Friday of Holy Week: Love

April 2, 2021

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor. 13:13

Crucifixion, Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Sadhu Sundar Singh was an Indian Christian, evangelist, and mystic who lived in the early part of the 20th century and often trekked through the Himalayan mountains to share the good news of the love of Jesus Christ with remote villagers.  He told the following story of how creation can reflect the love of Christ, especially in suffering, which is appropriate this Good Friday as we continue to rise from ashes in order to bring love to our deepest selves and into the world, no matter the cost:

“Once, as I traveled through the Himalayas, there was a great forest fire. Everyone was frantically trying to fight the fire, but I noticed a group of men standing and looking up into a tree that was about to go up in flames. When I asked them what they were looking at, they pointed up at a nest full of young birds. Above it, the mother bird was circling wildly in the air and calling out warnings to her young ones. There was nothing she or we could do, and soon the flames started climbing up the branches.

As the nest caught fire, we were all amazed to see how the mother bird reacted. Instead of flying away from the flames, she flew down and settled on the nest, covering her little ones with her wings. The next moment, she and her nestlings were burnt to ashes. None of us could believe our eyes. I turned to those standing by and said: ‘We have witnessed a truly marvelous thing. God created that bird with such love and devotion, that she gave her life trying to protect her young. If her small heart was so full of love, how unfathomable must be the love of her Creator. That is the love that brought him down from heaven to become man. That is the love that made him suffer a painful death for our sake.’”

I cannot say anything more or better than the Sadhu has done in this parable.  My faith and my hope are grounded on the conviction that it is that kind of love, lived out in us, that will save us from ourselves and save our world.  It is that kind of love expressed by the people I choose to follow and emulate. It is that kind of sacrificial and unconditional love that the resurrection is about.

We end our Lenten journey with this blog today to sit in the silence that Good Friday invites.  I thank you, those I know and those I have never met, for sharing part of the walk with me.  May resurrections abound in your own lives, and may we all recognize each new beginning as gift from the Divine Source who created us simply out of desire.  May we each be brave enough to love. Blessings ~ Rosemary

Resurrection, Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Wednesday of Holy Week: Hope

March 31, 2021

Bath Abbey, Great Britain

Midway through Holy Week, consider the millions, if not billions, of prayers lifted by candleflame through the ages.  The steadfastness of the flame offers the comfort of hope as its smoke wafts toward heaven, a visual sign that our prayer is being lifted, noticed, even heard.  Our control is released and entrusted to the Creator of All.

In a similar way, Holy Week is a prayer lifted to heaven.  We have endured the rigors of Lent, of the transitional season, not just for the past six weeks but for the past year.  We have witnessed what Christ witnessed two thousand years ago when he taught us to pray—his beloved children on the boundaries, the marginalized, the broken, the poor, the bereft, the sick, the dying, the homeless—begging to be noticed, to be significant, to have their prayers heard.  And in our inward journeys, we have recognized our broken and neglected places, our shadows and light, also seeking to be heard and healed.

The reality of Holy Week is that we cannot fully appreciate healing, resurrection, or fulfilled hope if we haven’t first entered our own gardens of uncertainty, disillusionment, and fear.  We cannot rise from the ashes if we, like Christ, don’t raise our emptied hands in acceptance and trust.  Just as the journey to the cross was not an easy one, neither is the journey of transformation, within ourselves and without in our world.  And so we pray. When we, like Christ, surrender to the unknown in trust and love, and move forward with opened arms, we discover the same Divine Love found in Christ.  In our Holy of Holies, in our deepest deep, lies the core of hope, the hope that resurrection and new life do happen and will happen. 

The final meal still awaits.  So do the bitter garden of tears, and betrayal, the unjust system, the deceitful politics, the humiliation and the sacrifice.   We pray Holy Week when we lift in prayers of hope all those whom Christ came to serve, when we lift our own brokenness, knowing that Jesus Christ experienced and felt much of the same. We pray Holy Week when we seek the wisdom and courage to end the unjust systems and corrupt politics that make gods of power and greed. May we finish this journey with Christ as a prayer wafting to heaven, reflecting on the words found in Hebrews 6: 18b-19:  “Hold fast to the hope that lies before us.  This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil.”  Blessings ~ Rosemary

Charade?

