Friday, August 31, 2012

"Living" by Denise Levertov


Denise Levertov

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
the shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

Source: Good Poems selected by Garrison Keillor

This message is a daily service of inward/outward.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


When I opened the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
                   My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
                                               I liked
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I'll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop

"Aware" by Denise Levertov, from This Great Unknowing. © New Directions Publishing, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Garden Grace

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. The garden door is always open to the holy.

Gardening by Heart by May Sarton

From Add your thoughts at inward/outward

For Nancy -- the gardener of grace at Ploughshares

Monday, August 27, 2012

There's a Wildness...

Matthew Fox

Wildness is everywhere in our relationship with the Spirit. Who is in charge here? Certainly not we. Yet there is method behind the madness, peace within the wildness, love within the yearning that is mutual between Spirit and us.... How good it is to be drawn along with all things into the intimacy of the Godself! How natural a place to be. We find repose there. In the Spirit. With the Spirit. Sharing the Spirit's work.
Source: Creativity

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Source: The Peace of Wild Things

Add your thoughts at inward/outward

Thursday, August 23, 2012 all-embracing love...

All-Embracing Love
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth.
Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's
light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the
divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And
you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.
Source: The Brothers Karamazov

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Breathe, Look, Trust

For almost 30 years my wife Nancy has been one of my best spiritual teachers. A woman of deep faith and a centered heart, he’s my primary teacher in learning to appreciate the daily holiness of life. She keeps trying to teach me three important spiritual lessons.....

Read the full article at Conversations Journal

Our brokenness reveals something ...

Our brokenness reveals something about who we are. Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality. The way I am broken tells you something unique about me. The way you are broken tells me something unique about you. That is the reason for my feeling very privileged when you freely share some of your deep pain with me, and that is why it is an expression of my trust in you when I disclose to you something of my vulnerable side. Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique.
by Henri J. M. Nouwen from  Life of the Beloved

Friday, August 17, 2012

Loving God Rightly

Loving God Rightly
Meister Eckhart

Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow and to love him as they love their cow--they love their cow for the milk and cheese and profit it makes them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do not rightly love God when they love him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have on your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost truth.
Source: Meister Eckhart, A Modern Translation by Raymond Bernard Blakney

Sometimes it takes darkness ...

Sweet Darkness
David Whyte

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
Source: The House of Belonging

Thursday, August 16, 2012

... Everything else is better...

by Tony Hoagland

Prolonged exposure to death
Has made my friend quieter.

Now his nose is less like a hatchet
And more like a snuffler.

Flames don't erupt from his mouth anymore
And life doesn't crack his thermometer.

Instead of overthrowing the government
He reads fly-fishing catalogues

And takes photographs of water.
An aphorist would say

The horns of the steer have grown straighter.
He has an older heart

that beats younger.
His Attila the Hun imitation

Is not as good as it used to be.
Everything else is better.

Hmmm. I wonder why I relate?

Awaken Your Senses Comes to Philadelphia!

Beth Booram's and my Awaken Your Senses workshop is coming to Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA on October 5-7, 2012.  Based on our Awaken Your Senses book, this interactive and very sensory workshop will teach you ways of engaging your senses and exploring the wonder of God. 

Today would be a great day to register.  I hope we'll see you there!

"...we were made to ..."

War Some of the Time

when you write a poem it
needn't be intense
can be nice and
and you shouldn't necessarily
concerned only with things like anger or
love or need;
at any moment the
greatest accomplishment might be to simply
up and tap the handle
on that leaking toilet;
done that twice now while typing
and now the toilet is
solve simple problems: that's
the most
satisfying thing, it
gives you a chance and it
gives everything else a chance

we were made to accomplish the easy
and made to live through the things

"War Some of the Time" by Charles Bukowski, from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way. © Ecco Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Humans are God's other self....

A God Who Is Friend
Oscar Romero
This is the beauty of prayer and of Christian life: coming to understand that a God who converses with humans has created them and has lifted them up, with the capacity of saying "I" and "you." What would we give to have such power as to create a friend to our taste and with a breath of our own life to make that friend able to understand us and be understood by us and converse intimately--to know our friend as truly another self? That is what God has done; human beings are God's other self. He has lifted us up so that he can talk with us and share his joys, his generosity, his grandeur. He is the God who converses with us.
Source: The Violence of Love

Friday, August 10, 2012

Laugh because that is the purest...

I Got Kin

So that your own heart
Will grow.
So God will think,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Because that is the purest

Source: The Gift

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Colorado Learnings: The Long and Winding Road...

"Rim Rock Drive offers 23 miles of breathtaking views."  Well, I can attest that the first four miles from the west entrance are breathtaking.  They sure took my breath away.  Especially the first three.

Heading into Colorado National Monument from the west mean taking a road that shoots vertically (okay, I exagerrate a bit) to the park's high (emphasis on high) country.  As we ascended the narrow (and that I do not exagerrate) two lane road, my brother-in-law Dave kept telling Linda and me -- the flatlanders in the back seat) that he would go at whatever speed we needed to feel comfortable.

I thought about saying that reverse would be a good speed -- getting off the mountain!

Up we climbled, Dave and Julie relaxed in the front seat, looking around, marveling at the beauty.  Dave often took one hand off the steering wheel to point out some grand vista or sheer drop.  I kept both hands tightly on my knees (except when wiping the sweat from them) and watched the road ahead -- especially when, coming out of a small, low tunnel, the road took a left turn and all that was visible ahead was sky.  Lots of sky.  A phrase from the opening of "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (one of our family's favorite movies) kept coming to me.  It's after Jimmy Durante is passing people on a high desert highway and misses a curve.  When they find him, J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle) keeps saying, "Hey, did you see th-the way he went SAILING right out there?"

Yeah.  I could envision it.

