Saturday, November 20, 2010

Prayers of the People

Here's an excerpt from essay on prayer I'm currently writing for my degree program :

Three Sundays a month for seven years I closed my eyes, bowed my head, lifted my arms in supplication, and prayed without self-consciousness or script.  No creeds.  No prayers from a worship book.  My parishioners prayed together only one prayer––and not as a rote ramble, but as living words, often sung––the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, The Lord’s Prayer.  The rest we created in worship. 
In my religious tradition, we invite prayers of the people.  I listened to rambling stories, teary requests, mumbled worry, celebration of milestones, and less frequently, thanks.  Summarizing and repeating for the congregation, so all could hear, I felt myself lift their joys and concerns out of our midst into a realm of spirit I felt intimately connected to.  After worship, people often said to me, “Cathy, you do such a good job with the prayer time.”  But I never saw it that way.  It wasn’t about me.  It wasn’t about job performance.  I planted my feet and claimed the posture and attitude of prayer.  I held holy space.  I observed silence and focused on breath.  (The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, breath.)  Others followed.  We did not share our lives out of prurient curiosity or even for the sake of community building.  We prayed because it was the least and the most we could do for one another.  We prayed because we were God’s people, communicating with God in one of the few ways we knew how.  

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thanksgiving in a Box

The November we began remodeling our kitchen, I wasn’t sure how I was going to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. The honor and responsibility had recently come my way, once my grandparents decided it was easier for the two of them to drive eight hours to be with us, than for my mother and stepfather, and my husband, me and our two children, ages five and two, to make our separate treks to Los Angeles.

The week before the feast day, I leafed through the adverts in the mail and found in the Safeway circular, a ready-made Thanksgiving dinner. I signed up at the deli counter, and picked up my order the day before Thanksgiving. At home, in the company of my parents and grandparents, I opened the large cardboard box to reveal our dinner in a box.

1 shrink-wrapped defrosted, uncooked turkey
1 foil roasting pan
1 box Safeway brand frozen Bread Dressing
1 box Safeway brand frozen mashed potatoes
1 tub refrigerated Ocean Spray cranberry sauce
1 tub refrigerated turkey gravy
1 dozen fresh dinner rolls from the Safeway Bakery
1 boxed Entenmann’s pumpkin pie with a red ribbon printed on the packaging

There was nothing technically “wrong” with this dinner, and if the advertisement had shown the components fully prepared and steaming in china serving dishes, well that wasn’t uncommon.

It was simply that until that moment, I hadn’t fully appreciated the heroic efforts my grandmother had undertaken each Thanksgiving and Christmas. She constructed elaborate centerpieces and made decorations for each plate setting (one for each dinner guest and dozens more of that year’s craft to sell at her church’s holiday bazaar). Her home resembled Santa’s workshops for weeks before the feasts, as she and my grandfather ran their jigsaws, painted, and glued. She put every leaf in her dining room table until it nearly filled the room to accommodate ten of us and a myriad of china serving dishes. She pressed her best tablecloth and set out the fancy china and crystal goblets for our sparkling apple cider.

Her food was fabulous too. The hors d'oeuvres tray was plentiful and healthy: carrot and celery sticks, crackers and dip, and black olives that my sister and I would stick on our fingers as children. Her menu consisted of turkey, of course, and a stuffing that contained onion, celery and giblets as well as breadcrumbs and broth. The potatoes were russets, mashed with milk and butter. The gravy was whisked thick from basting broth with giblets and cornstarch with no trace of lumps. There were green beans topped with Durkee onions. The cranberries were whole and mixed with chopped orange peel and nuts to make chutney. She baked pies, pumpkin and apple with a flaky crust we raved about, and served them with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.

My grandmother, whose energy was a constant source of amazement, would stay up nearly all night before the feast days, perfecting everything. On the big days, running on two, maybe three hours of sleep, she would dress up, tie an apron around her waist, and zip around her kitchen, attending to every detail, when launch into the role of gracious hostess as her company began arriving.

