Welcome, Welcome ~ 3

April 10, 2022

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

Forever Witness

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.

© Rosemary McMahan

Image credit: Pixabay

A Way to Be:  Not Knowing

March 7, 2022

I won’t speak for you, but I want to know how the war in Ukraine is going to end.  I want to know now.  I want to know if we are through with the crisis of Covid-19 or if another variant will emerge this spring or summer or fall with all its turmoil and grief.  I want to know now.  I want to know if I will still be alive tonight as I begin to think about our evening meal, and I want to know now.  Our desire for certainty masks our false sense of control because the truth is that we cannot know what is going to happen next.  We may predict, but we cannot know.

In the Not Knowing

It is a bright March afternoon
foreshadowing the spring to come
but not yet.
Forecasters predict possible
tornadic activity, falling temperatures
for tomorrow.

At this present time, with the presence of war, life feels very unstable, but life has always been unstable.  This reality is not something any of us wants to easily admit.  We also don’t want to accept that our biases, our convictions, our perceptions that may have influenced us since our births are not the only “true” ones and that our personal biases, convictions, and perceptions are not what make the world go round. 

I barely catch a glimpse of them
as I drive by. The red blanket
spread on the green lawn
catches my eye, the young woman
sitting there, head tilted back
in laughter, dark hair spilling
down her yellow sweater.

Accepting our not knowing, then, becomes a spiritual practice and a way of staying grounded in the flux of our ever-changing, unpredictable world and lives.  In the Zen tradition, not knowing involves letting go of our rigid perceptions about ourselves, others, and the world, releasing all our “isms”: racism, sexism, classism, etc.  It is a form of compassion that involves meeting life without any preconceived ideas, interpretations, or judgments. In the Christian tradition, not knowing is similar to the practice of Centering Prayer where we sit in silence, empty ourselves of ourselves, and allow the Spirit to pray and work within us, without our interference.  Not knowing can be expressed in many forms of mindfulness, meditation, and other types of contemplative prayer and practice that guide us to a place of stillness ( where “I AM” dwells) and that help us to stay in the present moment, where Truth resides.  Not knowing does not lead to indifference, indecision, inaction or complacency but instead helps us to become more aware of what we choose to let in and more open to what we might have previously excluded.

A jean-clad man, standing on the edge
of the blanket, smiles, holds
a basket while a chestnut-colored
Lab lounges at the woman’s feet,
the trio complete.

In this Lenten Season, as a way of being, the practice of not knowing, of giving up any self-righteousness, rigidity, and control resonates with me.  It is also a way to make real the peace that the Christ promised, a peace that is “not as the world gives . . . so do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:26–27).

This moment is all they know
all they need to know-
a front yard picnic
on a bright March day-
none of us knowing what tomorrow
will bring.

© Rosemary McMahan

Image credit: Pixabay

The Eyes of Wabi-Sabi

photo credit (c) Dennis McMahan

September 1, 2021

I recently was introduced to the Japanese Buddhist tradition of Wabi-sabi.  According to Leonard Koren, “Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.  It is a beauty of things modest and humble.  It is a beauty of things unconventional”  (Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers).  Wabi-sabi has an ancient history which began with Chinese Buddhists and eventually made its way to Japanese Buddhists who influenced its current meaning.  Wikipedia explains that “Around 700 years ago, particularly among the Japanese nobility, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to ‘wisdom in natural simplicity.’ In art books, it is typically defined as ‘flawed beauty.’” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi

I suppose what captures my attention about wabi-sabi is how counter-cultural it is to our Western philosophies and ideals of what is beautiful.  We admire those who are fit and glamorous, perfectly “put together.”  We envy those who own homes with impeccable gardens and golf course lawns.  We fill our thrift stores with the flawed objects we have tossed out to be replaced by that which is new and shiny.  We often revere successful people who have “made it to the top.” We even teach our children at a very young age that to color correctly (and thus with beauty), they must stay within the lines.  And as we age, we despair of every gray hair, every wrinkle, every age spot that somehow diminishes what our world confirms is worthy.  Washed away in our strivings to be “beautiful people” are humility and acceptance.