We drove along slowly.  Dave comfortable, letting us know that this road was built in the 1930s by WPA and other workers.  And I began to think about that.  How those fellows had taken on the task of making the way for us and the others who would pass that way -- carving a road out of rock face and blasting tunnels so that we could enjoy the views that would only be obtained by reaching the top.

And I thought of all the thousands upon thousands who had travelled that way before me.

I began to relax a little.  I told the J. Russell Finch voice to shut up.  And I reflected that, as on my way of faith, while the road I travel is uniquely mine, sections have been prepared by those who have gone before.  Pilgrims on the the road to the face of our loving God.  And I prayed a little pray of thanks to them who had been before -- both spiritually and literally on this road I travelled.

-- Brent

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Colorado Learnings: The Upward Way

I'm a flat-lander.  I readily admit that.  A child of the Midwest, that region is my home in many senses.  I'm rooted and grounded there and love its seasons, flora and fauna.

But i like to travel, too.  I enjoy seeing different parts of God's good earth.  This summer I've seen the Carolina coastline, northern Ohio farm fields, and Colorado's mountains.

Yesterday I did something I would not, on my own, choose to do.  I went on a ride at Colorado National Monument.

Now unlike the the Washington Monument, which I have seen many times whilst in DC, there is no ... um... monument at Colorado National Monument.  There's no stone spire there, no man-made monolith.  Instead the whole place is a geologic monument.  With sheer cliffs dropping 2,000 feet.

That last part is why I would not choose to take a ride there.  I'm not a big fan of sheer drops of 20 feet -- let alone 2,000 feet.  But my sister Julie and her husband Dave wanted me to see this particular part of their state and my sister Linda who is almost as heights-impaired as I am, said she was game, so off we went.

I was fine at first.  Didn't really think much about it.  But they kept talking on the almost 2 hour trip from Montrose to the park entrance about how it wasn't so bad and which side of the car I should not sit on and how I could keep my eyes closed on the way up, if I wanted.

All that made me a mite jittery.  So did, upon our arrival at the park entrance, Linda saying, "Okay, let's switch seats."  She said it was so I could have the best views for photos, but it was really because she wanted to be on the side of the car facing the solid rock walls instead of the sheer (I have I mentioned that the drops offs are sheer?) drop onto the rocks below.

I was still pretty much okay.  Until a car pulled up next to us.  The driver and passenger looked up at the roads clinging to the side of the rock face, looked at each other, looked up again, looked back at each other ... and turned around and left.

I took a deep breathe, we pulled up to the ranger station, got our sticker and started up a gentle climb.  I looked at the map the ranger had kindly given us just as the road took a decided un-gentle angle of descent and all guard rails disappeared (to make it easier for the car to plunge all the way to the bottom of Fruita Canyon I guess).  According to the map, ahead lay Dead Man's Curve.

My goal was to make it there -- and past. 

My hands were sweaty, my breathing shallow.  I wanted to lean to the inside to "help" keep the car on the road (unknown forces were probably at work trying to suck us off the road).  I wanted to close my eyes.  But instead, I reminded myself to breathe deep.  I sat back.  I wiped my hands on my shorts.  I stole small glances out the side window while Julie and Dave "ooohed" and "aahed."  I admitted to myself and them that I was scared.  And I told myself that soon I would be at a place that was more comfortable to me than an automobile climbing along the edge -- and would be witness to some vistas that I'd never witness any other way.

Like life, I thought.  I'm in the midst of a sort scary trek now... after having left a long-term, solid, well-paying, fulfilling position with a wonderful organization to do ... to do what?  To find another  solid, well-paying, fulfilling position with a wonderful organization?  To write, edit, speak, lead retreats, consult with churches? 

The road I'm on looks pretty scary in some ways.  But the safety of the flatlands is behind me.  I'm on the climb.  The cliffs look pretty sheer.  But, like yesterday, I'm in good company.  Many other of God's children are traveling similar paths, and some are with me on mine.

And, like yesterday, I have a driver and guide who's trustworthy and knows the terrain, even if I don't.  So, like the old gospel hymn says:
I'm pressing on the upward way
New heights I'm gaining every day;
Still praying as I'm onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Now, if I can just make it past "Dead Man's Curve."

-- Brent

What is happening to me now?

What is Now?
Brenda Ueland

Sometimes say softly to yourself: " What is happening to me now? This is now. What is coming into me now? This moment?" Then suddenly you begin to see the world as you had not seen it before, to hear people's voices and not only what they are saying but what they are trying to say and you sense the whole truth about them. And you sense existence, not piecemeal--not this object and that--but as a translucent whole.

Source: If You Want to Write

Cleaning the Bathroom

Today's poem on The Writer's Almanac reminded me of the depth and truth of Carrie Newcomer's "Holy As A Day Is Spent"

Cleaning the Bathroom

Cleaning the bathroom is humbling and good.
Enamel and glass feel smoother than wood

as the mind, barely thinking, goes passive. Meanwhile
the hand, gliding easily over the tile

or toilet or mirror, finds tangible peace,
in the rhythm of rubbing, a kindly release

and the patience of porcelain fixtures can drain
what's flashy or fancy in favor of plain.

In style unpretentious, demeanor serene,
the bathroom is basic. Its function: to clean.

"Cleaning the Bathroom" by Phyllis Hoge, from Hello, House. © Fithian Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

when we no longer know what to do....

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

"The Real Work" by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words. © 1983, Used by permission of Counterpoint. (buy now)

From the Writers Almanac.

This is one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems.  And it's appearance today, as I seek clarity for my future regarding work and direction, seems God-sent.  ;-)

Friday, August 03, 2012

a huge silence might interrupt this sadness...

If We Could Do Nothing
Pablo Neruda

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Source: Keeping Still