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Part of my prayer practice includes writing something positive, something uplifting, something worthy of thinking about — I am sad that far too many have been a response to horrific prices to be paid by family and loved ones who have been taken from this earth in a violent action by someone who is AGAINST something.

Yet, the common media response is to highlight even more, the violent and disrespectful responses of those AGAINST something.

It is said that “Problems cannot be solved on the level at which they were created.”

I AM FOR EVERYONE DOING THEIR BEST TO RISE TO A NEW LEVEL in their own personal lives. It is my commitment to do so in my own life, in every way in which I know how. I welcome company in doing this.

My friend was returning from an appointment yesterday and saw police cars racing toward the county courthouse. This is her response.

A letter from Katherine Hempel, writer-friend, resident in Berrien County, Michigan

“I love this space for here is a place where I feel the conversations, prayers and contemplation so needed in the world today are actually being had and encouraged and, thanks to our wonderful Abbess and Prior, taught and studied.
My update on the situation with our shootings and resulting tragedy, effecting so many here in SW Michigan, is long.
I thank you in advance for your prayers and love for a world, though in crisis, that is so worthy of our tenderest vigilance.
Update: our neighbor was not one of those killed or injured. Yet little to celebrate as our beautiful and peaceful Berrien County awakes knowing such can happen “even here.”


I come back again to a realization that we live on a world focussing in large part on all it is against…all it doesn’t approve of. It seems warped, away from any normal thought pattern, but I find myself relieved that the pigment of this man’s skin was not darker…and yet that of the deputy he shot was…why does my mind even go there. Recent events, of course, but I can’t help but wonder, would this ‘no history of violence’ shooter have been taken from his cell uncuffed were he black?


His ex-wife has made the statement that he had gotten involved with the wrong crowd. This is not an impressionable teen we are talking about here but a fully grown, closer to middle-aged man. How does one live that long and still be seem as one to be swayed “by the wrong crowd?”


Which brings me back to my pet peeve. For 8 years we have had a Congress working ‘against’ rather than ‘for.’ In the upcoming election few, either running or (hopefully) preparing to vote speak of what they are ‘for’ but rather what/who they will vote against. Ask individuals what they stand for and often the response is a litany of what they ‘hate.’ Is it any wonder weeks like this past one drifting over into this one now have exploded in the news?


It’s hard to imagine much will change until each of us as individuals begin to talk about what we do want, what we appreciate and take a stand…a well-considered stand, the result of quiet contemplation away from FOX and CNN…a stand that reflects our hearts and not just our fears. Only then, it seems to me, do we create a momentum forward. Only then, do we have any right to protest, in any balanced way, those things we are against and hope to come up with any positive solution to the darkness in the world. For it is only light…even the dimmest of lights…that can show us the way out of the darkness of this tunnel vision of negativity.

So…in the spirit of encouragement…what do YOU stand for? Let’s talk about that.”
(end)

*********
From Napkinwriter:

When I studied with futurist, evolutionary spiritualist Barbara Marx Hubbard, from all her studies tracing back to “the big bang”, she holds that preceding every major evolutionary turn forward in the earth’s existence that “crisis precedes transformation”.   Even the single cell was in crisis. To avoid extinction, it had to divide to become two and do it again and again and again.

Today, it seems more than true that we are in crisis. More and more people of responsibility and office are telling us, we must change.  The old ways are not working and they never have. Communication based on I am right and you are wrong lead only to increased voice volume. Officials experiencing and at the center of the pain of recurring violence are saying……come together.   What does that mean and how does that happen?

The vibration at the center of this, which is evil, is rippling out to us on an increasing level. There is no such thing  anymore as “I didn’t think this could happen here”.  It has happened in Kalamazoo twice in a few short months.  And now another close by shooting incident in Southwestern Michigan, and one narrowly avoided in South Haven over the 4th of July.

As the Dallas Police Chief challenged us, I ask myself  “what can I do to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.”  It can be as simple and unassuming as to be kind to my neighbor…or with a regular practice of listening within in quiet…..it may direct me to bigger things. Forgivenesss of hurts and grievances of the past….care of the water, soil, and all living things,…community with purpose…….faith and action working together for the good of all….building up of self and others.