One year her turkey wore a vest, collar, cuffs and spats perfectly crafted dough, shaped into clothing and made more realistic with the application of food coloring and an egg wash. She took a photo of that turkey in the kitchen, and also on the table. She always took a photo of the fully decorated table, although I’m not sure if she snapped pictures of her guests.

There was no chance my Thanksgiving in a box could compare to the care and craftsmanship evidenced in my grandmother’s kitchen. My kitchen had temporary plywood countertops and all the overhead cabinets had been ripped out so we could knock out the upper half of the wall, making a large pass through into a bedroom that would become a dining room. We ate in a nook just off the kitchen. Our table sat eight and was much too large for the space. One long side was shoved against a wall so we could squeeze past it into the kitchen proper. Our Thanksgiving meal of 1993 would be served directly from foil, boxes and plastic containers onto paper plates, and eight of us would crowd around three sides of a table covered with a red and white checked plastic coated cloth.

Instead of despairing, we laughed. My grandmother––given a reprieve from her usual time consuming preparations––laughed first and longest of all. We were all together, great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and children, and we would celebrate. It was Thanksgiving, and just as tradition dictated, my grandmother artfully arranged the components of our dinner in their colorful wrappings atop my dining room table. Then she fished her Kodak Instamatic camera from her purse and photographed our feast.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This is the beginning of a very long essay written for my daughter. Too long to post in its entirety, but wanted to share this snippet:

The world doesn't need another dog story, and I hate to say it, our dog is neither genius nor terror, neither Lassie nor Marley, and I doubt my pen can magnify our ordinary lives into books and movies that will entertain the masses. Sterling, our fifteen-year-old American Eskimo, is hardly a hero. So, these words are for us. We have lived this tale, and now that Sterling is truly geriatric, you and I both know there will be an end. Each day, we see the last page coming closer. With each meal he leaves uneaten, with each time his atrophied leg slips out from under him, whenever we shout his name and clap our hands at the front door, and watch him bark or wait resignedly at the sliding door a few feet away, deaf to our racket, oblivious to our movements, we circle mortality, worried that death will step into view. 

Sterling's demise will arrive too soon, whenever it comes, because we want him to outlive us. We try to be rational. I say, “After all, he's fifteen years old. That's somewhere between ninety and one hundred and five in human years, and he's in great shape when you think of it that way.” You agree, out loud at least. But how can you think of it that way? You yourself are only nineteen and Sterling has been part of our family since you were six.

We know very well that you are the reason he exists in our household, and that he, in the form of mythic dog, existed in our lives the moment you could assert your desire. You, born to cat loving parents, were enamored with dogs from infancy, so much so that you became a dog, shedding clothes and abandoning speech as a preschooler. When you reverted to your human self you explained your imaginative integrity, “Dog's don't wear clothes. Dogs don't talk.” Your father and I entered your fantasy. When you were canine, we allowed you to run naked at home, and in the homes of friends and relatives, saying to them, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, “She's a dog right now. When she's a dog, she doesn't wear clothes,” and because we weren't shocked or angry, neither were they. When you stripped at Round Table Pizza and barked your way through the Cub Scouts awards dinner in the banquet area, instead of scolding you, Dad scooped you up and said that if you could turn back into a girl, he'd take you to the playground next door. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Writing Workshop

Holy Ink
Writing Workshop
in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Sat. November 6, 9 am to 4 pm
Led by Cathy Warner

Telling Our Stories. Unearth your memories. Name what you know. Join in a day of writing.

We will focus on personal and family stories, life journeys, and spiritual experiences.
Sharing is optional and conducted in a supportive environment.

$40 registration includes morning continental breakfast, coffee & tea, snacks and materials.
To register email
Registration Deadline: Nov. 2.

Bring: lunch (or visit local market/restaurants), journal or notebook & pen, or laptop computer.

Gather at Cathy’s home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lunchtime recreation includes use of hot tub, relaxing in gardens and scenic walks, weather permitting. (Allergy sufferers note: I have indoor cats &; a dog)
Address &; directions will be sent upon registration.