March 26, 2021

In this transitional time between seasons, as the harshness of winter is left behind and the hope of spring begins to bloom, we have journeyed together from ashes to hope. So many faith traditions present us with an opportunity to journey within and assess who we really are at the center of our being where Divine Love abides. Acknowledging that Love, we then reflect on how we are mirroring it in our own lives and in our own environments.

For Christians, this season of Lent has been an intentional time of focusing on the Divine Love that we call Christ. In two days, those of us who call ourselves by the name Christian will remember Christ’s triumphant arrival into the city of Jerusalem, on the final stretch of his journey.  We will wave our palm branches and shout “Hosanna,” welcoming Jesus during this final stretch of Lent we call “Holy Week.”  We will visualize Jesus on that colt—not even a donkey or a horse—as the crowds lay their cloaks before him as if he were royalty, as if he were a king, as if he were “somebody.” The question for us is how well we have grown to know him these last six weeks.

Jesus understands one basic truth throughout this episode.  No one knows who he is at all.  There, in the midst of crowds, at the height of his popularity, scores of people packed around him, he is most isolated.  No one knows who he is.  No one.

Of course, like us, each person in the crowd believes he or she knows who Jesus is.  Each person comes with his or her own label or expectation.  To some in the crowd, Jesus is the next king, the Jewish Messiah who will topple the government of Rome and bring Jerusalem and all the country back under Israeli rule.  .  .  .  They are wrong. . . and so they will turn on him.

To others, even his own disciples, he is the greatest Rabbi ever, the greatest prophet since Elijah, whose instructions will straighten out corruption and set all things right. . . . They are wrong. . . and so they will betray or abandon him or flee from him.

Perhaps to others waving palms, Jesus is popular because he is the Great Magician who turned water into wine and walked on the sea and made a banquet out of a handful of bread and fish.  They can’t wait to see what great feat he will accomplish next.  .  .  .  But, they are wrong. . . and so they taunt him and spit on him.

And to still others, this man riding on a colt—not even a donkey or a horse—is a mockery of who they are.  He is a threat to their positions of power, greed, priesthood, privilege, and authority.  He is out to displace them with his group of rebel-rousers .  .  . They, too, are wrong. . .  and so they frame him.

Yes, on the day of Jesus’ so-called “triumph,” he will be well aware that no one really knows who he is—the sacrificial Passover Lamb, the one who has come to suffer in their place, not to usurp their places, the one who is both man and God, both terrified and resolute.  Once the crowds begin to realize that Jesus’ intention is not to become King or the greatest rabbi or a famous magician, or even a rebel, they turn on him.  Once they realize that he is nothing other than a suffering servant, useless to them, they back away, and the rustle of the wind through all those palm branches fades to silence.  This grim reality is what Palm Sunday is about.  The grand parade is a false and broken charade.

Having journeyed together in this blog the last several weeks, on the final stretch of our Lenten walk, do any of us know who Jesus is–or whoever our holy guide is–any better than we did the first Sunday of Lent, or last year at this time, or ten years ago?  Do we know ourselves any better? Are we like some of those in the crowd, clutching the same set of labels and expectations for whatever name we call God that we have hauled around all our lives because we did not take the time to get to know him better this season, or we did not want to make the effort to know him, or we believe we have Jesus pegged?  Or are we all simply play-acting?  To know the Holy is to be transformed by the Holy. Palm Sunday is a tough day because it begs us to admit that all too often we are part of that crowd who one day shouts “Hosanna” and the next day betrays or abandons Jesus, or Yahweh, or Allah, or . . . . even our deepest selves.

So here Jesus will be, on a colt—not even a donkey or a horse–nodding his head at each one of us, catching our eye, seeing us as we really are, better than we can even see ourselves, and he knows where this road will lead in just a short while—to an excruciating and humiliating death on a cross.  He knows some of us may one day understand the extent of his love and some of us won’t.  He knows that some of us will want to continue following him and some of us won’t.  He realizes that some of us will desire to know him even more deeply, and some of us won’t.  He knows that some of us will be changed by the entire parade and the week that follows, and some of us won’t.  And yet Jesus still rides on, on that silly colt, because the love he has is unconditional, and even if we do not know him, he knows us.  And he understands.  Blessings. ~ Rosemary

Interruptions

March 17, 2021

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)

Interruptions can be the bane of life.  How many times have you been engrossed in a task or been working against the clock only to have someone call, text, or show up, needing your attention now?  How did you respond?  Those moments can be real tests of patience.  We modern people are geared for efficiency—getting things done and getting them done this instant.  Time is a premium.  All you interrupters, leave us alone, please.  We have more important things to do.  But where do those “more important” things really get us?  Or bless us?  Or bless others?  Or have a lasting impact?