A couple of days ago, my partner and I took a hike through the woods near our home.  I wanted to practice paying attention to what was in the woods, not just blindly stomping past trees, rocks, plants, the sky.  I was surprised by how often I caught myself drifting away, and also grateful for those moments when I did, in fact, see a partially hidden spider web shimmering with drops of dew and a single perfect purple spiderwort in full bloom, both beautiful and unspoiled.  But it was the hickory tree, pictured above, that made me stop in wonder—the wabi-sabi hickory tree.

We ventured close to examine the trunks, yes, trunks, of this single tree.  It appears that as the tree first began to grow, something bent it over.  I am not an arborist, so I have no idea why the trunk decided to curve and bend and then somehow root itself again before growing straight upwards, at least 20 feet high, with bright, abundant green foliage.  But for all the tree’s mystery, it isn’t a beautiful tree.  It is an odd hickory, an anomaly in a woods full of trees that knew how to grow upward from the beginning.  Yet it touched me more than any of the others because of its strangeness, its awkwardness, and so I keep reflecting on what wisdom, enlightenment, satori, I might receive from it.

Growing out of the humus, the earth, this hickory reminds me of wabi-sabi and the spirituality of accepting our imperfections, flaws, limitations, and impermanence with humility and with compassion.  In my own faith tradition, Jesus Christ was able to do that for others, to see them through “wabi-sabi” eyes. The bent tree reminds me of the story in the New Testament, in Luke’s gospel, Chapter 13:10-17, of the woman bent over for 18 years who Jesus saw with compassion, not revulsion, and healed. Our culture clamors for perfection; we spend so much energy, so much of our lives, trying to impress, trying to prove we are, indeed, worthy, trying to “stand up straight.”  Yet perhaps our worthiness resides not in what we do or how we look or what we produce but in honoring ourselves as we are, and others, as they are. This misshapen (at least by our standards) hickory tree reminds me that all of us—all of creation—are vitally connected not by our perfection but by our own imperfections, incompleteness, and impermanence in a way that, if we truly want to see as the Christ sees, makes us somehow beautiful.  We are all, each one of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made” as the ancient Jewish psalmist proclaimed (Psalm 139, verse 14) and the hickory tree echoed.

It wouldn’t hurt our Western world to practice a bit more humility, a bit more compassion, a bit more awareness of what is truly important and what is not.  So it seems rather fitting that a tree would be that messenger for me.    Blessings, Rosemary     20rosepoet20@gmail.com.

The Shell Collector

Imagine God by whatever holy name you
utter, walking along the sandy beach, the waves
roiling and tumbling across feet and ankles
while God collects sea shells.
See God picking up a pearly gray clamshell–
one you would value—
only to toss it back to the sea.
Or perhaps God chooses a whole
sand dollar, perfectly intact,
so rare, and then flings it
into the frothy waves
while you gasp.
Maybe God fancies that cockle shell
with its raised ribs and God remembers
Irish Molly Malone selling her shells
in the streets of Dublin and God smiles
before leaving it on the sand.
You wonder why.
And then imagine that you are a shell,
lying with chipped edges
after your rough ride
through the oceans
and God comes to you.
God lifts you from the tide,
and with a tender hand brushes off
the stray strand of seaweed
to notice your blemishes.
God says to Godself, knowingly,
“This one’s been wounded,”
and pulls from God’s pocket
a burlap pouch and adds you to it,
along with the shell
broken by an affair;
one chipped by divorce;
one marred by grief,
one that’s been lost
for so long it no longer
gleams—none beautiful
or perfect but instead treasured
and precious, and God
walks and walks the beach
seeing in each broken shell
God keeps
God’s own exquisite image.

© Rosemary McMahan







An Invitation to See

August 19, 2021

I recently came across a quotation from John O’Donohue that made me stop.  He wrote, “Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore.  An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, ‘What did I really see this day?’”

What did I really see this day in my own familiar world?  To what did I stop and truly attend?  What did I notice right in front of me?  To be honest, I think I go through most of my days rather blindly, so I have tried to pay attention to those common, every day, familiar items that are, in fact, miracles of their own.