United Methodist Advanced Lay speaking credit available on request. Text required for layspeaking credit:
Remembering Your Story, Richard L. Morgan, cost $11.20. Order directly from

Monday, August 09, 2010

Silly Poetry Contest

As you know, I'm studying creative writing through Seattle Pacific University. A highlight of our residencies is a poetry contest, where we parody the poets and writer's we've been studying (and sometimes our program director). Last week, we studied the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, with an emphasis on "The Windhover."

Hopkins was always on the lookout for God, as was Annie Dillard (we studied "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"), who perfected the art of stalking nature. Like those notable writers, I too have been on a quest (for the last 35 years) for the perfect pair of jeans. If I find them, I'll know God exists!

Here is my version of The Windhover--

The Skinned Cover
To Christian Dior

I sought this morning Macy’s markdowns king-
dom of day’s designer-discount denim, Jeans for this—hiding
Of the rolling bevel underneath slim, sturdy wear and striding
Sigh there. Eeh, ow, my rump upon the grain-glove a dimpling thing
Is this Ecstacy? Then off, off forth I swing
As Kate’s* heel sweeps smoothe on a show-end; I twirl and gliding
Rebuff the rear bend. My hind in hiding.
Word! It’s absurd,––the aggrieve of, the misery of the sling!

Brute booty and Valium and ack! No air, pride, doom, fear
BUCKLE! And the tire that quakes from me then a million
Times rolled, uglier, more strange than thus: dough, bagel, schmere.

No wonder of it: beer, fod, makes chow down spillion.
Mine the grand blue-jean tremblors. Ah, my rear,
Sprawl! Maul the shelves and dash, bold civilian.

*Super model Kate Moss

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Brady Bunch, Christ Followers

Sometimes, we need a little humor. Today I preached my last sermon after seven years of serving as lay pastor to my congregation. What was I going to say? My daughter suggested I think of my retiring (to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing full-time) like the end of sitcom, maybe Cheers, since our church is small and everybody does know your name. I thought about it, and The Brady Bunch came to mind, specifically, "Here's the story, of a man named Brady." I thought about the Bible and what it's the story of. So, here, to lighten the mood of a tearful farewell, and with apologies to any Brady, living or dead, and understanding that I've taken great liberties by abridging almost all of scripture, is my new hit song, "God's Story!"

God’s Story
Sung to the theme of the Brady Bunch

Here’s the story of the baby Moses
Found in the Nile and raised in Pharaoh’s house
He led his people from slavery through the Red Sea
And wrote God’s ten big rules

It’s the story of God’s son Jesus
who spoke and healed throughout Galilee
He was crucified yet rose from the Grave
To save us all from sin

And later Paul who had once persecuted Christians
found his life turned upside down by a vision
He wrote the letters we now read in the Bible
That’s the way we all became Christ followers

Christ Followers, Christ Followers,
That’s the way we became Christ followers

Monday, June 07, 2010

Forging Ahead

"Forging Ahead" appears in the Upper Room book, Rhythm and Fire.

I wrote this poem seven years ago, the last time our church was in transition, as a thank you to Rev. Tarah Trueblood and in recognition of the difficult work she undertook in her first pastorate. It seems appropriate, as my congregation faces another transition with my retirement from pastoral ministry to focus on my MFA. A new configuration for ministry in Boulder Creek is still being dreamed up and formed, and it's stretching folks.

Forging Ahead

We’re all being hammered down
smashed flat, quivering red and molten
like silver in refiner’s fire

We’re all being punched and pushed
squashed, spun, dizzy and thrown
like clay on potter’s wheel

Maybe we should’ve kept our mouths shut
kept our noses in our books
kept our hands in the dishwater
kept our feet on the gas pedal
kept our lives settled, stable
and possibly, doubtfully, content

But we had to do it, look up from
our circumscribed lives
remove our rose colored glasses
pry our fingers from their death grip
around familiar’s throat
and belt out those words

Melt me, Mold me

Who would’ve known asking for God
would be this messy, this ugly
leaving us purple and bruised
dumped into the unknown
Who would’ve known we’re not in control

Whether we like it or not
whether we admit it or not
God always had hands all over us
fingers poking and prodding
hot breath in our faces
whispering, shouting
when we lost attention