I have had many an interruption in my life as a mother, a wife, a writer, and a pastor.  I admit that too many times I chose efficiency over love.  I needed to get dinner made, finish a project, write a sermon, plan a worship service.   I couldn’t play right now, sit down with my spouse, or listen to a problem at that moment.  Make an appointment, please.  Yes, sometimes the clock is ticking and we really can’t be interrupted, but too often we miss the presence, that one single moment in time that will never repeat itself, of being with another person, of being with the One we call God.  We miss the gift of the sacred moment.

As we continue our journey through Lent and focus on giving to instead of giving up, I want to see interruptions in a different light and be thankful for them.  I want to be able to stop whatever my efficiency-driven brain is doing and give to another—extend myself, my time, and my attention.  Interruptions can be transformed from tests of patience into opportunities of sharing and receiving.  It is often in there that Love is revealed, that a message from the Creator is offered, that the gift of presence is truly a blessing.  Then we, like Jacob of the Old Testament with too much on his mind, can say with wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.”  Blessings of interruptions to you. ~ Rosemary

Contemplation with Cat

Dear Cat, who asked you here
into my time of prayer
and up to my empty lap?
I did not invite your rumbling purr
to vibrate within my silence
nor did I request ten sharp nails
to knead my thigh while I attempt
to center, to settle, to be.
O Tabby One, you may quit circling
round and round like restless thoughts
that I am anxious to release. Do not
shove, once again, against
the sacred prayer book to plant
your face upon my chest or anchor
your leg across my arm as if
to claim me. Those moss green
eyes must cease their languid
steady blinking mirrored
in my own, your feline ways
an interruption intent to sway me
from my aim to pray, to sit,
to allow Silence her place,
Love its own seat,
Worship to mimic
the echo of my heart. I should
set you aside and close
the door. Yet here you are
flesh, bone, and vocal chords,
a muff on which to rest
open hands, a chorus
of pleasure rising from your body,
a solid symbol that it is in the very
moment of what is
that I AM delights
to welcome me.

© Rosemary McMahan

And it is good . . .

from ashes to hope

March 15, 2021

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses. . . .
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around a heart of wonder.
For Presence, John O’Donohue

I take part in a group that engages in heart/spirituality/psychology work and looks at how the three (and more parts of us) intertwine and relate to one another.  Our group tends to reflect beyond boundaries and boxes that religious and other institutions have established while still realizing that those boundaries and boxes exist.  Mostly, we take all of these parts and delve into the heart because we believe that it is in the heart, in the seat of Divine Love, that healing and wholeness take place.

Last week, our facilitator invited us to take part in an exercise.  The instructions were to fill in the blank with our own name and write it down:  “It is good to be _________.”    This exercise might be easy for many, but to be honest, I didn’t want to do it.  I could already sense tears pressing against my eyelids because it hasn’t always been “good to be Rosemary.”   That statement opened the floodgate for past mistakes, difficult experiences, betrayals, inadequacies and failings to swamp me.  But I wrote it down, and as I knew would happen, that judgmental part of me began to have a party.  If the silence and expressions on the faces of others in the group were any indication, I suspect that they were dealing with the same judge.

Yet as I sat a bit longer with the statement, something shifted.  Six simple words were on the page.  Nothing else.  No reasons, explanations, or justifications.  “It is good to be Rosemary.”  Period.  My heart shifted and I began to feel that yes, it is good to be me. Period. No reasons, explanations, or justifications. My mistakes (both past and future), my complexity of emotions and intentions, my background, my sacred stories, my particular choices and journey have shaped me into who I am.  They have all given me my voice, not someone else’s.  No one else can possibly be me but me.  That is a sacred truth, one that the world will never tell us, one that we can only discover where Love dwells, waiting to welcome us home.

Gerald May, spiritual writer and psychiatrist, wrote:  “Creation would miss us if we were not here.  We are significant, precious, and needed, not just for the choices we make and the actions we take, but for our very presence.  The scriptures of every major religion attest to it:  the love in which we exist loves us for our very being” (The Awakened Heart). “For our very being,” no reasons, explanations, or justifications.

