Something wonderful is coming this way. Each year at this time, when the ancient calendar turns, and the crisp wind blows, I feel the satin-winged angels flying through the star sprinkled night, to herald the advent of a new beginning. That is what I claim for our lives: that new beginning, that sacred start to a life renewed. Something wonderful is coming to you, to me, to all the world. No hurt or harm can hold back the healing: they must give way, yield to the power of mercy, and let the angelic chorus fill the sky with songs of hope, singing for you, singing for me, singing for the sheer joy of singing. Something wonderful is coming this way. (Bishop Steven Charleston – 2014)
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.
Source: A Grateful Heart
Awake at 4:30am, I wonder what has stirred me?
These past weeks I trained several new caregivers. Many hours have been spent sharing personal details and staying very alert to our every move. This type of training is much like dancing – together we learn the steps and build the trust needed to lead and follow.
Then there is the introduction to my life. Where is my family? Why did I move to Asheville? Do I like to shop, read books, watch tv… Questions begin to slow when I explain my vocation — an Episcopal priest, where I have lived — from the East Coast to the West Coast, my schedule — time for quiet, prayer, writing projects, workshops and meeting friends for food and fun. Most caregivers are not accustomed to working with folks like me, active people who live with a disability. It takes a while to get oriented. My job– to be patient. Be patient and remember to protect the space for my dreams.
I have a dear friend who once asked how I managed to have any privacy and time for myself. She watched my life as it always seemed filled with people. People, who by necessity, must be in my rooms and touch many of my belongings. She could not imagine how I might find a way to have private time and space. “No one caregiver knows everything about me.”, I replied. “Somehow I am able to create a space that allows for privacy and solitude.”
This is not to say that finding private time is easy. And so I return to my opening question:
Awake at 4:30, I wonder what has stirred me? It is my alarm for peaceful time alone. When most of the world still sleeps, I awaken ready to revisit my dreams. My eyes open to discover a moment when images and ideas can rise to the surface and find expression.
This time is never taken for granted. It has to be honored. All of the people who assist me with the details of my daily life rely on my ability to find these moments. It is time to remember my dreams and find ways to bring them to life.
I welcome this opportunity and give thanks for a new day.
There are some years when memories of the past come around with more intensity than others. Each year I come to the birthday of Dr. Mary Beth Foil with a flood of memories – details of a time when reality was softened for a while with a friendship rich in light and creativity. Life is not long enough for many of these friendships. When they occur it is important to pay attention, every moment carries meaning.
The friendship shared between Beth and myself was filled with the sparks of dreams and love. We looked to the future with inspiration and hope. This energy was contagious and we found ourselves surrounded by others eager to imagine with us.
No one was prepared for the sudden loss of this gifted and determined spirit. While in early treatment for breast cancer, her death came suddenly and with little warning. No doubt the way she would have wanted it, the moments to say goodbye were brief. The days to follow were wrapped in sorrow and celebration.
As a hospital chaplain, I have often been present to grief’s unveiling. With all the study and work done to lay out the steps of grief, no one can really predict a person’s response to loss. Like a well, grief is deep but never filled with complete darkness. Within it can glow a light of spirit and stir a song of creation.
In the nine years since her death, I have been grateful for her family’s focus to celebrate and remember on her birthdate. We celebrate her beautiful daughter who has quickly become a young woman and the love she shared with family and friends. We give thanks for her skill in medicine and the lives she touched along the way.
I give thanks for those years we shared, caring for one another and our common passion for healing and wholeness. There are many pieces to the memories of those years. One was my introduction to Eva Cassidy. In honor and memory of Beth – I share this song in hopes that the listener has their own image of these fields…
This morning many people will come together to pray, reflect, seek forgiveness and offer gratitude. This is what we call ‘church’ or ‘temple’ or a variety of other names for our places of worship. Does this weekly experience awaken us? Does it inspire and inform our life in the world when we leave our sanctuaries? Is this is what most people think they are doing when they enter a time of worship?
I fear that many people enter and leave their sacred places with little connection to what they have said or why. Much of what we say and do is taken for granted. We sing hymns with words so familiar they are often dry of inspiration. We move through the ritual by repetition and habit. A habit is so deeply ingrained that to suggest a slight alteration raises anxiety and distrust. In the brief time we gather for renewal and reflection, we do so with little concern to open our mind and hearts.
How easy it is to be lulled into the familiar. Words which are spoken and prayed can lose much of their meaning. It has been my experience that many seekers today look for expressions of faith where words and rituals are rich with meaning and can be applied in daily life. Most often these expressions come from the roots of our faith traditions and are explained in ways that deepen faith and understanding. Imaginations are awakened and action inspired.
Yes, this takes commitment and the willingness to open and develop relationships. This time of ‘worship’ instills in us the faith of our fore bearers. And as we remember – we are taught how our own lives and faith can impact the world today.
These thoughts were inspired by a reflection written by Steven Charleston. It offers a wonderful example of how sacred time nurtures our faith. It describes the critical role both ‘relationship and ritual’ have in our spiritual care and growth. As you read, consider these questions: Who do you look to as teacher and spiritual guide? What is important to inspire and encourage your faith journey?
Thank you, Bishop Steven Charleston
From four sacred directions, I saw the elders assemble, winter haired wisdom, come to speak by evening fires, before night could claim the light for the stars alone. From four sacred directions, the people came, to hear the ancient stories, to sing the ancient songs, before dawn could claim their voice for the wind alone. From four sacred directions, the spirits gathered, love to bind our wounds, hope to heal our hearts, faith to clear our minds, truth to set us free, gathered by prayer, gathered by God, to mend the circle, before time could claim our vision for the past alone.