But whatever they are, they are equal in intent. To be in our world as Gift.

Shattered

IMG_7849

The world breaks
broken places
shattered mirrors
to reflect what is neglected
in dark corners.

My efforts are needed
i will turn to meet my destiny
reflected in shattered mirrors.

Unmolded clay
in my hand
nourishes new life.

The world breaks
I am a humble artist
molding my earthly clod.

Prayerful hands

i will trust to love.

Several years ago, I was grateful for the opportunity to return to a weekend workshop at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and be with my artist sisters of WWAM  (Women Writers and Artists Matrix). A loving, powerful, far-seeing community of good living and loving in the world.

In one of the workshops, we played with broken pieces of glass added to a collage we made on a trypearche.  Color, fabric shapes and designs and paint went on the surface.

Then we added the lines of a poem, selected from many she handed out. We cut these lines and added them to our art form in any order we were inspired to. I only wish I had added the name of the author of the original poem to the back.  Yet, the beauty of it is that I “create” a new poem by reading the lines in different order any time I want.

Last, we we glued pieces of glass to our piece and shiny gem shapes and buttons.

I have kept my art piece in my sight. It has luminous energy about it. It speaks daily truth of the state of the world and the challenge before all of us, in any way in which I choose to read the lines.

Try it yourself. Take my poem I wrote today and write your own, choosing to start with “I will trust to love”.   See what happens.

I am trusting us to begin and continue the work and loving and listening to be done.

lotus - whitelawPhotography by Christine Whitelaw

 

Remembering Christine Whitelaw

My last words on Napkinwriter from Christine were posted on June 28, 2014, in response to my post on our 3 day family vacation on Mackinac Island in early June. Just a mere  five days before she passed.

Just for the Family Record, June 28, 2014 archives: ” what a fabulous holiday Sue, I loved the butterfly house, and the pic of you three in rain gear … truly such fun and love to remember!” dadirri7

The sweet lotus was her favorite flower and her photographs reflect this. Christine, a flower of perfect sweetness.

In the late afternoon we sat watching the lotus. A cool breeze took the edge off a hot day, but the water was still…Dancing in the afternoon light, pods and flowers together, celebrating the lowering sun, turning their heads to whisper sweet secrets to each other. We bow, united, our dance concluding with the sunset.” Christine Whitelaw. Dadirridreaming.

We entered into our friendship through words…blogging…..and our hearts met across time and space, her in Australia, me in Michigan.

Christine Whitelaw and I met through my Napkinwriter blog nearly three years ago. She was one of the few who commented on my writings. Then she began blogging herself which grew into a wondrous photographic blog. Through her writings came her light, compassion, and “stretching” into the wonder of life itself.

That’s what she said. “We ARE it, whatever IT is!”

Through her photography, we shared nature’s embrace and brilliance as gift to us. She opened my eyes to always include my horizon, always respect my environment and always LISTEN to its teachings. I thank her for that.

Light….in her words…..and shining in her photography.

I wanted to go to Australia, but I wanted to visit Christine when I did. I wanted to walk on the beach with her, each with our cameras, each with our sharing about life with eyes wide open. I wanted to go to Australia and attend one of Christine’s Yoga Nidra classes. I wanted the grace to participate in one of her annual Women’s Weekends.

We daydreamed about that…..Dadirridreaming and I….we did. We looked forward to that happening.

Christine and I shared a love of poetry by Hafiz. Christine, too, quoted Hafiz on occasion and the poem she selected below gives us a glimpse of her acceptance of the “impermanence of the body”.

She posted these words on March 20, 2014 by dadirri7 — Christine completed her travels of this mysterious existence quite abruptly on July 2, 2014.

She wrote:  “More on life and death from Hafiz: do you like the idea of being simply “a midair flight of golden wine”?

lotus pods and bloomsPhotography by Christine Whitelaw

Deepening the Wonder by Hafiz

“Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.
The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes
Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks
And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world
Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.”