As we shake off the ashes of the past year and move toward the new life of spring, what if the gift we gave ourselves was that very statement—it is good to be who we are?  Just that and nothing more. What if we planted it like a seed in our hearts and let it take root?  It would not only change us, but quite possibly help transform the world.

Whoever is reading this blog, it is good to be you.  You are precious, honored, and loved.  Creation would miss you if you weren’t here.  I would miss you if you weren’t here. Believe it. Blessings ~ Rosemary

How Shall We Rise?

March 10, 2021

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Covid-19 being declared a worldwide pandemic.  I don’t believe this is the type of anniversary where we will fetch balloons and champagne, but anniversaries, like birthdays, invite us to reflect on where we were a year ago and where we are now, along with who we were a year ago and who we are now.

Where were you this time of month one year ago?   I was at a poetry retreat with a group of six beautiful souls at a monastery run by Benedictine nuns.  None of us is Catholic, so when you see the word “Benedictine,” equate it with hospitality, for the sisters surely were that.  Covid, of course, was in every headline, but there had not yet been a documented case in our state.  We knew we might be pushing the envelope, but the meeting area was large, with a dispenser of Clorox wipes prominently in sight on the communal table.  The photos in this blog are of the retreat grounds in early spring last year.

When I reflect on that experience and how safe we all felt in our bubble of words, musings, song, and imagination, I am humbled by the gift of that time and struck by how much we all have given up this past year.  Since that weekend in March, I have not seen those poets except on Zoom.  We have not sung together, shared a meal, or embraced.  I have not sat in a worship service in the company of the broken and hopeful.  I have not dined with a single friend. I haven’t spent time with family, either, all of us determined to keep each other safe and not contribute to the spread of the virus.  And I have lost people I know and care about as have so many of you. 

That is my experience of the pandemic. But more was going on, a double-disaster.  In the United States, the past year smothered and soiled us with ugly and soul-searing political divide, with the clear evidence of ongoing racism and anti-Semitism, with the huge disparity between the haves and the have-nots and the fact that those who have are frightened that what they have isn’t enough to share.  Fear proclaims itself in conspiracy theories and violence. Patriotism and Nationalism have become the golden idols for so many who claim to worship God.  Gas-lighting not only became a new word in my vocabulary but a new personal experience.  What have I lost, myself?  Trust in my fellow country-people.  Pride in a country that I believed to be gracious and generous, where people cared for their neighbors.  A sense of belonging.  The fears and the troubles of the past year will not simply go away as people get vaccinated.  I come into this anniversary in a large part, bereft.  The scars are deep, the trauma real.

What about you?  How and where are you one year later?  Can you sit among your ashes and count your losses?  Can you name them for what they are?  Can you honor them?  Yet once we do that, there is another necessary step that awaits us, a decision to be made.  Do we stay in the ashes, waiting for things to “go back to normal,” as if normal was all good?  As if normal truly defined who we are as individuals and as a country?  Or do we decide to rise up from the ashes as something and someone better?  We are face to face with a challenge and an opportunity:  what kind of people do we truly want to be and what kind of world do we want to pass on to those who will come after us?

The one hope that has sustained me through this year is that I will somehow be different, be more grounded, more whole, more caring because of my experiences; that I won’t be satisfied with going back to, but will insist on going toward.  In this liminal time between seasons when many faith traditions invite us to take an honest look at our souls, can we search for courage, compassion, and clarity and resolve to carry those attributes forward?  For any of this turning toward to be meaningful, to be real, to be strengthened, it must be rooted, like the ancient magnolia, in the ground of Divine Love, by whatever name we call our God.

A year ago, I was scared.  I still carry some of that fear today, but more than that, I embrace Love.  It is the one transforming power that will prevent us from going back to normal.  It can be the new breath that blows over us and through us, igniting those ashes back into a fire that both heals and creates. 

Blessings to you who have stumbled across this blog. My prayers are for your healing and wholeness, and for your memories and losses, as we journey toward the next year.  ~ Rosemary

Anniversary
Marking one year of Covid

No one serenades neighbors from a balcony
anymore
Gone are photos of shared scenes
outside windows from a locked-down world
When hopefulness faced reality
the clever, humorous videos of life
in quarantine faded from social media
At a half-million dead flags went half-mast
Did anyone notice?

How long, O Lord, how long, we cried.
Now, we know.

