workers, friends) can only approve and admire. Maybe you, too, have been shamed for being judged as “less than” and have felt the keen edge of another’s disappointment in you or disapproval of you. Many of us choose professions where we can work hard to earn others’ love and esteem by what we do, and so meeting those expectations becomes our first, and impossible, goal. Being first, being best, being loved, being admired, being on top of that rickety pedestal is what drives us. It is exhausting. It is an illusion.
Consider this wisdom written by Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
A person who cares nothing for praise or blame knows great inward peace….Praise does not make you holier than you are, nor blame more wicked. You are exactly what you are, and cannot ever be any better or worse than that, in the eyes of God. Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say of you. People look at externals, but God looks at the heart. They weigh actions; God knows your intent….To feel no need of human support and assurance is a mark of inward confidence – of those who truly walk with God in their hearts.
“Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say about you.” I am attending to writing this blog and composing poetry that brings some degree of solace and beauty into this world. I have little idea of who reads it or whether it has any impact. I know others who think I “should” (always watch out for the “shoulds”; they are another person’s agenda for you) be doing something more “productive.” So the truth and challenge of a Kempis’ words relies on our awareness and trust that what is within us is our unique belovedness. We are loved and valued by the One who created us, and nothing we do, or others think, can separate us from that love. We may walk away from Love, but Love does not walk away from us. So we can let go of our need and striving for transitory affection, affirmation, and approval as we pray, “I relinquish my desire for affirmation, affection, and approval. Welcome, welcome, welcome,” and sit quietly, making room for the transformative power of that which is greater than us.
Look to the spiritual leaders and see how they let go of what others thought. Look to the Christ, who kept his eyes on his purpose, not on what others thought of him. Letting go is not an easy prayer to make, but it is a way to greater freedom and a path toward holding to the center.
Walking with you ~ Rosemary
Wherever you are on your particular ancient path may you give up expectations, your own and others, of what you “should be,” when you “should have” arrived, what you “should have” accomplished by now along with worry over whether you have truly achieved enoughness.
May you leave behind those expectations, your own and others, stuffed in the carry-always luggage you dread hoisting once more above your head into the compartment already filled with bundles and backpacks of those who could not unpack.
May you honestly assess what you have chosen to carry: old records coated in dust, ingrained “shoulds” that did not arise from your own innocent soul, snapshots yellowing with age of what people think of you, manipulations and mind-traps of every weight and shape to make you into another’s image.
May you rummage through your luggage with courage and keep only what is you, by you, of you, and then may you love yourself enough to set your suitcase aside, trusting the lightness of what is precious to lead you freely onward.
If you have never wanted to control a person or fix a situation, if you have never wanted to step in and take over because you knew your way was best, if you have never tossed and turned in the night because of worry, then raise your hand. That’s what I thought. As humans, we all want some degree of power and we all want to be in control of our lives. Our many cultures teach us that power and control are the ultimate achievements. But are they? Or are they simply illusions that control us?
Today, O Lord, I yield myself to You. May Your will be my delight today. May You have perfect sway in me. May your love be the pattern of my living.
In these forty days before Easter, this Lenten season, I have been sharing my journey about practicing (practicing being the operative word) surrender and acceptance. Today’s blog explores a Christian form of contemplative prayer called The Welcoming Prayer. Contemplative prayer is often wordless prayer where, instead of dictating our desires to God (power and control?), we surrender our own voices and open ourselves to the work of the Spirit in our hearts: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
The Welcoming Prayer is a prayer of surrender and acceptance, two behaviors quite countercultural in today’s world. Surrender is the act of moving ourselves aside; acceptance is being receptive to what is. This prayer is a prayer of relinquishment, of letting go of what we so often hold tightly. It is not an easy prayer.
I surrender to You my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions. Do with them what You will, when You will, as You will.
The first step in The Welcoming Prayer is to settle ourselves quietly and “welcome” the Spirit, or the Christ, or God, or Allah, or the Buddha, or Nature, or whatever is we believe is the source of Divine Love. Our first surrender is this: I relinquish my desire for power and control. Welcome, welcome, welcome. Then we sit in the silence for a few minutes, surrendering everything or everyone we are trying to control and releasing where we are fighting for power over others. We let it all go, and welcome in its place Love. This is not an easy prayer.
I place into Your loving care my family, my friends, my future. Care for them with a care that I can never give.
For the last four years, my adult daughter has walked through fire. Her journey has included a toxic work environment where she was emotionally and verbally harassed, a divorce, a job change that took her across the country during the worst days of the pandemic, working remotely over a year in a city where she knew no one, and now dealing with an immature and jealous co-worker who is undermining her work. I cannot count the number of times I have wanted to tell her “what do to” or how she “should” respond or what other courses of action she could take. I have tossed and turned with worry over her. I have wanted to fly to be with her and fix her problems. But . . . I . . . cannot. Her journey is her journey, and I, while I will always be present to her, have to relinquish (surrender) my desire for power and control (as if those will make everything all right, anyway), and accept that this is where she is right now. I have to take myself out of the equation in order to give space to Divine Love to show me how to respond with love, wisdom, and care. This relationship is simply one example of the many situations in which I crave control and power, yet I know that that craving is not leading me where I want to be spiritually. Control and power do not make me a gift to this world.
I release into Your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.
Seeking to relinquish power and control and “fixing” is not the same as being apathetic, uncaring, or giving up. It is, instead, an acquiescence that God is God and I am not, that in reality, I am powerless over everything except how I choose to respond in this life.
Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish Your Kingdom on earth. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
The prayer which I have quoted here is the Prayer of Relinquishment composed by the Quaker theologian and spiritual author and teacher, Richard Foster. It is not an easy prayer, yet it is a prayer for a more loving and peaceful world. Welcome, welcome, welcome.