Tag Archives: contemplation

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Still Point ~ Where to Go When the World Collapses

Last Sunday, I preached a brief sermon on Psalm 23.  Brief, because to say too much was to risk detracting from the self-evident beauty of that favored psalm.  This Sunday we will return to the psalms, focused this time on the lectionary reading for the day, Psalm 130.  It too is a favored psalm in and throughout Christian history.  It is one of seven “penitential psalms” that include psalms  6, 32, 38, 51, 102,  and 143. As lent rapidly moves toward Holy Week and Easter, one would be well-served to read these psalms as a way of entrance into the Light of Easter.

T. S. Eliot turns a phrase about light and contemplation in his poem, Four Quarters.  In Burnt Norton: IV he wrote:

…After the kingfisher’s wing                                                                                       Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still                              At the still point of the turning world…

When all around us the world seems unmoored, rising and falling and crashing upon wave after wave and our little boat of a life seems in peril, where do we go? how do we find respite and shelter? Where to go when the world collapses?  The 130th psalm is entitled, De Profundis, after its initial phrase, “Out of the depths.”  Out of the depths, I cry to Thee, O Lord…  Here is an entrance to the still point, where light has answered to light and the light is still. We arrive or at least, we can arrive at the still point of the turning world.

Each Sunday in a middle school auditorium at 10 a.m., we make our way to that still point.  I urge you to step into that hour of light answering light.  Walk, swim, paddle your way to that hour. Cling to a scrap of the shattered vessel if you must; navigate the perils of a twittered and maniacal rhetoric; but position yourself,  body and soul, into this light and stay a while.  ~See you Sunday

Bluemont Bridge by Pastor Bledsoe

Mindful

When I am mindful as I walk across a small bridge along a bike path flanked by trees and a large creek on one side, then I am mindful that I am suspended but crossing.  I am mindful that someone crafted this bridge.  I am alert to being a bi-pedal creature, oriented in four directions.

When I am mindful as I count the coins to hand to the cashier, uniformed and standing across from me, a name tag tagged to their chest, then I am mindful that I am part of an exchange today.  I am mindful that beyond the coin lie certain tacit covenants between us, that I will hand this coin over and be handed my groceries.  I am mindful that we both have names but are separated by a chasm even as we extend hands across that chasm to give and receive.

When I am mindful as I turn out the light and crawl into bed, sheet and blanket to cover me, quiet and silence descended, and sleep covering me quickly then I am mindful of the poverty of my human existence. That I need to be recharged. That my powers are limited to the day that has just spent me.  That a descent into twilight and sleep is a resignation of my life over to the world that is greater than my singularity and a commendation of my soul into the boundless care of the Creator. Whether I sing in my head and heart a doxology to paddle into the night of rest that awaits me or pray a thank you, I am mindful until the switch is clicked and my mind rests.

When I am mindful, I wake up.

~See you Sunday.  Let us come together and be mindful of mutual presence and the Presence of the Holy One.  Perhaps we will step into an Awakening.

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Ransacking the Poets

Monday is another day of snow.  The appearance of flakes, the shortening of vision, the powder piled on the sidewalk and great machines tripping and panting along the streets, rendered suddenly powerless by water, snow and ice.  It is a good day to remain in doors and ransack the poets.

Tend to your soul. Turn off the meteorologists. They predict and frighten.  Tend to your mind. Find one wonderful sentence crafted by a poet that can lead you to heaven’s gate at Jerusalem’s wall (that’s William Blake).  Mind you, you could read a novel of two hundred pages or get started but poetry is sonic zen expansiveness. One single line can open a world.  Here’s a line I found while ransacking poets today. It is by Franz Wright and his book, Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, in a poem entitled, “My Place.”

I believe one day the distance between myself and God will                          disappear.

[selah]

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Slow Down

Beneath an overpass on my walk early this morning in the rain and chill, water run-off fell to a zen-like pond, the concentric circles a solar system of ripples, the rocks in the pond an emblem of your and my singular life. Slow down.  In this busy consumer-frenzied time, slow down.  Breathe deeply.  Ponder the gift of your pulse.  The link below takes you to what I saw.

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Pulse and Breath

Traffic Jam

The moments of our lives—the tick tock of our mundane lives—are scattered throughout the course of a day.  Our routines—when we awaken, when we arrive for an appointment or our job, our departure to return home, and the myriad other things like lunch and meetings that comprise our routines—provide us a sense of purpose.  When those routines come to a grinding halt in traffic or are intruded upon by forces that threaten to overwhelm us then, in those kind of moments, we are liable to sense our routines as so much threadbare wallpaper. We end up asking ourselves what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Those moments are intertwined with the moments of many, many other lives and events.  And in turn, the weave of our interconnectivity is played out against a microwave background of tension that radiates the very city we live in:  the federal city of the United States, a target of terrorists and the power grid of the powerful and those who want to be near the powerful.  How does one keep one’s sanity in the midst of this?  How does one arrive at an authentic sense of self so that when our routines are interrupted, when the traffic comes to a crawl, when a meeting goes spinning out of control, when getting home seems impossible, we are not ourselves spun into madness or purposelessness?  Let me suggest something.

In whatever chaos or disintegration of the flow of your moments, put two fingers on your wrist, find your pulse and then, take a deep, deep breath.  Pulse and breath.  Remind yourself that these are the truly significant gifts.  And whatever happens and however things play out today, it is this gift of life that graces us that matters.  You’re alive.  The world will be here tomorrow.  Moments pass.  In the time it takes you to feel your pulse and breathe deeply, you can discover how wonderful and strangely beautiful this all is.

One last idea—enter a holy place on Sunday and through worship, say thanks. When you practice a weekly rhythm of gratitude, your mundane moments will be placed into a larger, cosmic context.   May the Peace of God that passes all understanding fill your hearts.  Breathe deeply.  Find the pulse.

 

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