Covid-19 Infects Us All

August 3, 2021

The Old Testament of the Bible contains an odd story, among many odd stories: the story of Job.  For those not familiar with it, the plot revolves around a bet made between God and Satan in which Satan claims that no one is strong enough to remain faithful to God in the midst of unending adversity.  Job, a faithful, righteous, and prosperous man, is selected as the “guinea pig” for the bet, and so his calamities begin.

This blog is not an interpretation of the Book of Job, but takes two passages from it that speak to today’s Covid situation in the United States.  The first passage is from Chapter 38, verses 1-2, when God finally speaks after hearing a multitude of words from Job and his companions:  “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:  ‘Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’”  Clearly, we have been in a whirlwind since March 2020, and just as we thought the whirlwind might be sputtering out, it has reappeared with greater force as the Delta variant.  And it spread and continues to spread by the proliferation of “words without knowledge.” 

Words Without Knowledge

After listening to their queries, theories, and speculations, God basically is asking Job and his human companions exactly who they think they are. It is these same “words without knowledge” that infect each one of us, whether we actually contract the Covid/Delta virus or not.  We read them.  We hear them on the news.   They spill out of the mouths of politicians.  We share them with family members and friends.  Tinier than the tiniest droplet of virus, these words are carried on the air and land on all of us.

What are these infectious words?  They are words of division.  Of superiority.  Of ridicule.  Of self-righteousness.  Of fear.  Of violence (Capitol attack, Jan 6, 2021).  They are words of ignorance.  Words of blame.  Words of suspicion.  Words of scorn.  Often they are selfish and self-centered words.  They are words that break down the system (our very country), not words that heal and unite.  They are words that cause anxiety, depression, bewilderment, and hopelessness. They are Republican, Democratic, Independent words that know no single party or faith. Heated words.  Searing words.  “I am right and you are wrong” words that carry no real knowledge but which continue to infect and divide, again and again, into “us” and “them.”

A tiny virus has taught us that we cannot make creation, God, or others bend to our wills, and we are infuriated.

Another Way

But there is a way out of this whirlwind, a way to avoid this virus.  The second passage in the story of Job is found in Job’s reply to God, and it is a relevant piece of ancient wisdom:  “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Chapter 40: 3-5).  In the midst of adversity, Job chooses humility.  Job doesn’t know why what is happening to him is happening.  He is not going to spread conspiracy theories.  He is not going to proclaim that he is more righteous or smarter than others.  He is not going to spout his opinions or try to control others as if he were God because Job knows that he is not God.  Neither are we.

I lay my hand on my mouth.  The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.”  How many of us are willing to lay our hands on our mouths during this ongoing pandemic, to attempt this way out of the whirlwind?  How many of us are willing to admit with all humility that we don’t have all the answers?  How many of us are able to make the decisions for ourselves that we feel we need to make, to take the actions that we believe are in our best interest, and then lay our hands over our mouths?  When our words do not contribute to unity, to hope, to dialogue, to trust, and to healing, they are not words that need to be said, or spread.

For me, the words I need to anchor myself to are the teachings of the Christ.  That is my faith tradition, the one I best know, the one whose words promise that the Light cannot be overcome.  For others it may be the words of Yahweh, Allah, Nature, Spirit, Love, Poetry, the Universe.  Wherever love is uttered, wherever peace is proclaimed, wherever the Light is shining is where we are called, now, to ground ourselves so that the virus cannot continue to take root in us.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@rosemarymcmahan

“Going” on the Prayer Path

July 26, 2021

(C) Rosemary McMahan

Decades later, I still remember a cross-stitched saying in a plain wooden frame that hung on the wall of my family doctor’s office.  It read, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”  As a child of five or six, I recall being bemused by that quotation.  Were hurrier and behinder really words?  And how could a person get behind if that person was, in fact, hurrying?  I asked my mother to explain the meaning behind those tightly, perfectly stitched words, and ever since then, when I find I am tripping over myself in haste to get ahead, I remember the wisdom on a wall in a doctor’s small office from a long time ago.

The last two weeks, I’ve been sharing my reflections on morning prayer, called “Prime” in the Liturgy of the Hours, and its relationship to three ancient monastic vows:  stability, conversion, and obedience.  I’ve related the vows to the simple instructions that a parent teaches a child before crossing a street:  Stop, look, and go. These steps are an analogy for a prayer method described by Brother David Steindl-Rast in his book, Music of Silence:  A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day.  Stability is the “stop” we take before we begin our day, our invitation to sit with our God, by whatever name we call the Holy Other.  Conversion involves the moments we take to look about us and listen for the Spirit’s nudging before we run ahead of ourselves with our own plans for the day.  Today, I invite you to consider the last step:  Go.