 

Through the permanence of our words, Christine and I now transcend the impermanence of the body.

I remember the fun and love of our friendship.  Like the treasures she found on the beach.

Christine - Seashell

Fireworks behind statue of liberty

Fireworks behind statue of liberty

 

Almost every one of the last twenty years, we have enjoyed “that old time feeling” of going back in time and celebration at the Marshall Michigan 4th of July kids and pet parade and the community concert, featuring fresh bar-b-q chicken during the concert intermission.

Our daughter, granddaughter and grandson all play in the featured and spirited marches and patriotic music, ending with a tribute to every branch of our United States armed serves. The concert this year will begin in about one-half hour. We will not be there this year as Tom is still recovering from his last skin cancer Mohs operation. But I can hear it —  even from a distance — in my heart and soul, not even needing my ears. I feel blessed to have been there so often.

And there’s always next year to look forward to.

Here is a repost from 2011 to show you what it looks like.

 

Marshall MI 4th of July – Thanks for the Memories

Conductor flanked by redheads Kathleen and Devon

Inserted into a collection of rousing, high-spirited American patriotic marches was a melody of nostalgic tunes including “Thanks For the Memories.” And that’s what I would like to do — thank the Marshall Community Band and the 4th of July Festivity planners for another spirits-raising day at the Fountain Park.

It’s been tradition for us to travel from Kalamazoo to Marshall for this summer treat, followed by goodies shared at the Warriner home. This year, I brought home-made apple crisp. Last year, Kathleen served fresh strawberry shortcake. You can’t beat them for 4th of July desserts.

You have to get there early, that’s a proven fact. Not just to see the kids’ parade, but to set up in a cozy spot protected with shade from the gracious trees that grace the park.

 

The kids’ parade, pets, wagons, bikes, costumes start the fun, and here they come!

Now, we’re ready to hear the music!

The band plays on and on the great American patriotic marches and we love it!  During the break, we enjoy grilled chicken from the Rotary Band Booster Fund Raisers. The concert concludes with a rousing crowd appreciation number honoring all the branches of the Armed Forces and ends each year with the Encore of STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER.

Our spirit is lifted high as we leave the park singing something about being kind to our web-footed friends.

 

summer-fun

When I think of my childhood summers,
I remember lying in the grass, hands behind my head,
feeling the blades dig into my fingers. I studied the clouds.
I joked with my friends. None of us wore watches. 
Mitch Albom, Author

I remember that too. Especially the lying in the grass on the front lawn of my Grandpa Thompson’s country farm outside of tiny Eleva, Wisconsin. My brothers and I would do that as the night time darkness crept in around us, before we were called into the  non-electric farmhouse that had been home to mom and her dozen other siblings in the 1920’s through the forties.

There was something especially good about feeling that cool grass under us (until the mosquitoes chased us away). It was mesmerizing to watch the twinkling stars appear overhead. My two brothers and I rolled around, talked, tickled and teased each other, and it was a good place for us to be. That is for sure.

Each summer in the early 1950s, once school was out, we returned to grandpa’s farm for the summer time. Mom was there to help with the hand-wringing weekly laundry, the bread making that rose in large dish pans and baked in the wood stove and the general cleaning and house upkeep, and gardening including lots of canning which provided for my grandpa and his brother through the winter time.

We had chores as well, bringing the cows home to milk, collecting the hens’ eggs, berry picking and not coming home until all the buckets were filled to the top. Yet there was lots of open time for field trips (literally in grandpa’s fields), playing in the grainery (don’t know how safe that was!), the hay barn, the mud puddles (we always went outside in the rain), walks, down the two-tire track road to collect the mail, and further yet with fishing poles in hand to fish for minnows in the creek for bait for the adults’ bigger fishing trips on the lakes.

When grandpa traded in his harnessed pair of working horses for a grey and red Ford tractor, my brothers and I learned to drive that too, had a few incidences of falling off the hay wagon, and sometimes caught the breezes at the top or near to the top of our favorite “stepping-ladder” pines that grew behind the  farmhouse.  The wind made a special sound when you got high enough. I continue to be grateful to the guardian angels that kept our treks safe from falling.