Yet here we are–the survivors.
How, then, shall we rise? Stumbling
out of ashes,
who shall we be?

Let us call on the prophets
to arise and announce
that Beauty will lead
and Love will witness.
Let poets pen Compassion
and painters color Wisdom
singers chant Hope
while sculptors chisel
Courage. Let potters go
to their wheels to spin Truth
and quilters pick up their needles
to stitch Healing, let actors
strut across old stages
to proclaim with fresh voices
that the proverbial phoenix
has risen–and she will not go
back to normal
she will not return to ashes
she will not be battered
by hate
she will not be chained
by division
but will blaze her way upward
leaving a brilliant trail of flame
for those brave enough
to follow.

© Rosemary McMahan

Spring Cleaning 2021

March 8, 2021

During this past year of pandemic and politics, I admit that I have not accomplished the numerous projects I’ve heard other people claim during this “stay at home” time.  I have not repainted a single room.  I have not learned a new language.  I have not come to love cooking, especially after doing it three times a day for a year.  I most definitely have not lost any weight.  In many respects, I feel like I’ve been treading water instead, trying to stay afloat, dodging the tidal waves of illness, sorrow, division, hatred, judgment, violence, fear, and anger—sometimes cresting a wave, other times getting pulled under, but somehow miraculously staying afloat. 

Now, in March, in the Christian season of Lent (the Germanic origin simply means springtime), I find myself surrounded by clutter.  The yard needs weeding, re-mulching, and general tidying while the house could use a good scrubbing top to bottom.  It’s time to wash out the empty flower pots on my deck and decide how to fill them this spring when everything was so limited last year.  My study, my sacred space, has transformed into a jungle of piles of books and papers and journals.  I find myself seeking space and simplicity, some breathing room, some emptiness.

Spiritually, it’s no coincidence that Lent coincides with springtime.  These seasons of introspection and reversal beckon us to clear out the clutter of our hearts, just as tradition and the turn of the seasons invite us to do a bit of spring cleaning.  The ancient prophet Joel told his people to rend their hearts, not their garments, as they turned away from themselves and back toward God.  It is the deep cleansing, not the surface appearance, that truly transforms us.  When I imagine rending my heart, I see it being torn open so that all the clutter that distracts me from space and simplicity spills out.  Just as weeds take root and books fill up floor space, so negativity, anxiety, comparisons, grudges, and even self-righteousness can fill up our hearts so that there is no room for Divine Love to dwell, or simply to sit a while for a cup of tea.

So as I turn toward what in my home needs some loving attention and I begin to de-clutter and create space, I hope to do so with my heart in mind.  I want all that is not-Love to spill out, especially the built-up drudge and ashes from the past 12 months.  With each pot I wash, I also wash my heart.  With each book I re-shelve, or let go, I let go of what no longer needs to take up room in my heart.  While I wash windows, I open my heart to the Light.  As the space on my desk opens up, I invite my heart to do the same and reclaim its own spaciousness which always births creativity.  My prayer is that when the time comes to open the windows and allow the spring breeze to flow through my home, ruach, that ancient breath of new beginnings, will find a welcome space.  Blessings to you ~ Rosemary

Each New Day

Sunrise on the lake

March 5, 2021

At the beginning of each day,
after we open our eyes
to receive the light
of that day,

As we listen to the voices
and the sounds
that surround us,

We must resolve to treat each hour
as the rarest of gifts,
and be grateful
for the consciousness
that allows us to experience it,
recalling in thanks
that our awareness is a present
from we know not where,
or how, or why.
–Benedict of Nursia

The ancient passage above, some 1500 years old, comes from a book entitled Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston.  It is a modern paraphrase taken from a section of spiritual guide Benedict’s  “Rule,” a series of lessons written for Italian monks in the hills of Subiaco, Italy, concerning how to live in community.  This “Rule of St. Benedict,” as spiritual wisdom often does, has not only guided Italian monks but also non-Italians and non-monks over the centuries.  Benedict offers a wisdom we are invited to listen to and embrace in our hearts.

Always We Begin Again is a clear description of what it means to rise from ashes to hope, the journey we find ourselves on in this present time.  Each new day, no matter what has happened to us or to our world, we open our curtains and shades to the grace of a new beginning.  We are given the opportunity to start over.  Benedict advises that one way to do so is to “treat each hour as the rarest of gifts.”  That advice requires that we pay attention to each hour, but how difficult that is with all the noise around us.  If we are not inundated by outer noise, we are mired in the noise in our own heads.