As Brother David writes, if we go without stopping and looking (as in, the hurrier I go, the behinder I get), we may find ourselves swallowed up in other people’s expectations and agendas, or we may find ourselves spending so much time “producing” that we fail to notice God in the present moment, the God who is “I AM.”  For those of us on a creative journey, if we go before connecting to the Great Creator, we may soon find our creative energies blocked, scattered, or stalled.  On the flip side, stopping and looking don’t mean much if we don’t finally go.  We can sit with God all day, or muse about all the possibilities in the next 24 hours, but if we don’t get up and actually cross over, nothing will happen.  So after some moments of stopping and looking, we are called to go into our day.

Obedience is the third vow we make to the creative and aware life and the one that equates with “go.”  The root meaning of the word obey is to hear or to listen.  Think of a parent saying, “Listen to me!”  Obedience is expected to follow.  We go to, or obey, the callings of the day which we have discerned through our time with God.  We obey the call to prayer, and to service, to family and to friends, to the work that requires our attention, that gives us our livelihood, even obeying that call to wash the dishes.  The difference is that we are not going in a hurry; we are not falling “behinder.”  We are going with awareness to each task, inviting the Spirit along the way, and paying more attention to the gifts that surround us.  For all of us who create, in whatever way that might be, we become obedient, again and again, to that which gives us life, to the creative world.  Whether it’s painting, photography, writing, quilting, gardening, designing, woodworking, whatever, obedience is the “go” that gets us to that work.  Truly, if the world needs anything at this particular time, it needs acts of beauty, of love, of hope that can arise from the work we do.

With going/obedience in mind, I invite you to consider these questions with holy curiosity:

  1. How are you being invited to listen more closely to the call of your creative life?
  2. Can you identify any resistance to the call and invite that resistance into conversation, listening to it, blessing it, and asking it to trust your call?

Loving and compassionate Creator, we yearn to be obedient to your call to create and to be aware of the gift of Life.  This broken world is in so much need of light and beauty, song and dance, paintings and photos, poetry and prose that come from a heart aligned with yours.  We believe with all humility that you have called us to create in imitation of you, the Great Creator.  Send your Holy Spirit upon us to embolden us and to make us ever faithful to this call.  May it be so.

Stop.  Look.  Go.  //  Stability.  Conversion.  Obedience.  These are the practices and the vows we are invited to embrace to live our days with thoughtful attention and with joy.  May God the Creator take each of us by the hand and heart and lead us forward. Blessings as you go ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmailcom.

Before Going

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,”
stated the cross-stitched message
framed on a wall in the doctor’s office
of my childhood.
How often in the many seasons
since then have I recalled
that strange bit of wisdom
while tripping over myself,
arms filled with the day’s work,
on the way to my car.
How often have those words
returned to me when I have awakened
to immediacy and rushed into the precious
minutes of a new morning only
to realize later that I missed
the rising sun or the faithful
early praise of the cardinal.
“Get up, get up. Get going.”
How often have I scurried
at the voice of another’s agenda,
failing to heed the one
that gives life to me? To this world?
Yet what is there of meaning
in the hurry? What happens
to the eyes that hear and ears
that see in the white-water rush
of the day? What happens
to the longing of the heart
and the joy of being?
The world would sweep us along
like so many crumbs on a broom
but I want something more. I
want to be anchored to the Source
of All Being, I want to hear the gentle
whisper of the Spirit that guides me
toward joy, I want to know where
I am going before I say “yes.”

© 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

Stopping on the Prayer Path

July 12, 2021

As a poet, writer, and spiritual seeker, the description of my blog, Spirit-reflections, reads:  “Walking the ancient path and shining the Light with prose, poetry, and prayer.”  I believe that we, as spiritual beings, have much to learn from our ancestors who also trusted in something bigger than themselves.  If we fail to look back, we miss a plethora of wisdom, insight, encouragement, and grace offered to us from the world’s spiritual teachers who faced many of the same challenges, questions, and disappointments that we do.  I also believe I am called to shine the Light (in my case, it is the Light of the Universal Christ defined by Love) in this often unloving, frightened, dark and wounded world.  My medium is words, and as a creator, I use them in prose and poetry, and often in prayer.  We are all creators of some sort, fashioned by and made in the image of THE Creator, so my hope is that this blog speaks to anyone drawn to Light, Hope, Respite, Healing, Beauty, Love, and Peace in their creative, spiritual, and active lives.