You’re Mine

So there we were and here we are
forging ahead sharpening our trust
kneading our faith

How else are we going to become silver forks
spearing meaty portions of justice for the poor
How else are we going to become cooking pots
steaming with hope to feed the hungry

How else are we going to rise up and follow
telling our stories of transformation
from mound of slimy clay to communion cup
from chunk of ore to steeple bell

How else are we going to stare straight
into the world’s face
shift our weight in the Creator’s palm
and cry

Fill me, Use me

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Business of Memory

I just finished reading The Business of Memory for my MFA program. Amazed by the sacred gift and curse, burden and blessing of memory and what the writers in that anthology brought to the page.

My annotation is filled to overflowing with quotes. My own thoughts in this last paragraph:

As writers, we access and use memory for a purpose. We delve, finding scraps and snippets to assemble and reassemble, leading us into narrative. We engage, explore, and extrapolate from image, nuance, and feeling into language, word, sentence, paragraph. We create with material that we may have indeed created ourselves without consciously knowing it. We commit to the page, trusting as much as we are able, our memories to have retained the essence, the truth of our experience, if not the actual facts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our Cornerstone

A reflection based on 1 Peter 2:4-10

One town founder, fond of rock walls, built a mile of them through Boulder Creek, rendering it reminiscent of the English countryside. The walls came down as lots were split and town grew, but one still runs the length of Boulder Street right in front of my church. Rounding the corner from Main Street, it’s just a few yards before the wall comes into view. Those stones, mottled with dirt, moss and age, held in place by gravity and occasional cement cry out, “This is God’s house,” as much or more so than our hundred-year-old building. The church built on land donated by lumberman J.W. Peery, is painted white and fashioned of wood and sweat. The pews have held logging men, resort-goers, retirees, baby boom families and commuters. The building has burnt to the ground and rebuilt twice. The wall is made of stones hauled from Boulder Creek and stacked by Chinese laborers who built railroads in the 1880’s and has withstood the great San Francisco earthquake, and more recent Loma Prieta temblor.

Our congregation dates back to Wesleyan class meetings 140 years ago, our name changing with each Methodist reconfiguration. This is our history, but not our foundation. God is our true founder and architect. Scripture is our blue print, faith the nails that join us together. We stand on the corner of Boulder and Mountain Streets. More importantly, we stand on the Cornerstone--the Living Stone.

O Cornerstone, help us to stand on the living stone, and in so doing become steppingstones for others into your home.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts About Pentecost

I wonder about the fisherman Jesus called out of the Sea of Galilee, and if they were baptized. Scripture doesn’t tell us if those that Jesus called to leave their nets and fish for people were dunked in the Jordan River by John before Jesus came on the scene. John the Baptizer warned his converts that there was more to it than immersion. That was just the beginning. The Bible gives us only one account of Jesus continuing the practice of baptism. He and John were both in the Judean countryside, at “Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized.” (John 3:23)

How could you baptize fishermen who waded in water day in and day out, who’d caught their feet in nets of floundering fish and been pinned under water, nearly drowned on several occasions? A lengthy immersion, a holding underwater until the last of their breath escaped their lungs in futile bubbles as they surrendered to death? Or dry baptism, the mud and muck of riverbank ground into their skin? What would feel most like giving up an old life and becoming a new creature?

Maybe if they were baptized along with the three thousand on Pentecost in Jerusalem, a desert city without river or sea, a solitary drop was all they could expect. I think about Peter, exercising his voice outside the upper room where he’d been hiding with the disciples after Jesus left for good, wondering, worrying what would happen next. Then, filled with the Holy Spirit, and not new wine, he spontaneously combusted, along with his friends, speaking a language that was universal for the first time since the tower of Babel fell and speech scattered with it.

I imagine women rushing back and forth to wells, filling their jugs, presenting them to the disciples who cupped their hands, poured water over the converts’ heads, perhaps extravagantly at first until the heat rose, the women slowed, the heavy jugs arrived more infrequently, those waiting in line growing restless, the baptism going from a pour to a trickle, to a drop, and when the water ran out, the disciples, perhaps remembering their master’s use of spit to heal, smearing saliva across the foreheads of those remaining, until the last of the new believers was marked in baptism.

