Did I ever tell you about the time when I found G-D while eating a sardine sandwich? Maybe I should re-phrase that and say it was the time I experienced G-D while eating my sardine sandwich replete with French’s mustard on toasted 15-grain whole wheat bread!  For everything that I could possibly know about G-D— intellectualizing, commenting, and opining to the hilt— nothing beats the encounter of wholeness and sweetness without measure!  

 My experience happened a long time ago and I had forgotten all about it until reading a morning meditation from the book, 365 TAO Daily Meditations, a gift from a fellow parishioner. The theme of the day’s meditation was Entertainment and centered around our understanding of entertainment as something that happens only in our outer worlds when our inner worlds are just as vibrant, alive, and creative when we cultivate them.  The reading reminded me of my sandwich. 

 The taste on my tongue was exquisite—the tartness of the mustard, the roughness of the bread, and the exquisite tastiness of those oily sardines felt almost like a moment in heaven.  I closed my eyes and began to hum without thinking, and before I knew it, I was praising and thanking G-D for this delightful taste and touch and feel in my mouth, thanking G-D for my tongue and my swallowing and digesting, too.  I literally felt caught up in something so sublime that it is hard to describe.   Immediately, the words came to mind, “…there is none good but G-D.” These words were a reference from Scripture spoken by Jesus to someone who addressed him as, “good Teacher.”  That’s when I KNEW—it was G-D! 

 From there, it was only another step to imagine and thank G-D for the fishermen who had caught the sardines and brought them in and the men and women at the canning plant responsible for getting them processed. Of course, I couldn’t leave out the farmers who had grown the wheat and the bakers of the bread, and everyone in between, including all of the forms of transportation (especially 18-wheeler rigs) that had brought the can and bread to my favorite grocery store—Wegman’s.   

Finally, when I had finished praising, thanking, and crying, I realized what had happened.  I had just experienced the Holy Mystery that we call G-D!    Each and every person, sardine, grain, mineral, or vegetable that had gone into that sandwich was all ONE with me in the eating of it!  Too much to contemplate, so I did not try.  I just happily ate on.  

I now appreciate that this experience and others like it have arisen as a spiritual awakening process that began when I sat down to stillness more than thirty years ago.  I am a faithful practitioner of Centering Prayer and an advocate of a meditation practice in any form that will take us out of the busyness of our lives and our continuously thinking minds. Psalm 46:10 is more than real to me.  Our inner landscapes can be just as real and entertaining as our outer ones. 

So that is the story of my holy sardine sandwich! Before I depart, if you have a minute, I would love to hear your story of meeting G-D in some totally unexpected way. Sharing is caring. 

With Love & Blessings for all Good,
Freda Marie+ 

What sacred story, living within you, do you call up from the depth of your own heart and soul, to feast on when you’re feeling famished? To stand on, when you’re struggling to feel solid ground? To reorient and reframe, when you’re feeling hopeless and at the mercy of too many things beyond your control?

The one I call up is the one I loved hearing from my grandmother when I was a child.

Lola, tell me again about that time, when you fled with Dad into the mountains!!

I see her eyes twinkling, the corners of her mouth turning up in amusement. We are sitting together on the bathroom tile by the tub, and she is helping me dry off with a faded towel.

You’re not tired of hearing that story, Tina?

I never was. I never am. So she begins, as if telling it for the first time.

Well you see … it was in wartime … when the Japanese soldiers were invading our land. We were told we had to run, to flee, into the mountains, for safety. Your Lolo was already in Tabaco with your Auntie. So I had to carry your Daddy, he was only a year old, on my hip. Ooh, he was so heavy!! And his voice, his crying, so loud! And I was so afraid, when he cried, that the Japanese soldiers might hear him! So I prayed and prayed, that they wouldn’t hear him. My arms were so tired. But I carried him, into the mountains, past the rice fields and paddies, until we were safe

As a child, it all sounded so exciting, like an adventure movie. I loved picturing Dad as a one year old child. I loved seeing the rice fields and paddies and mountains.

As a woman, I hear and feel more. My Lola’s fear, my father’s wailing. I imagine her weariness, his hunger. I smell the sweat of the terror, of running with your child to save your lives. I feel her aching calves, the endless pounding of hard dirt beneath her feet.