However, trust me that I am no saint.  Far from it, I assure you.  Lately, I have been struggling with my own prayer life and with my understanding of who the spiritual journey is inviting me to be.  In reading various books, I came across this quotation from Brother Lawrence, who was born in 1614 and became a Carmelite monk in Paris, famous (ironically, since he cared nothing for fame) for his book Practicing the Presence of God):  “Having found different methods and practices to attain the spiritual life, I decided that they would serve more to hinder me than to facilitate me in what I was seeking.”  What profound truth.  We can spend so much time seeking methods to find God and exploring various ways to discover God that we fail to be with God or to notice God in the present moment.  We each have to find our own way.  Parts of two books have helped me unfold this truth in this disheveled period of my prayer life.  Perhaps they may offer you wisdom, too.

In Music of Silence:  A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, Brother David Steindl-Rast writes about “Prime,” the liturgical hour of waking and beginning our day, by using an analogy of a child learning to cross the street.  He writes that adults will instruct the child to 1) stop; 2) look; and 3) go.  His explanations of each step remind me of the three ancient monastic vows we are invited to make to support our creative lives:  1) obedience; 2) stability; and 3) conversion.  In this blog, I invite you to consider “stopping” in your prayer life.

Brother David explains that the “stop” is the pause we take before rushing into the day’s activities.  Think about this.  Like a child stopping before rushing into a street, we stop before taking up our work.  In this pause, we simply sit with God, look at God, and allow God to look at us.  Nothing more is needed, not even words, other than showing up for this intentional time to stop as, paradoxically, we begin our day.

Stopping is part of the vow of stability.  We root ourselves in the presence of the Creator who calls us to create before plunging into the myriad demands around us.  Whenever we stop, even for a few moments, we then can anchor ourselves to prayer or to silence or to creativity or to life itself, focusing on the present moment where “I AM” dwells.  Christine Valters Painter explores these vows and writes in Week Five of The Artist’s Rule:  Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, that “Stability means not running away from yourself.  When the creative work becomes challenging or the inner voices and judgments rise up, stability summons us to stay present to the process and see what we discover.”  The same is true of prayer.  Stability means not running away from God in whatever way we name God.  When we are tempted to begin our day without God, stopping summons us to stay present.  It protects us from plunging thoughtlessly into the day while it reminds us that we are human beings, not human doings.

I wonder about myself and why it is sometimes difficult for me to stop before beginning my day.  I wonder about my restlessness and my need to get on with it even while I crave an intimacy with my Creator.  Perhaps you wonder these things, as well.  Perhaps we might, together, lift our wondering to God.

Loving and inviting Creator, we seek to vow stability to the work of creation with which you have gifted us.  Our world is always in a hurry, and often, so are we.  Sometimes it’s easier to do a load of laundry and mark that off the list rather than stopping, just stopping, to be with you or with our creative work.  Spill your Holy Spirit who stills us and helps us focus on what truly matters upon each one of us. May it be so.

Next week, I will explore “looking” and the vow of conversion.  You are welcomed to join me.  Blessings to you in your stopping.  ~ Rosemary

A Simple Invitation

What would it take for you to stop
before you even begin?
To release the tight agenda
the blocked-off calendar
the color-coded “To Do” list
in order to simply be?
Are you able to cradle your mug of coffee
or cup of tea and sit for just a moment
only a moment
to gaze at the wind stirring the pine
or the bird singing praise from a wire
or your neighbor’s laundry clapping
like joyful hands in the morning air?
Can you soften your gaze and see
yourself for the wondrous creation
that you are, just as you are,
in the miracle of this moment
where Love gazes at you
with such deep longing that your heart
can only reply with a sigh?
For when you stop before you even begin,
when you still your mind and open
the door to your soul, if just
for a moment
only a moment
you will remember,
and in the remembering,
you will discover your Truth.

© Rosemary McMahan

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

A Time to Keep

Garden Benches (C) Rosemary McMahan

April 30, 2021

“A time to keep, and a time to throw away.” Eccl. 3: 6

A few days ago, we entertained a couple in our home for dinner—a couple we had not seen in well over a year due to the pandemic.  On the one hand, the experience felt surreal, and on the other, it felt like we had picked up right where we left off, as if the pandemic had been some kind of time warp.