Thrashing time was the best time of all. When a group of neighboring farmers shared the one thrashing machine between them, and traveled to each farm to bring the crop in. The farmers’ wives came along to each farm home, and prepared the best meal you are ever going to have, fresh baked from the oven from meat entre’ to fresh cooked vegetables and breads, topped off with the best fruit pies of the season and one large communal meal of hungry field hands and hubbies. (and us!)

Regular time lunch times always featured grandpa Thompson listening to the price reports of grains, hogs and things on the old-time radio, which was set just below the newest “modern” addition to the kitchen — the ring up the operator in town party line telephone.  The operator who plugged in the switches into the board.  Sometimes, we would (when no one was around) quietly lift the phone to see if we could gain some gossip on the party line neighbors, but usually we got caught by either the person we were listening to or the arrival of mom.  Grandpa finished his lunch time with a nap in his naugahyde brown recliner in the large open kitchen corner, falling asleep with the newspaper falling over his chest,  his glasses perched on his forehead, his eyes closing wearily and a soft snoring sound sifting into the room.

Since milking time came early, bed times did too. Usually preceded by a kerosene lamp-lit kitchen with a few card games at the oil-cloth covered large kitchen table. If it was a special occasion, we moved to the sitting room and dancing would spontaneously erupt as grandpa grabbed his  violin, my uncle added his  juice harp, and one of my aunt’s played the piano.

This life was like a cross between Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and Laura Engle Wilder’s life on the prairie.

We would return to small town life in Sycamore Illinois in late August, regrouping with our elementary school age friends, knowing that ours was a little bit different summer than the one they experienced, but one not to be traded in for anything.

Words Matter

Christine - SeashellPhotograph by Christine Whitelaw

I love words. I love to write them, I love to read them, I usually love to hear them.

But for quite a while now, I am not so much loving to hear them….the way they are being spoken…..fiercely, disrespectfully, blatenly, accusingly…..with malice and often hate within their context.

Words rising quickly in disagreement, innocent discussions or brief remarks taken in ways that respond in firery rebuttal. Not just once in awhile, but often on our news shows and “entertainment”, offered up like a tee for golf or batting tee for ball, awaiting the first strike.

So I am working on this, watching my own quick judgments or rapid disagreement to the sounding of words. I do not want to increase this harmful pattern in myself.
I want to agree….or……disagree, but I don’t want to speak with intent to harm. I can put my mind and heart to the task. Words matter and the ways in which they are sent out into the world matter more.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh
Yesterday at 8:38am ·

“We have lost our capacity to say things calmly. We get irritated too easily. Every time we open our mouths (or write), our speech becomes sour or bitter. We know it’s true. We have lost our capacity for speaking with kindness. We can train ourselves in the art of deep, compassionate listening and loving speech. The Fourth Mindfulness Training can be our guide.

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations.

Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person.

I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.”

Be the Change

In the times of severe testing, what can one depend upon? Perhaps, it is inner listening. Today, I found the following writing on a Sunday, August 5th memo in a journal from 2001. And it holds true for me today, nearly 15 years later.

We have an invitation to live and love life with honest courage and commitment — we have the choice. Here is something from my inner listening that seems precious to me:

The many ways I experience God in history and in my life at present all amount to safe passage through physical, emotional, economic and troubled relationships — safe passage through to the other side.

A guiding hand when  I knew not the way.
A light when darkness made me falter.
A gentle expression that repaired a hurting heart.
An attention-getting message that helped me change my course.
A burst of courage that overtook the rising fear within.
A spectacular sunset that melted my being into one with nature.
(Last night in 2016, the strawberry full moon, not to be seen again in my lifetime.)

A running, jumping leap of welcome from my two year old grandson.
A wave of giggles and cuddles from my granddaughter, his older sister.
A passage of Scripture alive as living Word in my life.
A soft pillow upon which to lay my head at day’s end.

God’s love and Presence is with me in all of these ways.

 

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