Take, for instance, the tomato I had with breakfast this morning.  Not a single mar on its perfect skin.  I watched as the keen edge of the knife sliced through it to reveal the rich red fruit inside, which only a summer tomato can hope to yield.  I attended to how I sliced it, evenly, instead of hacking it quickly.  I “saw” a tomato, and it was wondrous.

Now I see the rain coming down.  It creates a misty veil across the landscape and runs freely against the curb.  My mother used to say raindrops in puddles looked like the marching feet of soldiers, and I see that, too.

I remember looking at the sky yesterday and noticing two cumulous clouds that resembled a puppy kissing a little girl on the nose.  What magic!  Today, I see a solid slate of gray, the proverbial wet blanket hanging over the city, but in pockets among the trees on the hills, steam pools like miniature hot springs.

I reflect on O’Donohue’s quotation and think of the person with whom I live and the friends that I visit.  How much do I truly see them?  I know the color of my partner’s eyes (thank God!) but I couldn’t say with complete confidence what color my friends’ eyes are.  Yet, how many times have I looked them in the face?  What fabulous palettes of color have I missed while sharing our lives?

The playwright Henry Miller wrote, “The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”  What do I tend to give attention to?  Bad news.  The dumbfounding actions (or inactions) of others.  Getting through another day Covid-free.  All these things are reality.  Yet while the philosopher George Santayana acknowledged that reality, he also reminded us that the world is “shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms.”

I believe part of our journey as spiritual beings is to incorporate those practices that help the spirit to bloom.  Our wisest religions and philosophies stress the importance of paying attention, starting with  paying attention to what we are paying attention to! When we become too familiar, we lose awe, humility, and gratitude.  Great losses, indeed, for each one of us and for our world.

In this current season of so much uncertainty, noise, confusion, and angst, O’Donohue’s question is a centering one:  “What did I really see today?”  There is time to look.  There is time to pay attention, no matter how time-strapped or worry-obsessed we have convinced ourselves we are.  Who knows how that glimpse of one familiar object might wake us up, might fill us with wonder, might cause us to give thanks, might help transform our world?  Even a mockingbird is worth the time to see.

Seeing with you. ~ Blessings, Rosemary    

Mockingbird on Sunday Morning

If birds speak in tongues
then surely does the mockingbird
attired in clerical grays
and whites suitable
for Sunday worship.
This morning, a male lifts
his frenzied, praise-filled song
in notes of cardinal,
blue jay, wren, and titmouse
in constant, raucous
harmony, enamored
by the sun’s early rays
the first breath of a new day
or the female mockingbird
high in a limb
cocking her head
in anticipation of just
the right melody
that praises her.

(c) Rosemary McMahan

“Looking” on the Prayer Path

July 20, 2021

On the spiritual journey, it helps to remember that we are created to be spiritual beings as well as human doings.  Life isn’t all about what we produce.  It also involves who we are becoming, and if we believe we are made in the image of Something Bigger than us, of a holy Other, of God, than what we are becoming is Love.

Of course, being made in the image of Love is not what the world proclaims or helps assist us to attain.  Too often we hear we are to be #1, the best, the only, and that our own needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s.  If you know of any religious traditions that teach that, please inform me because I don’t find that heresy in the world religions with which I am familiar.  Listening to those voices that deny Love is detrimental to our spirit and to life all around us.

So, for those of us on a prayer journey, to whom or what do we give our attention?  In last week’s blog, I began a three-part series on the liturgical hour of “Prime,” or morning prayer, when we begin our day.  In referring to Brother David Steindl-Rast’s book, Music of Silence:  A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, I used his analogy of morning prayer being similar to the “Stop, look, go” that a parent teaches a child when learning to cross the street.  Last week’s post explored the richness of stopping to be with God before we start our day and the monastic vow of stability.  The next step is to look, or listen, which involves the monastic vow of conversion.