After catching up on our lives over the past thirteen months (not that there was a lot to tell), our friend asked a question.  He said, “What it is that you want to keep from this pandemic experience, that you don’t want to lose as we go back to our routines?”  I found his question thought-provoking and deserving of reflection.  As I have mentioned in a couple of former blogs, I believe that the pandemic gave all of us, the global community, a time to reassess and reconsider how we want to spend our lives and who we want to be, who we want our communities, our nations, our world to be.  The four of us shared our various thoughts, and a common thread was a desire to keep a sense of discernment before jumping right back into all those obligations and commitments, to weigh what and who are life-giving and what and who are not, to decide where and with whom we are called to expend energy, and where and with whom we are not.  In other words, we have been given the opportunity to decide, with love and wisdom, what time to keep and what time to let go.

After reflecting on the conversation, the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes Chapter Three of the Old Testament came to mind.  The Book of Ecclesiastes is considered part of the “Wisdom” tradition of Hebrew Scripture and is thought to have been written sometime between c. 450–200 BCE, over two thousand years ago. The first eight verses state that there is a time and a season for every aspect and experience of human life.  Plagues and pandemics and political upheaval were as much a part of life then as they are now, and the author knew something of what he wrote.  As he pairs each experience, each time and season, he invites us to discern, to listen with our hearts, to the seasons that we are in and to perhaps even discover a blessing, or at least a reassurance, that there is something to be learned, a gift to be received.  Who we are as we exit each season says something about how we lived through it.

We have been in a long and, in parts of the world, continuing season of dying, of weeping, of not touching, of silence, and we are all ready for it to end, but what will we keep without rushing back to a normal that no longer really exists?  What has become something unexpectedly precious to us?  What is one insight, one observation, one “ah ha!” moment, one touch of the heart, one glimpse of the Divine One, one understanding that gently unfolded for us and has the capacity to make us more loving and our lives more sacred?  Those are questions worth our reflection; those are questions that can transform us, and, in turn, transform the world.  Blessings to you ~ Rosemary

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Listen

March 24, 2021

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak . . . James 1:19

In this increasingly noisy world, consider the almost lost art of listening.  We tend to talk over each other, interrupt, or wait for the space between another person’s breath so that we can jump in with what we want to say.  Often our minds are a million miles away while our partner, friend, or child is talking to us.  The ongoing conversations in our own heads prevent us from truly hearing what the other is trying to express.  I wonder how many gifts, how many precious insights, we have failed to receive simply because we did not listen.

To truly listen to others is to acknowledge their presence and their significance.  Listening is an act of honoring someone else and making space for them in our lives because they matter.  We give up a part of ourselves to give to another. Listening offers the gift of attention, and in this white-water world, who of us would not appreciate just a moment of true attention?

In regard to Lent and seasons of transformation, listening is a practice we can “give to” someone else. One way to practice listening is to become more aware of what is directly in front of us and to slow down enough to hear it, whatever it is–a spiritual practice called “audio divina,” or holy listening.  Everything created has a voice, and as we attend to listening to those voices, we practice becoming more attentive to the words a child of God is sharing with us.

We each have a story to tell.  What a gift it is when we make room to listen to another’s story, to hear it not only with our ears but also with our hearts.  That is how Divine Love listens to us.  Blessings~ Rosemary

Listen

When the wind blows across your skin, listen.
you might hear 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. Stop what you are doing
to honor the song of the mockingbird in all
its different languages and know it sings
for you. Listen to the way the pelican
rides on the currents or glides
across a cloudless sky, inviting you
to let go.
Listen to your own heartbeat,
what it calls you to remember
and listen to the voice of the one
seeking that same heart.
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. Become the sacred vessel
that treasures each sound it’s given
with reverent wonder.

© Rosemary McMahan

Ephemerals

March 19, 2021

One year ago, on March 13, 2020, the first case of Coronavirus was reported.  Our governor announced that all schools would immediately close for three weeks.  On March 16, businesses began closing and sending their employees home to work.  On March 18, statewide orders prevented gatherings of more than 25 people, closed beaches, and postponed primary elections.  On March 27, all businesses deemed non-essential were ordered to close for three weeks. That order was extended. By April 1, the state hit a milestone of 1000 confirmed cases, and on April 3, the governor imposed a stay-at-home order for the rest of the month.  While the word “unprecedented” gained a new, and negative, meaning, the redbuds bloomed.

Redbud trees are native to eastern North America from southern Michigan south to central Mexico, and east to New Jersey. Species thrive as far west as California and as far north as southern Ontario.  The pink to magenta-colored blossoms last about three weeks, and when not in bloom, redbud leaves are heart-shaped.  Their time in bloom is “ephemeral,” a Greek word that originally meant “lasting one day.”  Blossoms and wildflowers that appear briefly are fleeting and reflect the transitory nature of all life.  Redbuds are also my favorite spring tree.

