Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bearing the Promise

Bearing the Promise
Mary, I praise you.
I marvel at your faithfulness
your wholehearted embrace
of God’s claim on your life.
You sing a magnificent song
of certainty.

If it had been me
I would not have been so accepting,
so confident
so quick to assume
my place in the plan.

You worshipped.
I worried.

You said, behold
I am the handmaid
the servant of the Lord.

I said, whatever this is
I have to research this first.
I need to be logical, look at the facts.

An angel spoke and you listened.
I would like to say I’m learning
to do it your way.

How do I listen?
What will I hear?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We All Sit Beside A Pool Of Tears

We all sit beside a pool of tears
Mine was home to algae and mosquitos
not much more than a puddle, really
I sat there everyday unable
to see the sun, the moon or myself
reflected in the murk, hoping
for a tadpole to take up residence
or dew to float on a leaf
Hungry for food, thirsty for drink
longing for sustenance

The dark immensity of tears beside you
was too deep to fathom
too wide to sail across
the rain of accumulated pain
tsunamis of sorrow, centuries of grief
Unlike me, you didn’t sit at water’s edge
helpless, hoping

You braved the stagnant sea
waded until you submerged
our despair alive against your skin
Your nostrils flared, your mouth opened
you did what those of us desperate
to survive avoid
You gulped in our grief
drowned in the lake of our shatteredness
then you emerged, coughing, sputtering
the weight of us dripped
from your robe and beard

You stroked toward shore
then stopped, knelt
The pool now clear glittering
lapped at your chest

You beckoned to us
we who stood on the sand
thinking we had witnessed your folly
Tentatively we inched closer
shivering in the shimmering wet
You touched our shoulders
cupped the small of our backs
dunked us into Presence
We surfaced, soaked and stunned
You wipe our eyes
Scooped up our tears
held your palms to our lips

“Drink,” you said
“This is the Water of Life”

©Cathy Warner, 2009
With thanks to Trevor Hudson for the title.
Dedicated to the Companions in Ministry Community.

Permission to use this poem for personal or worship use is granted, provided the author is credited.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From Darkness to Light

I woke too early this morning from a terrible dream that one of my daughters had died. Even though I knew it was just a dream, I couldn’t shake the sadness and despair. I got up, took some aspirin for the pounding headache I’d developed, and returned to bed. I told myself to think of happy things, but my mind kept returning to my sadness. What a terrible dream to have, I told myself, hoping to scold the parts of my brain responsible for nocturnal images and stories. Shake it. The daylight will come and I can call my daughter, just to say hello, hear her voice. Know that she’s safe. She’s okay now, I thought, but what if something does happen to her in the future? Should I ask her to carry a card in her wallet that says, “If anything bad happens to me, call my mother at this number right away?” She might do it, to humor me, but it seems a little controlling and paranoid to ask. Think of something else. Thanksgiving’s coming soon. She will be home.

I thought of my Thanksgiving table, of the people who will be there, and the people who won’t. My mother-in-law won’t be there. She’ll be visiting a son who is dying of cancer. Another son of hers has been absent from our table for years; dead at forty-five. The nightmare I had is the reality for so many mothers and fathers, not just in untimely tragedies, but also in epidemics of disease and famine. We humans are fragile; we leave this world at all ages.

These are the sort of thoughts that swirled in my head in that liminal world where the tug of the dark dream and my sleeping life forget what I know when I’m wide-awake. I have to think of something good, I told myself, and then a song, a jumble of two Taize chants, came into my head, “The Lord is my light. The Lord is my song. All my hope comes from God.” I played it over and over in my head, until the refrain pushed out my fear, with the conviction, that should the unthinkable happen, I will not be undone. I will survive it by my faith.

The sort of faith I have doesn’t keep me from pain. It doesn’t keep bad things at bay, or stop me from being angry, worried, scared. The faith I have accompanies me in all my human emotion, all my mistakes, all my panic and nightmares. It is that pinprick of light ever so slightly piercing the darkness that helps me to know there is so much more than I can see, and that whatever happens, I am not alone. I am not alone, and I am loved. I am loved by the light, by the creative force of the universe, by God.