No one writes about the three thousand the day after Pentecost. Were they nicer to their employees, more tolerant of their spouses’ annoying habits? Did they pray more fervently? Did they build shrines in the backyard? Did they sign on with disciples, or go door-to-door sharing their experience in attempts to start a new church?

John said someone else was coming who was going to baptize with fire. We received that ignition at Pentecost. That branding was intended to sear us into family, scar us for life, leaving marks no one could ignore or forget. Now, having been lit by the spirit, how do we follow Jesus into the flames?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Leave Nothing Undared

Leave nothing undared.

There are the words in bas-relief spurring on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Life sized statues of sturdy men cast in bronze sit astride horses, crucifixes strung around their necks as they prepare to ride out from their memorial wall into the vast expanse of Southern Texas preaching nothing but Christ crucified. It is written of these Fathers who galloped the Word west––“Specialists in the most difficult missions.”

I sit on the flagstone before them, pen in hand, copying down my indictment. I am a specialist only in myself, in the whiny self-help-why-am-I-not-happy-most-difficult mission-of-don’t-worry-be-happy. Thinking, as I often and inevitably do, that it is all about me. Then some men wearing clerical collars to proclaim their vocation, and wide brimmed hats to prevent sunstroke, gallop out of the year 1849 alongside the words, “Strive to be saints.”

On horses sweating and briny in the humid Texas summers, they brought Holy Manna to the poor and the Son crucified to the hungry. And, slowly, no faster than the beast and spirit could carry them, they rode the Word throughout this continent and onto others.

Leave nothing undared. The words flare at me like a mare’s hot nostrils. I have spent the past year pawing at my life, fuming like a wild colt confined. I have been stomping in my pen, unable to get my own way, and unable to live with myself not getting what I want. I buck against the circumstances saddled on my back. I refuse to respond to the spurs against my ribs, urging me forward and into the open journey. Instead, I kick up dirt, tossing my head, neighing blame at everyone in sight, and refuse to live my dingy stall.

This weight on my back, this load I stagger under is the yoke that should be light, the burden that should be lifted because of the One who chose to leave nothing undared. The One Pleasing and Beloved chose to trust, to set aside his own will, to set aside the cup of his own choosing for another set before him, to allow a greater will to reign on earth as it will.

I cling to my will as though it were saddle and bridle, rider and horse, sun and North Star. I confine my life to a map, bristling up against reality. The representation of a place is not the thing itself. A map is not terrain. The contour of a life cannot remain a blot of ink.

Leave nothing undared the Oblates demand. I stare at the determined faces of these immortalized men and wonder if I have dared anything at all. If they stepped out of bronze into flesh, would I have the courage to follow them? Would I be bold enough to develop equine sense, to allow a rider on my back to guide my journey? Could I let go of expectations that keep me trapped and static? Could I plod along, sometimes trotting, sometimes galloping, sometimes roped to a tree, not knowing where I might end up?

O spirit of the men who strove and rode to be saints, and spirit of the animal who partnered with them, let me dare, like you. Help me to cultivate such inner strength and outer conviction that I will not be undone by life’s circumstances. Let me accept, no not accept, but embrace the paths that change that sway and divert the best-laid plans. Let me live into and out of your story, and into and out of my story, and into and out of God’s ongoing story of redemption that leaves nothing undared.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dont Just Stand There, Repent

My meditation from last Sunday, speaking from the voice of Jesus.
Based on Luke 13:1-9

Do you think that misfortune befalls only the wicked? Do you think that by playing it safe, that by staying out of trouble, that by pointing a finger at suffering and assuming they sin, that comforting yourself by believing they’re only getting what they deserve, that disaster will never strike you? Well guess again. The Galileans Herod murdered while they worshipped in the temple were no worse sinners than you. And taking up the cause of hatred and retaliation will do you no good. Towers collapse. Walls tumble and the innocent are crushed. I have told you that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike, and likewise we are all going to die. Death is part of life, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed.

No one knows the day or the hour, so choose a life without regrets, live a life that lines you up with God. Straighten up and fly right. Turn around. In other words, repent.

