Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities

Have you ever sat on the beach, on that part of the sand where the waves have just receded, where the sand is damp and tightly packed? You take a plastic shovel, or perhaps your hand, and begin to dig. You dig and dig until water begins to burble up from within the sand, finally filling the hole you’ve so carefully carved out. The poet Kahlil Gibran writes of sorrow carving deep into our beings, leaving more room for joy.I'm happy to recommend this important book.  And hope you'll stay tuned to this blog -- as Kathy will be guest posting about The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities soon!

I know what it is to grieve—parents of children with disabilities grieve the death of a dream—the dreamed-of child for whom they waited so long. My third son, Joel, has autism and moderate intellectual disabilities, along with an anxiety disorder and severe kyphosis of the spine. Everything I valued in my life before Joel’s birth had to be rethought and revalued—intelligence, efficiency, logic, self-control. The old rules no longer applied, and my spirit, which craves peace, order, comfort, and security, withered as I struggled to make sense of the seemingly senseless—a beautiful boy with a damaged brain. 

I was stuck in denial for a very long time, and when I finally broke free, I raced headlong into anger, self-blame, and depression. Through this grieving process, which lasted several years, I never stopped calling out to God. Even on my darkest days, when my mind was too numb to form a prayer, I repeated four words over and over. “Hear my prayer, Lord. Hear my prayer.” The grief itself became my prayer.

The above is from the opening chapter of my friend Kathleen Deyer Bolduc's newest book The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities.  The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities uses the mosaic as a metaphor for putting the pieces of life back together again, and the spiritual disciplines as a framework for daily works of healing and restoration. It offers bite-sized pieces of poetry, scripture, personal narrative and teaching on the grief process, the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God, and the spiritual disciplines. Each chapter concludes with a reflection exercise to gently lead the reader into a deeper conversation with God.

I'm happy to recommend this important book to you.  Please stay tuned, because Kathy will be guest blogging here soon!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Prayer for a Field Mouse: "Bless this brief life..."

Prayer for a Field Mouse

Bless the gray mouse
that found her way
into the recycle bin.
Bless her tiny body,
no bigger than my thumb,
huddled and numb
against the hard side.
Bless her bright eye,
a frightened gleaming
that opened to me
and the nest she made
from shredded paper,
all I could offer.
Bless her last hours
alone under the lamp
with food and water near.
Bless this brief life
I might have ended
had she stayed hidden
inside the insulation.
Bless her body returned
to earth, no more
or less than any creature.

"Prayer for a Field Mouse" by Pat Riviere-Seel from Nothing Below but Air. © Main Street Rag, 2014.(buy now)

Friday, April 25, 2014

"...just as the chair slows, as if into a silence..."

A Rainy Morning

A young woman in a wheelchair,
wearing a black nylon poncho spattered with rain,
is pushing herself through the morning.
You have seen how pianists
sometimes bend forward to strike the keys,
then lift their hands, draw back to rest,
then lean again to strike just as the chord fades.
Such is the way this woman
strikes at the wheels, then lifts her long white fingers,
letting them float, then bends again to strike
just as the chair slows, as if into a silence.
So expertly she plays the chords
of this difficult music she has mastered,
her wet face beautiful in its concentration,
while the wind turns the pages of rain.

"A Rainy Morning" by Ted Kooser from Delights & Shadows. © Copper Canyon Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"I don't know where prayers go..."

I Happened To Be Standing

I don't know where prayers go,
      or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
      half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
      crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
      growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
      along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
      of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can't really
      call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
      or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don't know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't. That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
      if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

"I Happened To Be Standing" by Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012. buy now)

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Evening and the flat land, Rich and sombre and always silent;..."

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

"Prairie Spring" by Willa Cather from Stories, Poems, and Other Writings. © Library of America, 1992.  (buy now)

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Waiting patiently to be named..."

The World Seems…

Gregory Orr
The world seems so palpable
And dense: people and things
And the landscapes
They inhabit or move through.
Words, on the other hand,
Are so abstract—they’re
Made of empty air
Or black scratches on a page
That urge us to utter
Certain sounds.
                           And us:
Poised in the middle, aware
Of the objects out there
Waiting patiently to be named,
As if the right words
Could save them.
                               And don’t
They deserve it?     
So much hidden inside each one,
Such a longing
To become the beloved.
And inside us: the sounds
That could extend that blessing—
How they crowd our mouths,
How they press up against
Our lips, which are such
A narrow exit for a joy so desperate.

Copyright © 2014 by Gregory Orr.

Friday, April 11, 2014

" I have not been happy enough..."

   A Purification

At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground, 
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

Wendell Berry
Source: Collected Poems: 1957-1982

Add your thoughts at inward/outward

Monday, April 07, 2014

"perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness"...

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
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.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda
Source: translated by Alistair Reid in Extravagaria

Add your thoughts at inward/outward

The toad and I have not moved...

Plains Spadefoot Toad

Toads are smarter than frogs. Like all of us who are not good-
looking they have to rely on their wits. A woman around the
beginning of the last century who was in love with frogs wrote
a wonderful book on frogs and toads. In it she says if you place
a frog and a toad on a table they will both hop. The toad will
stop just at the table's edge, but the frog with its smooth skin
and pretty eyes will leap with all its beauty out into nothing-
ness. I tried it out on my kitchen table and it is true. That may
explain why toads live twice as long as frogs. Frogs are better at
romance though. A pair of spring peepers were once observed
whispering sweet nothings for thirty-four hours. Not by me.
The toad and I have not moved.

"Plains Spadefoot Toad" by Tom Hennen, from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013.  (buy now)

From "The Writer's Almanac"