Since reading this passage a couple of days ago, I have been trying (trying being the operative word) to make an effort to “wake up” to each hour, to give my attention to each hour, to remind myself to stop and notice the blue jay foraging in my front yard, to admire the miraculous way my cat moves across the room, to savor what I am drinking or eating instead of gulping it down with my thoughts a hundred miles away.  This practice of noticing, or being in the moment, necessarily leads to another direction in Benedict’s passage:  expressing gratitude and giving thanks.  Who gave me the gift of vision so that I can appreciate the colors of the jay?  What did I do to earn the privilege of owning a pet?  Why am I gifted with food three times a day while others are not?  When we pause, even to notice our very breath, we begin to realize that everything we have is a present from Someone greater than us.  How, then, can we not express gratitude and wonder? When we live from a place of attentiveness to the moment, we discover the solid ground of hope that sustains us, even among the ashes.  Blessings ~ Rosemary

Just This

What do I need to do at this moment
that is more important than petting my cat,
the tuxedo that rarely gets the choice spot
in my lap? What do I have to do
at this very moment
that is more urgent than stroking–
up and down–black fur softer than spring rain?
More vital than admiring spats and cummerbund
of white on this gentleman
dressed to take his girl to the show?
What must be done right now
that is so pressing that I would forego the solid
weight on my lap, betray the rumbling purr
that vibrates against my leg, disregard
the green eyes half-closed in pleasure,
to walk away from being?

© Rosemary McMahan

Fissures and Light

March 1, 2021

I belong to a group called “The Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks,” a title that resonates with me because it breaks the mold of how the world sees “religion.”  The people in this group are artists:  writers, poets, painters, dancers, sculptors, songwriters, and more—anyone willing to embrace creativity–and we delight in letting THE Creator out of the box.  We are “monks” in the sense that our creativity is dependent on our various contemplative and spiritual practices, all intended to bring beauty and joy into a dark and broken world.

One topic that often comes up is our indoctrinated quest for perfection.  We hear it from our earliest ages:  “Do your best,” and “Practice makes perfect.”  Being human, however, at some point we run straight into the truth that it is impossible to do our best all the time, that we make mistakes, some with very serious consequences, and then we struggle with our sense of “enoughness” because for some of us, we feel we will never be enough.  We will never live up to the expectations others have ingrained in us, or those we have ingrained in ourselves.  We fear we cannot be loved if we are not perfect; perhaps we’ve even experienced rejection or betrayal when our imperfections revealed themselves.  So we bear the brokenness, the cracks, from those experiences, and wonder how we can ever be whole again, how we can ever be loved again.

Too many of us have only heard of our sinfulness, our shame, and our guilt, as if these are all that define us.  These seasons of atonement, like Lent, if we are not careful, can mire us in a sense of hopelessness:  we will never be good enough to be loved.  But what if we turn away from that thinking, what if we give up those false beliefs for Lent, for our lives, and we instead turn toward the Light that assures us we are indeed loved–wounds, fissures, and all?

No one is perfect.  No one.  And none of us ever will be perfect, thank God, literally.  Instead, we are on a mutual journey of discovery that leads us to be gentle with our woundedness, our cracks, our imperfections.  As singer, songwriter, and spiritual guide Leonard Cohen writes, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”  These cracks can become the breeding ground of compassion and empathy, for ourselves and for others, and that ground becomes holy.  We should all be walking around with bare feet! “Every heart to love can come, but like a refugee,” sings Cohen.  Aren’t we all refugees seeking acceptance, belonging, love, and the assurance that we are, just as we are, “enough”?  Punishment, shame, and fear will never move us along in our spiritual journeys; they are only control mechanisms to keep us stuck.  Instead, we turn to Love, to the Light, to the Divine Source of our Being from which we were created who desires to shine in us, who desires to heal us, who desires to see us dancing in holy disorder.

This same Being offers you two gifts today.  The first is a short parable about the beauty of brokenness.  The second is the song Anthem by Leonard Cohen.  May you listen to both with the ear of your heart and know that you are, indeed, enough.  Blessings ~ Rosemary

The Parable of Two Flower Vases

Let us suppose that there are two flower vases made of fine china. Both are intricately carved and of comparable value, elegance, and beauty. Then a wind blows, and one of them falls from its stand and is broken into pieces.