I also hear and feel her determination. Her strength. Her courage. Her faith.

This is what I’m made of. This story lives in my own DNA, in my own blood. Her story is my story. Her strength is my strength. Her spirit is my spirit.

We have our living stories from sacred scripture, to call up and feast on, as well. The story of God’s people fleeing from bondage under Pharaoh through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The story of our Lord, crucified and risen. His own teachings and stories, of a Greater Reality, breaking in and breaking open, even here, even now.

This is what we are made of. These stories live in our spiritual DNA, in our spiritual blood. These stories are our story. Their strength is our strength. Their spirit is our spirit.

Tomorrow is the day when as a nation, we call up our living story, in all its promise and pain, hope and fear. A story we are still writing — a living, breathing story — of dying, of rising.

However you choose to spend the day tomorrow, and wherever you will be, I invite you to take some time to recall and remember those living stories from deep within you, to feast and stand on.

Love,
Cristina

Dear all,

One morning during my senior year of college, I had coffee with a beloved and brilliant professor. The details of that morning’s conversation have vanished, except for one comment that he made: He was reading through all of Mary Oliver’s books of poetry, a little bit at a time before bed each night. Later, in the year following my graduation, I remembered my professor’s comment and went looking for Oliver, wanting to do the same thing. Every night before bed I would read her poetry, working chronologically through each book.

Poetry is such a gift. It’s not something that I thought much about until after I graduated, not something I particularly enjoyed or felt I understood. I don’t think I would have gone looking for Mary Oliver if I hadn’t respected my professor so much – himself a prolific and gifted poet – but I’m so glad I did. Oliver introduced me to an entirely new experience of words and how they slip and slide and fall and swim, distinctly different from prose. Over the years I have slowly begun to explore different poets, from Ross Gay and Marie Howe to Rainer Maria Rilke and, more recently, Lucille Clifton.

Today, June 27, is Lucille Clifton’s birthday. Born in 1936 in upstate New York, Clifton was Maryland’s Poet Laureate from 1974-1985. (More Maryland connections: she was a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and died in Baltimore in 2010.) She was a prolific writer, publishing many collections of poetry as well as children’s books. Clifton has been described as “saying much with few words,” the space on the page shaping meaning alongside the text. Her poems eschew most capitalization and punctuation, getting down to the essentials, leaving something that vibrates with presence on the page. Here is one example:

spring song

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

Sometimes I want to wring definite meaning out of words, want the plot clear and definite, the characters clearly labeled, and the thesis in the first paragraph. But poetry does something different. Clifton’s “spring song” gives life to the fluttering feeling I sometimes have: of the newness and possibility of life in and with and through Christ. It opens a new dimension, lifting off from the altar in my imagination and out into the sky, wafting and dancing on the wind – a reminder of the Spirit’s movement everywhere. Another poem that draws me in:

my dream about the second coming

mary is an old woman without shoes.
she doesn’t believe it.
not when her belly starts to bubble
and leave the print of a finger where
no man touches.
not when the snow in her hair melts away.
not when the stranger she used to wait for
appears dressed in lights at her
kitchen table.
she is an old woman and
doesn’t believe it.

when Something drops onto her toes one night
she calls it a fox
but she feeds it.

Can you picture Mary? Can you imagine the stranger at her kitchen table, dressed in lights? Are you wondering about the Something that she feeds, too? There is so much beauty and divinity surrounding us, so much of the Holy Spirit everywhere. I have been encountering it in Lucille Clifton’s poetry recently – where have you felt it move? What is the Something dropping at your feet – where is the green of Jesus breaking through in your life?

Love,

Rebecca+

P.S. For more on Lucille Clifton, check out this biographical page from the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lucille-clifton. You can listen to Clifton read “spring song” here.

 

 

Dear Folks,

It’s summer! And if you can find a cool spot, and a few minutes, slow down. Grab a notebook or a journal, and fill a page or two with your thoughts:

  • What’s going well right now?
  • What do you need to change?
  • What hurts?
  • Who can you thank for their role in your life?
  • Does anyone deserve an apology?
  • How can you frame an old struggle as an opportunity?
  • Who or what is calling you?

