In a dream…

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For the dead, still close. And for the living… (thank you, Brian Cole)

A Meeting In A Part – by Wendell Berry

In a dream I meet
my dead friend. He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet I, the changed one,
ask: “How you been?”
He grins and looks at me.
“I been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees.”

I had such a dream this week. She met me in a doorway, filling the space like a picture frame. Her presence took my breath, her gentle hold gathered me in comfort. 

As if it were yesterday- she was the same in image and presence. For a moment I was filled with the familiar – deep love and possibility. Then only too soon our differences were realized. I welcomed her reminder that all is well both in my world as in hers. 

These dreams/visits are gifts. They shed the burden of time leaving the dreamer and the dreamed held in a moment meant only for them. A moment free of grief’s heavy weight or the cautious stretch to ‘remember when’. 

I had such a dream this week. It left me grateful for the gift of memories and of healing enabled by time. 

For all who have known the loss of loved ones-may you find comfort in such dreams. 

“…your place in the family of things.”

It had not been my intention to pick up a theme on this blog as I move toward the end of 2011, but it appears that the breezes of fall have drawn me to a place called “belonging”. The week has been complicated with politics and passion. There is a surge in this country–a surge of energy calling for action from a new type of community. The question is once again being asked, “who is my neighbor? and what I give up in order to make life better for someone else?”

It’s been a long time since such a large group of people discussed the concerns of the greater good. Our society has forged itself into the 21st century with one banner– “It’s all about ME.” People have stood defiantly alone with their “rights” – the ‘right’ to make profit, the right to claim privilege, the right to leave families unsupported as homes are repossessed and jobs drastically cut. This focus on self has thrown us dangerously off-balance. The OCCUPY Movement has highlighted the selfish stance which has so deeply affected this country – the whole world. The people gathering all over the country are meeting one another, again, for the first time. Stories are being shared and heard. Community has been created in this forum, a community energized to reclaim balance and move forward with a renewed sense of truth.

There is no one-way. Finding balance will not be neat and clean. At the core, this is about ‘being known’ – belonging to something larger than self. This is a time for people to find their place in the greater family and, with all sincere imperfection, contribute to the balance we so passionately seek.

WILD GEESE
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

to welcome the stranger…

Do you remember when you entered a new “community of people” as a stranger? Did you feel welcomed?

My memory — I was 15 and a new kid in a new school. All of my education up to that time had been in “special” schools for children with disabilities (I have used a wheelchair to get around all of my life). These schools were filled with many children with varying physical and mental abilities. There were a small number of children, myself included, who together were instructed at our grade level and offered skills training to thrive in a non-disabled world. By the time I was 14, public schools throughout the country were beginning to adjust, adapt and open the doors to students of all abilities.

 I was 15 and a new kid in a new school. In my 9th grade year, we moved to a town that had one high school for the whole county and no “special” school. Going with my parents to the high school for registration and to meet some of the teachers, I noticed immediately that hallways were long, ceilings were high and no student was my height (I’ve always done a lot of ‘looking up). Though I was excited, I felt very small.

Do I remember? Oh yes, this memory still stirs emotion. I was welcomed. Welcomed with all of the energy that catapults one through their adolescence, the ups and the downs. With genuine hospitality and support, I entered this new “community of people”. It was a pivotal experience at a formative time. Looking back I know those teachers and friends helped me “vision” a future with confidence.

Flexibility and the openness to welcome diversity are both at the core of my memory. It is not about being comfortable but being willing to adapt and welcome the person you might least expect at your door.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

what stirs your spirit to dance?

I have always been intrigued with the concept of dancing. How do we express our dance? Each dance is as unique as the person inspired to move. And movement?! Oh, it can range from swirling high in the air to sharing the spirit of  dance through the light in one’s eyes.

I am reminded of a saying found in the doorway of a church where movement and music are pivotal to the worship experience (St. Gregory of Nyssa). The saying originally read, “If you can walk, you can dance.” As the church grew, this phrase changed to expand the invitation – it now welcomes all by saying, “If you can move, you can dance.”

This video speaks to the spirit of dance through vision and music. May it offer you a moment of wonder – what stirs your spirit to dance?

How we lead and how we follow…

As I write this entry I am in my third day of retirement.  Unexpected as it is, I’m grateful for the time to focus on rest and healing. It is often said ‘we make plans and God laughs’! For over a year I have listened closely to understand where my ministry was being directed.  Even though I was certain what the next step would look like, I continued to be drawn to quiet places where normal ways of processing were conveniently removed.

There is much to be said for the comfort of companions along life’s journey. My assist dog, Lilly, has been such a companion for over eight years. We have certainly learned the importance of paying attention to one another and I have often found her quiet presence to be a strength and comfort. With all the emotions brought on by change, this patient friend has been by my side. The picture I share speaks to that relationship.

The labyrinth is a symbol of the turns we meet as we dare walk the road of faith. By my side, Lilly pays close attention to my turns while I ‘walk’ this path and soon she finds her own path next to mine. Trusting in our ability to sense one another’s movement, we journey to the center and return to our beginning point – spirits settled and trust strengthened.

This is about how we lead and how we follow. Nothing is simple  when it comes to change yet the Companion’s gift to be near and compassionate helps to uphold us during transition. This is my experience – I welcome hearing about yours!