Don’t be like that fig tree, stuck in the ground, unwilling to spread out roots, to delve deeply and take sustenance from the soil. God didn’t plant us in this garden to be dormant forever. There is a time for rest, for suspended activity, and there is a time for nourishment that takes place within, for filling ourselves with holy nutrients, and there is a time, just look around you and you’ll see it right now—to leaf out and blossom, and by becoming who you were created to be, you offer beauty, comfort and signs of God growth to the world. As you ripen and mature, there is a time to bear fruit and to feed others from your abundance.

So don’t stand there like the near dead tree, afraid to thrive. Call out to gardener God—let that green thumb fertilize you with word and prayer, let all your experiences, the failures and defeats, the accomplishments and joys compost together to feed you and bring new life. Soak up rain and spirit. Don’t be content to simply exist. God who rooted you in the soil of everlasting love will provide everything you need to produce a bumper crop. And I have come to call you into that life abundant.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lament Over Jerusalem

This was my sermon today, a blend of Jesus words from Luke 13:31-35, poetry from the book of Lamentations, some history, and my imagination–––

Woe to you Pharisees, who think that a threat of death will deter me from my purpose. Do you think me like Jonah, running from God’s voice as if I wasn’t destined to descend into the belly of darkness? I will not be swayed by the name of Herod Antipas. nothing more than a puppet of the Emperor Caesar, weak son of a despicable father who murdered innocent children in an attempt to do away with any rival to his power at my birth. Have you not ears, have you not eyes, you who call yourselves men of God? Do you not realize that no power on earth can silence God’s message? Return to that fox Herod and say unto him that though I would not set foot Sepphoris and Tiberias, cities built for worship of him, that Jerusalem will always belong to God. Jerusalem is God’s to build up and to destroy.

Jerusalem, home to those who silence and kill prophets, it is there that I will complete the work given to me, there that I will complete the Exodus of deliverance begun by my father through Abraham and Moses. Do not think that I will run from you, Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Romans who sent you. You say you are about the work of the Lord, but you are so diluted and polluted, you don’t know what it is to observe the laws of love and righteousness.

Nothing will keep me from my appointed task. The angry mob from my hometown of Nazareth could not push me off a cliff, neither will you. I will not be silent, even though the vile fox beheaded my cousin John. You tell Herod that this message is unstoppable. It is he who should fear for his life the day I set foot in Jerusalem.

Today and tomorrow I am doing my father’s work in the countryside, casting out demons and curing diseases, setting the captive mind and body free. And then the day after that, I will enter Jerusalem to face my death and become the Lord’s instrument for the ultimate act of healing. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that day is coming soon, pay attention, read the signs.

O Abraham, O Jacob, O Israel, O Zion, Judah and Jerusalem, how often have your ears and hearts been closed? O City of David that destroys the prophets, Jerusalem where Jehoiakim struck down Uriah with his sword and threw him in a common grave, where Jeremiah was struck and left to die in a muddy cistern. O Terrible city that cut Isaiah in two. We have been singing lament over you for centuries, issuing warnings, proclaiming God’s judgment, offering plans for reconciliation, paths for redemption.

O desolate city whose foes have become masters, whose enemies prosper because of the multitude of your transgressions. How I brood over you my people, remembering the days of your slavery, and of your wandering, and all the precious gifts that were yours in the days before your downfall.

How I long to gather you together, like little chicks, to stretch out my wings and offer you the shelter and comfort of the Most High, and yet despite your groaning you will not come to me. You search for bread, but not for the Lord. For these things I weep, my eyes flow with tears, my heart is wrung within me at your rebellion.

O people of Zion, sit on the ground in silence, throw dust upon your faces, put on sackcloth, bow your heads and rend your hearts, for vast is the sea of your ruin. Your house is left to you. You have been your own undoing. Cry aloud to the Lord! Pour out your heart like water and lift your hands to him, for you will not come under my shadow.