To hear better at this time of year, I read a bunch of books. Maybe it’s the extra light at the end of the day or changing gears at work, but somehow the time seems to find me, and I surrender to its prodding. “Sit still, and listen,” it says. “Others have struggles to share, and the victories of making their way through.” So I read, and I take notes when something particularly strikes me, and I lose myself in someone else’s narrative. And frequently I find some part of myself in the process. What are you reading this summer? What are you seeing and feeling and thinking?

My current stack looks like this:

Whiskey Tender, by Deborah Jackson Taffa, is her memoir of growing up as a citizen of the Quechan Nation and Laguna Pueblo. It’s funny and poignant and bracingly honest, the story of a mixed tribe Indigenous family with one foot in mainstream America and the other dancing the mystery of an ancient people.

Scattered Clouds, New and Selected Poems, by Rueben Jackson. The collection contains the full text of “For Trayvon Martin,” and additional poems explore family, music, mortality, and the streets of the author’s Washington, DC. It’s full of yearning, insight, and “rueful wisdom.”

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingslover, a retelling of Dickens’ David Copperfield. According to a review, the novel “speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.”

The Hidden Spirituality of Men, by Matthew Fox. Author Fox explores why the life of the Spirit is often inaccessible for men, devoting his work to ten metaphors designed to awaken the sacred within us.

On Trails, an exploration, by Robert Moor. Continuing the work I discovered in A Philosophy of Walking, I look forward to Moor’s work on trails of all kinds. While through-walking the Appalachian Trail, the author began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet. “How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others fade? What makes us follow or strike off on our own?”

Boundaries of Soul, the practice of Jung’s psychology, by June Singer, part of my training in Spiritual Direction at the Haden Institute. (Full disclosure: I am reading this book again, after plowing through it this winter!) Jung has introduced me to a further kind of walking—down and deep and dreamy.

Good travels, wherever the path takes you this summer.

Love,
David

Do you find yourself using words like “always” or “never” to describe experiences or events in your life?  For example, do you say things like, “Oh, I never win anything” or “They’re always complaining about something?”  I admit it.  I used to talk like this—a lot.  But the tribe I run with now says that we create our own reality by using or misusing our words because the energy of spoken words carries so much power.  I am trying to listen to them.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “If you say to a mountain MOVE, and believe it…, it will move….” So I even hear Jesus saying we can create our reality by speaking what we believe to be already true.  In this instance, the internal power to move a mountain being made manifest through speech.

If we believe and say that we never win anything, then we don’t win anything because we have set ourselves up with an expectation to get what we already got…no winnings.  It has taken me more years than I can count to learn that I was creating an unhealthy emotional situation for myself that made my life miserable!  Human beings are body, soul, and mind (including our psychological and emotional states).  So what maps of reality are we using to create the language of so many always and nevers?

Maps of Reality are REAL.  I have no idea when or where the concept of “map of reality” originated, but it seems to have arisen in the very early 21st century as techies worked with ordinary citizens to originate the earliest designs for virtual reality systems.

From a consciousness perspective what we define as real is based on our history and the comprehension of the experiences in our past.  In other words, we are conditioned to assign meaning to how we perceive life early on in life.  This very human way of understanding what we experience by our senses can make or break us if we remain unaware (unconscious) that they are perceptions that may or may not be real (in alignment with Truth).  Remember the question from Pilate, “What is Truth?” 

A map of reality is a powerful concept, and everybody has one, even if we don’t realize it. It still colors our days, thoughts, moods, emotions, and how we relate to others. I was blessed to meet someone who had a very different way of looking at things. My beloved Charles was instrumental in helping me to accept my perceptions as mine and not necessarily his in a loving way. Love is always evolving and enlightening on the road of life.

So, here’s my invitation.  Listen to yourself speak.  Become aware.  Find the always and nevers and kick-them-to-the-curb!  They simply don’t allow us to live in the state of blessedness that is our birthright.  The blessed state has everything to do with who you are, manifesting in what you do (or don’t do).  Nevers and always just don’t make space for the Divine, who both IS, DOES, and LIVES in every breath we take.  Think about it.  I did.  Maybe something to make you go, “hmmm….”

With Love,
Freda Marie+