Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The final night

When I step away from this post, I will enter my last prayer time for the exercises in everyday life. Tomorrow is my last meeting.

what happens next..

self-directed Bible study will return.

continue with daily examen.

try to hook up with a friend to read a book on spirituality together, slowly, and with regular chats.

continue with my role of leading Tuesday night discussion twice a month at my church.

return to group spiritual direction.

continue with spiritual direction, but most likely not with the man I have been meeting with weekly since August.

continue to consider a route to be trained in providing spiritual direction.

continue with times of silence at Wernersville.

continue blogging.

sit back and wonder about what has happened since August.

try to truly accept life as a gift, and use the joy in knowing, to give back to God.

so, as I say to my students when I want their focus.... "Onward."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

being pruned

When I brought up the pruned tree I saw at Wernersville, my spiritual director went to John 15. So when I looked up fruit in my concordance to prepare for my Tuesday night gathering at church, it became one of five that I gathered up for the evening. Yes, five passages in an hour was ambitious, but it worked.

we talked about a society that was commanded by God to celebrate and give thanks for harvests and how our own no longer celebrates harvests (Exodus 23: 14-19). We talked about the pastry chef who changes his menu with the seasons and the complaints he gets from customers. We talked about a psalmist (128) whose blessing is for a family that is fruitful. A parable from Jeremiah (17: 7-8) compared a person with God to a fruit tree planted by a stream. Fruitful even in droughts.

Then we went to Jesus being the vine and we being the branches. Yesterday, while teaching a workshop on the spirituality of growing your own food, I read that passage from John again. The man to my left catches two things and holds on.... He is upset that we are commanded to do something and that we will be thrown into a fire if we don't.

So I spoke about being commanded to stay connected to God, to be nourished, to love others and thus to be fruitful. I also said that a plant with dead or diseased branches should be pruned and it is fine practice to burn those branches. God does not want to burn us, God wants to prune us. God can see the things inside our hearts which separates us from loving others and God desires that we stay a branch of the vine so that we can be pruned. Then we moved to Paul.

It is in Galatians (5: 23-25) that we are told what those fruits will be. Once pruned, the spirit will produce the fruits seen as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.

So may the love of God prune what is preventing these things from happening, and may we be fruitful. And may we be aware of what is growing in our locality, both the fruits of the labor of gardeners and farmers, and the fruits of the spirit.

Monday, April 21, 2008

truths in second person

But I've got this thing in my heart I must give you today/ It only lives when you Give it away.... from Bruce Cockburn's When You Give It Away

your eyes and right hand pause as you read the list of symptoms. You draw a circle and wait to meet your new doctor, and for the script. It is four weeks before Easter.

The day after Easter, you wake to experience the symptom for the first time in months. you go to work where you leave early. you meet the specialist. He tells you that you are young then mentions finding cancer in a 28 year old. He is not going to reassure. He is going to test. You tell everyone it is hard to feel Easter Joy. You tell three people about the circle you drew.

You sleep well, you pray, you garden, you create art, you are present with those around you. But there are those passing thoughts, "is the time during which I ignored the symptom going to haunt me..."

For three days you enter the realm of a low residue diet, a diet you left years ago. You tell three more friends.

You cheat on the fasting day, well just a bit of solid food (bread) and a drop or two of red liquid (wine). You return to your seat and pray as you do every Sunday. "Renew me, Heal me." You skip the donuts.

You distract yourself all day... a DVD, playing at your Flickr site (where at one point, prompted by your wife, you do a search for colonoscopy), you cut out the pieces of a stained glass that will spell HOPE, you blog about preparing for a craft show.

two minutes before you are to intake 14 days of laxative in 90 minutes, the phone rings. Your sister in California asks if it is a bad time. You tell her the truth.

You are between the 7th and final dosage, when the laxative kicks in.

You have heard the stories... the prep is the worst, and it is far from the best. But at 2:30 when the prep wakes you, and the worries hit home; now you are at the worst. Imagining a doctor telling you that you have cancer is not good for sleep. You remember a short story you wrote 14 years ago. The main character is terminally ill. He walks into wilderness to die. You realize how you are no longer that character. You fall back to sleep.

stopped by a train as you try to leave town, you choose a CD from 3 handed to you. You listen to Bruce Cockburn sing.. When You Give it away.

You wait.. 30 minutes in the waiting room where you read favored Buechner quotes.. Then 30 minutes where you first lie down, 30 minutes in the hallway, and 30 minutes in the operating room. For most of it you close your eyes and breathe deeply and chant to yourself... "I am here Lord." It is the greatest truth. You hope someone is telling your wife that it has just been a long wait. Your doctor arrives after eating a bagel.

Your hand goes numb.

You wake up outside of the OR and the nurse, who struggled to find a vein in your hand, smiles at you. You ask, "Did they find any polyps?"

She says, "no."