What is conversion?  It seems the Christian tradition has hijacked the term to mean being converted to a believer in Christ.  But conversion in the monastic and contemplative sense has a much fuller, deeper meaning.  In her book, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, Christine Valters Painter writes that conversion includes stepping “into the unknown space between our egos and our deepest longings.”  It is the place where we set ego aside and take that leap of faith, where surprises happen and mysteries become clearer, where change and transformation are birthed, not because of what the world is shouting but because of what the breath of the Spirit is breathing in us and inviting us to look at.  After we stop to be with God, then we look and listen.  We have to be careful about which direction we choose and which voices we pay heed to.

Brother David encourages us to use our senses in prayer as we look at what is around us, outside our windows, in our rooms, across the street, or in our laps, which is usually my tabby cat.  While looking, we listen as the Holy Spirit helps us design the day ahead.  What are our priorities?  What is God possibly calling us to attend to?  Who is being placed on our hearts?  Where will our creative work fit into this day?  What within the upcoming day is truly life-giving and worth our time?  Reflecting prayerfully on the day ahead, we may be surprised by something that calls for our attention that we didn’t expect, or we may decide that what we had planned to do earlier has now become different.  The way we move into our day—mindfully not absently–says something about the conversion and transformation that we are allowing in our very lives.

With looking/listening in mind, we might consider these questions with holy curiosity:

  1. How much of our ego is tied to what we produce?
  2. Is it difficult for us to let go of our plans in order to discern God’s invitations for the day?
  3. In what areas of our life might we need to grow in cultivating compassion for ourselves, our choices, and our desires so that we can be open to surprise and change?

If even for a few moments, stop a moment to be with God, to let God look at you with love, just as you are.  Then look around you, use your senses, and listen, as the monastics say, “with the ears of your heart.”  Then will you be ready to go, our step for next week. 

Loving and patient Creator, every single day holds a multitude of surprises and mysteries.  Often we miss them because we are so intent on following our well laid-out plans and accomplishing something, anything, that somehow proves our worth.  Give us the grace, we ask, to be open to surprise, to practice flexibility, and to discern what is truly life-giving and what brings us the fruit of your joy.  May it be so. Walking with you on the journey ~ Rosemary  20rosepoet20@gmail.com

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 wonder.

© Rosemary McMahan

“Remember me”?

June 23, 2021

In my early years of ministry, I found myself in a life-changing position for all involved.  A teenager and her mother came to me for direction because the single teen (I will call her Beth) was pregnant.  Beth had the support of her mother for whatever decision she made, but it was clear that what both wanted was my blessing for an abortion, a life and soul-changer for me.

Throughout my upbringing, my parents and my previous denomination had ingrained in me the conviction that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder and thus a serious sin with dire consequences for the mother and her salvation.  For years, I heard the minister pray for “unwed mothers” in his litany of intercessions (but never for unwed fathers who somehow got off the hook on this one).  I knew enough psychology to speak about the very real after-effects of abortion on the mental health of the mother, the guilt and shame that quite possibly could haunt her the rest of her life.  And I knew something of the soul and its spiritual health.  But could I condone an abortion?  This may have been the ultimate test of my ministry.

In my current denomination, a gracious doctrine states that “God alone is Lord of the conscience.”  I am convicted by that.  Only God knows the human heart, and no single person can force her or his beliefs on another.  The Good News of the gospels can be shared, and is shared, but no minister has control over another’s conscience.  In that moment I realized that no matter what I, personally, believed, this decision was not mine to make, condone, or to judge.  All I could do—and what I did do—was reassure Beth how much she was loved, not just by her mother and by me, but by God.

Today’s headlines surrounding conservative American Catholic bishops who hope to bar President Biden from the communion table because of Biden’s pro-choice stance both stun and sadden me, and also resurrected this years-past memory of Beth.  When did abortion become the ultimate sin?  When did homosexuality?  According to Jesus Christ, there are quite a few sins of which we are guilty, including evil thoughts, theft, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness  (see Mark 7: 21-22).  If I recall correctly (and I do), Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, pardoned the thief crucified with him, commissioned the woman at the well as his first disciple (see John 4), forgave Peter for betraying him, and washed the feet of Judas, his traitor, including him in the first communion around the Seder table.  As Jesus did so, he said, “Remember me.”