Last year, as we walked into the unfamiliar and frightening period of lockdown, I noticed the redbuds more than I have at any other time in my life.  The initial months of the spread of Covid terrified me as I worried about my own family and their health and watched the numbers rise.  There were moments when I could do nothing more than stare out my windows, and it was in those precious moments that my eyes settled on the beauty of the redbuds, their splash of color a symbol of hope amidst the bare branches of winter.  Redbuds reminded me that everything happening in our world, in my own world, was transitory, fleeting, and that resurrection happens.

One year later, the deaths attributed to Covid in our state alone are over 10,000, and people are still dying.  On April 7, our governor has decreed that the mask mandate will end and everything can reopen fully.  That statement alone makes me anxious because I believe we are acting too quickly.  Yet, the redbuds are back in bloom, just for a brief time, and in that ephemeral space, they beckon me to ask if I am a different person than I was this time last year, and the answer is that in some ways, yes, I am.  I am keenly aware of how little control I have in this life.  I am keenly aware of the bittersweet and poignant significance of my loved ones.  I understand in a way I never did how miraculous each moment is because that moment, no matter what it contains, is fleeting, ephemeral, and can never return exactly as it was.  There was a time when I did not pay attention to the exquisite wonder of a redbud blossom, and now I savor each day it deigns to delight me.

Will my more focused and appreciative attention span continue as the world tries to rise from the ashes and return to its noisy, feverish self?  I pray so.  It is my Lenten hope that I can continue to listen to the song of the redbuds, even when they are no longer in bloom.  Blessings to you. ~ Rosemary

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

“But Lent”

Photo credit: Diana Carroll

March 3, 2021

This blog, offered in the transitional time between winter and spring, as the earth reawakens, as we continue rising from ashes to hope (an ongoing journey), as many religious traditions invite us to a time of introspection, honesty, and repentance, is, I pray each time I post, a place of respite where words of gentleness and compassion are shared, not just for ourselves but for the world.  I pray this blog always proclaims that we are loved by the Divine Lover, and that we were created to be loved and to return love.  I believe that looking within and seeking the Divine Being, whatever our religious traditions or absence of them name It, is not about “belly-gazing” for our personal comfort but will lead us to influence our surroundings and environments with gentleness and compassion in a world that needs now, more than ever, to be loved.   Striving for perfection, accepting the false gods that tell us it is what we do or accomplish or achieve that defines us, being taught that we had to do more to be more are not the ways of Love.  We begin turning away from those old stories and turning toward Love when we say “yes” to the invitation to embrace our “enoughness.”

A couple of days ago, with all of the above on my heart, I was gifted with a poem that I would like to share with you as gift.  It captures all that I have tried to say in the past few blogs.  The poet and pastor, Rev. Diana Carroll, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis, MD, granted me permission to include it here, along with her photo, for which I am most grateful.  We both invite you to take the words into your heart and to hear Love speak through them.

Yes, we know our own areas of challenge; we’d be dishonest if we did not own them.  But we are so much more than our challenges.  We hold within our deepest selves the image, the breath, of the One Who Created Us, the One who desires we simply sit still long enough to allow Love to embrace us, to breathe us as we breathe Love.   Blessings to you ~ Rosemary

“But Lent”

I would love to become
the kind of person
who makes sure the dishes
are done
every night
so she can wake up
in the morning
to the peaceful welcome
of a clean kitchen.
I would love to become
the kind of person
who replies to every email
the same day it arrives
and keeps a neat,
nearly empty
inbox.
I would love to become
the kind of person
who never picks
at her cuticles
or bites
at her lips
or chews
at the insides
of her cheeks
until the dentist
gives her a lecture about it.
But Lent
is not for trying
to become someone
I am not.
It is for honoring
the person
I already am.
My wholeness.
My integrity.
My belovedness.
And so,
in this holy season,
I will not strive
for self-improvement.
I will not seek
to create new habits
or to break
the old ones.
I will not squeeze myself
into impossible expectations
guaranteed to leave me angry
and disappointed
when I fail.
Instead,
I will do nothing
but breathe,
receiving the quiet gift
of every inhale
and every exhale,
receiving it even
when I am too busy
or distracted
to notice.
Somehow,
God is present
in the breath,
in the breathing.
And from time to time,
if I simply
stop
trying,
I may be given
the grace
of knowing it.

© Diana Carroll