A Sister of Mercy wheels you to the door. Your wife gets you to a diner for blueberry pancakes.

You are told to avoid driving, alcohol, heavy work, and making important decisions. But you are told to feel free to pass the gas out of your intestines. You say, "I already started."

You wonder if you should finally blog about this.

You find a link so others can listen to Bruce... listen to Bruce

Sunday, April 20, 2008

preparing for Har Zion

Mosaic woman got the two of us into an up coming craft fair at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. I have been trying to spend some time in the studio every night, while she has been spennding lots of time. This is the first juried show we have tried to get into and are excited. and busy. The craft fair happens May 4th-- 10am-6pm and May 5th 9am -3pm.

here is just a small sampling of her recent mosaics...

to see more check here or here

Monday, April 14, 2008

being a sponge... more thoughts on Wernersville

I am telling my spiritual director about my time in the cemetery, and she feels I had a sponge moment.

Ignatius said that when we are with God, we are a sponge catching a drop of water. Other times we are a rock. She believes that what I experienced is the joy of the resurrected Christ, and even mentions the phrase, communion of saints. We talk more and then we offer to pray for each other, a deal sealed with a hug. 24 hours ago we had been strangers.

Mass is about to begin when a Jesuit sits down next to me. He was to lead the mass the day before, but is suffering from shingles. One of my favorite memories is this quiet man giving a homily as a boisterous group of women shouted out AMENS. Another Jesuit stepped in for him on Saturday and preached on how difficult it can be to feel the joy of Easter, especially if we expect the wrong response. I guess it can be more like the appreciation of hundreds of years of men choosing to be Jesuits than like a big rolling laugh emerging from one's gut.

wo hours after being told about sponges and rocks, I am once again told about sponges and rocks in the homily. As I leave the sanctuary, I am next to my director who agrees with me that God just may have wanted me to get the sponge message down before I left the retreat.

Joy came in many ways ... Before I headed to breakfast while the only blue sky on Sunday glowed outside my window, I turned on my I-Pod to find Ella Fitzgerald singing Blue Skies .

Later in mass, the Gloria was just a hoot to sing...

who out there is shocked I found joy in music?

OK, so there was also the woman from South Carolina, who says to me on Friday when we are yet to be silent... "I loved the pile of sticks you made in August... you are always here when I am here... what did you write on the path?".... IGGY WAS HERE

The white-breasted nuthatch that stopped by when I paused on a walk.

The tree that caught my attention as I sat looking down at the Jesuit cemetery.

Sunday night the last thing I hear before I fall asleep ... Mosaic woman says... "I am glad you are back home." and my stoic self melts into a sponge that soaks in that drop.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Natus, Ingressus, Orbit, RIP

I am deciding which path to take back to the retreat center when I hear a gaggle of teens. I pause baffled by their presence and then decide I do not want to pass them and I do not want them to pass me. Seeing a stone wall that looks inviting I sit with my back to a cemetery. The teens pass, one sees me and now it is their turn to be baffled by the man with a pony tail sitting on a rock wall. They move on but soon stop by a pond. I decide to go the other way.

I have walked by this cemetery so many times, but unlike the UCC cemetery that is at the top of the hill behind the retreat center, I have never entered it. Now I do.

The dates at first shock me, but it makes sense with the reality I face here at Wernersville. There are less and less retired Jesuits eating next to us these days. 28 marked graves from 2002 till the present. Three new graves without markers.

Whenever I get here, I am told that the retired Jesuits pray for us. We who have come to retreat from everyday life. To be silent. To find God in our stilled beings. I realize that there are 28 men buried here, many or all may have prayed for me. It is time to give thanks.

Natus, Ingressus, Orbit. Three dates below their names tell their story. RIP is the hope that ends it. I am caught by seeing July 30th. A special day for mosaic woman and I. The day that separates our birthday. Three graves in a row are of Jesuits who have the same middle date on their stones. They joined the Jesuits together and now rest in peace side by side.

I move on.

In my room, on my bed, I listen to jazz as the sun sets behind a tree that has been pruned. I see myself in that tree. I am reaching for God as a plant reaches for light. But I allow things to get in the way and a branch gets caught off. Another grows.

What keeps me from feeling the joy of the resurrected Christ? fears, doubts, humanist education, stoic families...

The spiritual exercises are peaking and I am to see my life as a gift from God. A busy God full of creative juices. When light reflects off of me and that creation sees me. Do they see a creature of God? How representative am I? It depends on the moment which I am seen.

At times I find myself wishing that Jesus would show up and heal all of us. But that is not the way to travel. The way is to believe that through love and compassion we can heal those in need.

It is good to be prayed for by Jesuits, and anyone one else who has hopes of seeing me shine in light. It grows my desire to help those who too struggle with being pruned here and there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

forgiveness in the studio

some times you have to move on, and that means not blaming yourself or the design.