An expert from a distant land is called. Painstakingly, step by step, the expert glues the pieces back together. Soon the broken vase is intact again, can hold water without leaking, is unblemished to all who see it.

Yet this vase is now different from the other one. The lines along which it had broken, a subtle reminder of yesterday, will always remain discernible to an experienced eye.

However, it will have a certain wisdom, since it knows something that the vase that has never been broken does not: it knows what it is to break and what it is to come together again.” 

Dr. Salman Akhtar in Broken Structures

Leonard Cohen, Anthem:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8-BT6y_wYg

Turning toward Love

February 26, 2021

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works.” Psalm 139: 13-14

“If you never make a mistake, you’re probably not a very good engineer.”  That quotation is attributed to my husband’s former boss and mentor, Mark.  They were discussing an employee’s very costly monetary mistake in a product that was about to go out the door, and Mark’s reply was filled with gracious acceptance and nonjudgment.  The engineer responsible had been working on a completely new product with new technology which required taking risks.  This particular risk did not work, but lessons were learned, the most important one probably being the engineer’s appreciation for the gift of grace.

Mark’s comment touched me and led me to expand it.  “If you never make a mistake, you’re probably not a very good engineer . . . If you never make a mistake, you’re probably not a very good parent . . . not a very good teacher . . . not a very good writer . . . not a very good partner or friend . . . not a very good Believer in whatever or whomever you place your beliefs.”  For most of us, we hear the exact opposite.  Mistakes are to be avoided.  Mistakes equal punishment, even shame.   Mistakes diminish we who are.  Yet in the eyes of Divine Love, which Mark was just a mere reflection of, we are loved despite our mistakes or maybe—shockingly—even because of our mistakes.

Spiritual guide and psychiatrist Gerald May wrote this about love, which includes love of ourselves, in his book The Awakened Heart:  “Every religion has moral commandments intended to promote kindness toward others . . . .The real commandment of love is an invitation born in our own yearning, not an externally imposed ‘should.’ . . .Jews and Christians honor the great commandment to love God with one’s entire being, and one’s neighbor as oneself.  The very name of Islam implies surrendering completely to God.  The heart of the Hindu Song of God, the Bhagavad-Gita, is God’s request for complete, unconditional love.  Buddhism seeks the inherent compassion existing at the root of reality. . . .In every deep world religion, the greatest commandment goes to the very core of being, and there it depends radically on grace” (p.14).

We are invited to love something bigger than us, and that invitation also implies that whatever is bigger than us also loves us.  We are invited to love our neighbor, and that same invitation includes love of ourselves.  Each one of us composes part of that Love Triangle.  If that is so, that we are loved beyond measure, that we are included in the equation of Love, then in this season of turning, we can turn back from our own lack of self-love and turn toward that Source who makes us whole, just as we are.  We are made for Love.

We Christians are fond of saying that Jesus Christ came to save us.  But I often ask, “Save us from what?”  Sin?  Death?  Despair?  I’ve come to believe that Jesus Christ and other spiritual leaders come to save us from ourselves, from our own lack of love for ourselves, just as we are, both broken and beautiful, composed of shadow and light, yearning to know Love.  Yes, we make mistakes, but those mistakes don’t ever define who we are.  When we turn back to Divine Love, we can give up our lack of self-worth and give to ourselves the compassion and grace that remind us how wonderfully created we are.  Wonderful are Love’s works.  ~ Rosemary

A Blessing for Whoever You Are

May you be entranced by the hue of your eyes—
emerald green, slate gray, cornflower blue, burnished brown,
and all the wondrous shades in between that were selected
just for you.
May you be blessed by Love’s design for the color
of your skin—ebony, ivory, bronze, cream, caramel—
and the marvelous blends on the palette
created with care for you.
May you receive the blessing of your shape, your size,
your height which are a delight to Love’s eyes
because you were created in Love’s image.
Love breathes in you.
May you be blessed by releasing all that says
you are less than, you are not enough, you are unlovable
and wrap your arms around your very heart.
May you be blessed by the sacred place within you,
the chamber where Love waits simply to gaze
upon you. And may you believe that gaze
that washes over you and whispers,
“Love. Love. Love. Just as you are. Just because
you are.”

© Rosemary McMahan