How well are we remembering the Christ—or whoever we follow who models love–in today’s politically charged, divisive and abusive environment?  Where do we see grace and love being practiced?  How do we condone our actions and our allegiances in relation to what the gospels proclaim?  What I am witnessing daily is Christ’s body being broken in countless ways that have nothing to do with what he taught.  Our current president doesn’t hide his religious devotion but embraces it and relies on it to lead him.  And the powers that be are threatened, not unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ time.  Not only are they trying to punish a faithful believer, who like the rest of us—and like them—is not perfect, but they are also dredging up all the hurt, the shame, the loss, and the guilt that surround so many women who have had abortions.  They are making the “woman’s” sin the ultimate sin.

Pray God that we do remember Christ and all other spiritual leaders that teach love, compassion, inclusion, and healing.  But may we do more than remember.  May we act like them.  Blessings to you~ Rosemary   20rosepoet20@gmail.com.

Attic Wisdom

From the attic . . .

June 1, 2021

If you’ve ever expected a child, then you know something about the “nesting” period when suddenly you realize, instinctively, that the time is NOW to finish getting the nursery in order, counting the diapers, tidying up the house, and putting extra meals in the freezer because something waiting to be born is coming.  Lately, I’ve felt like I am back in the “nesting” period—though no baby is on the way—and that the time is NOW to put some things in order.  Part of that nesting is a current need to de-clutter, and my need led to the attic.

American attics are a sight to behold.  They certainly say much about our abundance, love for materialism, and our strange obsession to hold onto—or even hoard—so many things, which is a blog in itself.  But attics also reveal the history of our lives, including joys, lost dreams, love, and change.  At least that is what I discovered myself a couple of days ago as I began the challenging task of cleaning out our American attic.  What was I called to keep?  To give away?  To throw away?  To remember?

Some of the choices were simple, including computer satchels we had stored for computers we no longer own.  Why had we even kept them?  Or the suitcase that had been manhandled at the airport one too many times.  Why hadn’t I tossed that one earlier?  But there were other items that told stories of my life and the lives of those I love:

  • The punch bowl with its tea-cup sized glasses given to me in the early years of marriage by my mother-in-law who is now in her final stages of Alzheimer’s disease . . . . Every young woman needed a punch bowl to entertain properly, but gone are the days of hosting baby showers, and these days a metal tub holding beer and wine works just as well at parties.  Yet the punch bowl is a symbol of my mother-in-law’s constant love for me even as she forgets who I am.
  • The ceramic lamp fashioned into a Victorian-styled girl with two blonde braids painted by my aunt, for me, when I was twelve. . . . . I recall visiting her once a year on vacation and sitting in her musty, dusty ceramic shop where she invited me to choose anything I’d like to paint.  The ceramic angel I made there, hands folded, finished in a shiny cream glaze, sits on my desk, a reminder of my childhood and innocence long gone and an aunt, overweight and jolly, who paid attention to me.
  • The maroon trunk that my daughter used to take every year to summer camp. . . . . Why was it still in the attic?  When I opened the trunk, it was filled with her teen-aged summer shorts and t-shirts.  I shook out each piece and recalled what she looked like wearing it and how she acted and the pure joy she experienced at that special place.  Her journey has not been an easy one since then as she has traveled the road of depression, harassment, divorce, relocations, and I have cried many tears for my beautiful daughter with her courageous spirit and I have wondered why.  The clothes, all in good shape, will be given away, but the trunk stays for now, reminding me of her strength and perseverance and of all our distinct yet mutual journeys.
  • The car seat we have kept with hope since the birth of our first grandchild eight years ago . . . . My son and daughter-in-law expected and planned for a houseful of children.  But that’s not the way life has turned out.  It is a miracle, pure and simple, that they have a child and that we are blessed with a granddaughter, our one and only.  The car seat symbolizes acceptance of what is, and it is time to give it to someone else.

And so many other items and objects that are part of my life story, my personal history, that remind me of a time, a place, a person that is no longer.  As I take each item—the punch bowl, the lamp, the clothing, the car seat–to my car for delivery to a charity thrift store, I try to focus on two lessons:  the first is that The Creator has nudged me to create space, not only in my attic but more importantly in my heart, for whatever I know instinctively is waiting to be born.  The second lesson is to bless each item with gratitude for what it gave me, and now, for what it will give someone else as it becomes part of their own story.