I committed myself to donating a stained glass to an fundraiser at work, spent lots of time drawing and erasing to come up with a design. Carefully chose glass, then was not exactly thrilled with the result...

those dark pieces are not black, but a very dark violet that seemed to let more light through before I started.

so off I went to draw a new design and in that mood came up with nothing I liked. Then I let the thought float up... the design is good try again, which I did...

Oh, the first piece will not be destroyed. I have made art for long enough to know that just because I don't like something I created, doesn't mean nobody will like it. I am pleased with the second piece.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Peace be with you

In John Jesus appears in the locked room and before he gives the disciples their charge he says...

Peace Be With You.

and he says...

Peace Be With You.

these spiritual exercises are in everyday life...

Horticulture has seasons and I have emerged suddenly into the hectic pace of April. Things do get busier in March, but all of a sudden there was so much to do.

There may be some ways I give back my gift of being alive, and one is by having accepted the challenge of teaching special education. It works best when I carry that Peace, a full peace that goes beyond my understanding with me to my classroom.

It gets lost at times when I am feeling overwhelmed with trying to get everything done.

My students have performed well this week. The garden will be planted. It can be joyful. I can't make that a certainty, but by bringing peace, I can improve the odds. Oh yes, that charge given by Jesus... forgive.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

not well known

few if anyone will tell you that I read things closely, especially memos and directions. So when I re-read the top of the sheet my spiritual director handed me on the last Thursday in March, I said hmmm.

"get set" I swear those words were not there.

I swear it said ... leap into Joy. It clearly had said ... expect to experience all of Easter this week.

Last Sunday, my minister said that it was a shame that we do not give the season of Easter the same attention that we give Lent. The book of common prayer does, but we don't come very night like we do during Holy Week. No Wednesday night services.

Just go to church and have a family gathering and Easter is over.

I was not feeling that. As I said a few posts back, I wasn't even ready for Easter when Easter came and I am far from being ready for it to be over. The disciples are in an emotional storm and the exercises have led me to be with them.

Having heard all this, my spiritual director tells me that I am fortunate. I have 5 more sheets to be handed. I take one and head back into Easter (I chose simple).

Friday, April 4, 2008

life with and w/o Mosaic woman

last weekend I am charged to find out something about the Metta Quintet. All I need to see is that Helen Sung is their piano player and the idea of driving an hour to hear jazz on a week night is perfectly logical. I walk back into Foy Hall from a bathroom break and stand in awe to Body and Soul, then return to my seat next to Mosaic Woman.

The Day before we had commuted together, it saves some gas and we don't mind each other's company so we try to do it once or twice a week. We brainstorm vacation plans all the way to Norristown, I wish her a good day and am off to work. I am planting pansies we started from seed....

I cheated and took this photo inside so I didn't have to get on the ground

standing outside watching students I am filled with joy. Meanwhile my assistant has another crew making fresh bread with our rosemary. How blessed am I?

I leave work to retrieve Mosaic woman.

By the time we get home we have changed directions and have decided to take separate vacations this year. This makes sense. She will go to Boston. I may go to Rochester.

Today we commute together again. At 1:30 I call her and say I have been asked to take food to a friend and colleague who has cancer. She, who only met him once years ago in a chance happening in a pizza place, says she will go with me. It becomes a date. For an hour we chat with my friend and his wife then we head to First Friday in Mount Airy. There are posters up that not only are stores open later, but John Swana has brought his quartet to play jazz. After dinner and some strolling, we listen to the man play. This was our third time...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

translucent soul

so, I am feeling a bit disappointed for I could not find something on the web. isn't everything there.

As we got set to drive to Lancaster to visit family, I grab 5 Cd's from our pre-jazz days. But the song that most touched me on the first CD is not to be found as video. now for the exercise...

So, I am to be joyful. Seek joy. spread joy. easier said than done. I glance to my left and see JOY hanging in the window.

The disciples were filled with doubt at first. They were not ready for the joy of the resurrection.

But before I got there Ignatius wanted me to imagine a conversation between the risen and his mom. I see a son coming for some answers and he needs some family history. "Hey Mom. What the .... is going on here?" OK, so I gave him a bit of my angry young man attitude.

Mary realizes that the angel had spread the news correctly back in the day. She is so filled with joy and grace as any doubts brought on by death fleeing her... "Well son, there was this angel........" What a conversation ensued. Family secrets told.

Well, now it seems like the song I originally wanted to blog about fits the blog.... an angel with a message comes to Manhattan.

The song I couldn't find, Translucent Soul, is how Ellis Paul describes his best friend. That is where Jesus goes next. as does Patty Larkin on the CD we finished with on that road trip. OK, so that isn't on the web either....

but look what I found... another song about the person he most craved to see, by another favored performer, Richard Shindell.

Last week, Mosaic woman asked how I was dealing with something. I said it was good to have a friend who listens when I talk. a friend I trust. the next day I thanked her for the gift of friendship.