It is that love that makes suffering bearable. How I long for those who find themselves in darkness to know the power of this light, to feel it at the very center of their souls, that they may reach for it and cling to it, trusting, as I have learned to do, that it is always there for them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Letter From Jesus

One of the writing exercises I find most powerful is writing a letter from God, Jesus, or a spiritual guide to me. It’s a way of finding out the words and message that the holy has for each one of us. In every workshop where I have led this exercise, I have always been awed by the love, tenderness and power of these words that come to us and through us. I truly believe that we become vessels for a greater knowing, for a love and power that is often beyond our ordinary consciousness, but always available to us.

Next time you need some encouragement try this simple exercise. Take a pen and a paper, and write a letter from God, Jesus, or a Biblical figures, or spiritual guide to you. If you want, you can make it a dialogue, with questions and answers, a conversation.

I guarantee that you will be blessed. The following is an excerpt from a letter from Jesus to me. In it is a promise for all of us:

“It is my job to bring healing into situations that seem hopeless and impossible. Trust that I have power to heal events not only in the present, but in the past, too.

Perfect love casts out all fear, but even imperfect ordinary love can cast out some fear. I want you to remember that I know that you love me. You can call on me, count on me, and trust me to be present with you and for you. All you need to do is ask. Invoke my presence; utter my name and I will walk with you. I will hold your hand. I will stand with you in every situation. I will give you words when you can’t speak. I will give you strength when you are weak. I will be all that you cannot and I will never desert you. For you are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

After Words

I wrote this poem a few weeks after the Twin Towers went down. Remembering today, that it's still my fervent desire to find a way toward peace.

After Words
A response to September 11, 2001

It was a time of uncertainty, doubt and fear
a time of mourning, weeping and crying out
a cacophony demanding
Revenge, Justice, an End to the Madness
A time when we perched at the brink
looked into blackness
and rock crumbled underneath our feet.
A time when we held our collective breath
and braced ourselves for the hand
that would push
us into the abyss.
We clamped our eyes shut
images of destruction replaying
in the darkness behind our eyelids.

Then we felt it.
We were not standing alone.
Shoulders pressed against ours.
Fingers found their way
into our clenched fists.
We offered our hands, opened our eyes
stepped back from the precipice
into a sea of tear-streaked faces.
Voices swelled like waves
our grief, our lament, washing us clean.
Stripping us bare.

And we knew that to heal
We needed a new vocabulary
with the power to break divisions we’d invented
to keep us “us” and others “them”.
Words to topple fences
that kept neighbors apart.
Words to weave humanity together
across the span of continents.
Words to reveal what it means to be human
in all our brokenness and beauty.

At the edge of the pit
we held the hands of strangers
we called them brother and sister.
We sang of hope, of love, of a presence bigger
than our constructions and our understanding.
We spoke of the power that embraces us all.
We became the river of life
carving a new path to a place
we’d been longing to discover all of our lives.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Blog On Break

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am currently concentrating my writing on my MFA program, writing essays and memoir that are in progress and too long to post here. Don't let the lack of recent activity discourage you. I hope you will visit my archives and that the essays, prayers, and poems I've written will encourage you on your spiritual journey.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

At the Manger

Jesus, like the magi, and the little drummer child, I bring you a gift. I pray it will be of use in this world. The wrapping isn’t fancy, the package not designed to sell. All that I can offer you is myself and the words I possess, words that I unfold before you. Words about a life, mine, that has been transformed by a life, yours. The words of epiphanies, of God moments that have changed me from a Herod––fearful and wanting control because I never really had it––into a mother Mary, willing to say yes to God even when I don’t understand how the plan is to come about.

I stand before the manger with words you will need when you are older, words that will thread you to humanity and your divine essence, words to balance you between worlds. I bring you words that are the story of struggle and triumph of each person who has made their way to you.

I drop to my knees under the weight of these words, wrapped in a tattered cloth I have tied around my arm. Then one by one I tuck words like Thank You into the corners of the straw around your sleeping frame. Your little fist opens for a moment, reaching for a word to hold tight to your chest. You choose Love.