I am reminded again in the wisdom of the attic that life is all about letting go:

A window closes
another story ends now
Open palms reach high

It is what all spiritual teachers try to prepare us for–letting go of what was, what could have been, what might have been, what did, in order to be open to whatever is waiting to be.  Our lives are not so much processes to be explained but mysteries to be lived, not with clutched hands and hearts because we fear loss, but with open hands and hearts because we trust.  Blessings to you ~ Rosemary  20rosepoet20@gmail.com.

Lakes, Chapels, God, and Prayer

Memorial Chapel, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

May 25, 2021

We recently returned from western North Carolina where we had the opportunity to visit Lake Junaluska, situated in the heart of a Methodist Camp and Conference Center and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and numerous old shade trees.  If ever there were a place to commune with the Divine, by whatever name one calls it, Lake Junaluska is certainly at the top of the list. 

Memorial Chapel, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

A friend had suggested that we visit Memorial Chapel, nested against the lakeshore.  The picturesque small stone church with a view of the placid lake through its arches calls for guests, for those who seek peace to come and sit inside and rest/pray awhile.  We approached a groundskeeper and asked if the chapel was open.  Her response was, “During Covid it was opened 24 hours a day for people to come in and pray, but now that things have gotten better, it is not opened as often.”  Then, half-embarrassed by the irony of her reply, she chuckled a bit, shrugged, and returned to watering the flowers.

Memorial Chapel, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

My instant thought was, “Isn’t that just like human nature?”  I guess we didn’t need God anymore.  There we were, in the midst of a religious community, and the chapel was closed because things had “gotten better.”   I realized, again, how often we want God, Yahweh, Allah, Abba, Jesus, Divinity on our own terms, when we want it, when we need it.  I recalled the amazing increase in worship after 9/11, until we realized that—at least for a time—the terrorist attacks were over and life could return to somewhat normal.  The sky hadn’t fallen, yet, so God could be put on hold.  

Yet that notion is so contrary to at least three world religions.  Jesus Christ constantly modeled prayer.  Paul of the New Testament stated we should, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, ” (1 Thessalonians, verses 16-18).  Early in monastic life, the “Liturgy of the Hours” was developed that outlined seven times for prayer each day, following the Jewish example of seven times of prayer found in Psalm 119, verse 164:  “Seven times a day I praise you . . . ” Muslims are instructed to pray five times a day.  Nowhere is there a stipulation to pray only in a crisis.  We fickle humans seem to have invented that one ourselves.

The closed chapel also made me wonder how much we tend to use God, just like we sometimes use other people.  When we are in need of something bigger than us, or beyond our control, we cry out for help and healing, solace and sympathy.  When the crisis is over, we often forget our relationship with the Divine until another crisis or hard time hits.  We forget we are invited into a two-way relationship, one that includes awareness, intention, gratitude, and love from both partners, instead of a relationship where we treat the Divine (or the other) like a genie in a bottle.

Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

Certainly, we don’t need a chapel in order to commune with Love.  Sitting under a tree by the lake will work just as well as waiting at a red light in traffic.  Divine Love is all around us, simply waiting to be noticed and received.  Yet here was a chapel, dedicated for prayer and worship, closed because things had “gotten better,” and apparently people no longer felt an intense need to pray.  Perhaps Covid has gotten better here in the States, but not everywhere, and surely many more needs exist to be lifted up in prayer, along with many thanksgivings. How precious are the opportunities for sitting in the quiet company of God where often words are not even necessary.

Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

I’m very grateful that we visited Lake Junaluska.  I felt the presence of the Creator all around us.  More importantly, our brief chapel interlude presented me with an opportunity to reflect on my own prayer life and to admit how many times I turn to God in need and then allow God to fade away when things are going well.  I would like my heart to be a chapel that is open 24 hours a day, inviting God in, not only in the difficult times, but in the peaceful, as well.   Blessings ~ Rosemary  20rosepoet20@gmail.com