O Jerusalem, trapped in arrogance, fear and unbelief, soon everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. Your very foundations will shake and the curtain will tear in two. The time is coming, and sooner than you think, when I will pass through your gates and God will have the final word. You will line the roadside, waving branches and shouting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” You will greet me like a king about to assume his throne, unaware of the events this triumphant entry will set in motion.
O Jerusalem, the day is fast approaching when I shall be nailed to a cross and the sky will turn black. I say to you once more, before it is too late, “Come under the shelter of my wing.”

Do you yet again refuse?

O my people, and my God, why have thou forsaken me?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Transfiguration

I have seen the minor transfigurations
a young woman all lit up with new love
the radiant smile of a groom on his wedding day
the inner glow of a pregnant woman
parents beaming as they hold their newborn child
the long married luminous and dancing under the moon
the dazzling light that gentles us from this life into the next.

Each brush with love transforms us
if only temporarily and like the sun
it burns so bright we must look indirectly or go blind.
We can only come so close to the Great Source
before we catch fire from the inside out.
God’s creative power emanates from us
profuse and dazzling momentary perfection.
Like Moses our beards shimmer
Like Jesus our garments blaze white
This is transformation
shining on the mountaintop emitting God rays
dumbfounding those in our presence

As the blush fades we walk down from the peaks
onto the plains of our existence
uttering our small prophecies
We are not dazzling, worshipped, or set apart
but, Oh, we have been changed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reclaiming Our Creativity

When your creativity has been stolen by Hades and taken underground like Persephone how do you get it back? What if there is no Demeter searching everywhere for her precious daughter? Or what if you are Demeter and your grief and railing led to the straightjacket?

“We would all be better off without you making such a fuss. Get on with your life, stop making trouble, stop complaining to me,” is what everyone says. “You are a bother, and so is your child. Keep quiet, stand still, don’t blow everything out of proportion and don’t make life so difficult for us. We’re perfectly happy when your hands are tied behind your back.”

And so you sit, in your madness, fully aware of how dire your circumstances are seeing death and doom and the unraveling of life in everything, so you undertake nothing, exist in the daily without joy, check off the chores, do what is required. All this, while your imagination is sequestered, held hostage, and you wonder––if she were returned to you, you would have any use for her?

Do you remember what it is like to play, to dream, to find joy in a word, a movement or a moment? So afraid are you of her returning to your doorstep and seeing you in this state that you work out long involved custody arrangements via courier. You come up with a list of everything that must be done, all the unfinished tasks accomplished, the to do’s completed, so that when she returns she will have one hundred percent of your attention.

You will dote on her, marvel at her, sit and stare at her. She will shrink under all this attention. She does what she does for the joy of it, the life it brings, not because you need to prove to yourself that you are talented or worthy or capable of making a living with your art. Even when she was with you, you did not hold a spotlight over her head and illuminate her every movement. She has learned to create in the dark, to weave what she can’t see, to trust beyond her sight, and asks you to do the same. Do not force her into deadlines and grades, and do not confuse her with the editor or working writer. The creative genius cannot be controlled. She does not live by clocks or calendars by college courses and critiqued papers.
And so do not wring your hands, the restraints chafing at your wrists. Do not build walls around yourself, or boxes to contain her, or platforms to thrust her into the lime light. Do not make yourself director and audience waiting for her to take the stage, and worrying if she will withstand the spotlight and the pressure.

Trust instead, that when she returns to you, it will not be the tearful reunion of separated lovers. She will come quietly, gently, you will not see her so much as feel her hand slip into yours, sensing that she has returned. Go slow and be gentle with yourself when this happens. Do not dance an all night marathon. It has been many months since you two have been together. Treat her tenderly, asking little, expecting less. No one can demand spirit. The captors can make us sing by the waters of Babylon, but they cannot make us compose a new song that fills our hearts with joy.

Give Persephone a pen, some paper, a paintbrush, a piano. Give her food and water, sleeping and waking, sunlight and shadow, privacy and people, solitude and community, give her sanctuary and open spaces. Trust her and she will blossom. Make room in your psyche for her without asking for product. Embrace the process that brings life, claim it for her, for you, for the spirit of life that has awakened within and among us. Learn from her to escape your constraints and choose abundant animated life.