Glimmers

The Birth of Love

Glimmers December 29, 2019

Dear Friends,                                                         

Christmas, the birth of Love in unexpected circumstances. We are often reminded of the ironic arrival of Jesus in such a humble setting. But it’s a lesson for life, isn’t it? Aren’t we invited to seek love in all situations – humble, joyful, empty, even sad. Love is not limited to a perfect holiday scene, though we yearn for such moments every year. 

I attended two funerals this December. One of a young man, kind and generous in this life – a painful loss for all, especially his mother whose husband died last year. The other was for a Sister of Mercy, an unexpected death, but at the end of a long, loving life. She was a mentor to me, keeping her heart open to love even in the challenging of moments of life.

The traditions of Christmas bind us together, they return us to times of wonder and comfort, joy and celebration. The cookies, gift exchanges and decorations remind me of the little pieces of hay that my children used to add to the nativity scene. They prepare us for the upcoming birth, they set the stage so we are ready to welcome Jesus.

As I try to integrate my losses and the losses we experience nationally and globally, into the Christmas story, I find myself moving inward. I can no longer celebrate the birth of Jesus as the end of the story, for I have been transformed by his Gospel. All the preparations and the real life circumstances have brought me to this moment. A new year begins, once again, and I choose to embrace “The Work of Christmas” described here by theologian Howard Thurman,

When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock… the work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost… to heal the broken…to feed the hungry…to release the prisoner…to rebuild the nations…to bring peace among others…to make music from the heart. 

May it be so, brothers and sisters, please listen to this link as you read this prayer

Lisa

 

 

Natural Love

Glimmers November 23, 2019

Dear Friends,               

You’ve been on my mind these cold, wet days of November – I hope your heart has been nourished by those who love you and is available to those who are in your care. We are sustenance for one another on this path of life, our choices matter. I was blessed by such hearts last month –  Rick, Nancy and two of their horses, T4 and Junior. Each ministered to me, each was present to me during my retreat at their New Mexican horse ranch. Jungian James Hillman reminds us,

 “We can’t be separate from nature, we are nature. Our cells are alive, our nerve fibers are alive.”

Every moment of my southwestern adventure renewed my connection with nature, with life. I was sensitive to the high altitude of the region and became dedicated to increased water intake. The cold, even snowy, days required extra bundling while walking among the sagebrush and yucca plants. Rick and I kept silence on one hike, stopping for an occasional prayer and psalm. The desert view from the bunkhouse kept me grounded in the land and my morning routine returned me to the basics. Paper, kindling and dry wood, stacked together in the wood stove, became my entry to prayer as my own light caught fire in the quiet.

I traveled to Crossed Arrows ranch to encounter the horses. I did not know what I would find standing next to these magnificent creatures, these emissaries of the natural world. With Nancy’s guidance, I experienced a relationship that used no words but communicated deeply. I felt their capacity to connect, heart to heart, and found my own heart responding in the moment. The thoughts and feelings that I brought with me from Connecticut were set aside as I stepped into a fullness shared with these living, loving beings. Gift.

I offer these images to you, friends, as a witness to the lessons found in nature and to the hope found in the world around us. Why else are we drawn to the seashore or mountain trail? Why are birds captivating or the sunrise magical? We can’t be separated from nature, we are nature. Our humanity resides in Earth, our soul experiences her beauty. Gift.

May blessings and gratitude fill your hearts,

Lisa

 

*Rick, Nancy and their horses minister to post 9-11 veterans and active military through their non-profit venture: www.horsesforheroes.org. They explain, “The Creator gave us the horse as a gift of transcendence, a bridge between the physical and the spiritual world. They are incredible partners, messengers and healers.”

My Mother’s Piano

Glimmers October 26, 2019

Dear Friends,                                     

Did I ever tell you that my mother played the piano?

I learned to walk with musical vibrations in my world and in my bones.

Recently, I was actively missing my mom’s presence. This happens, occasionally, for me. I search my memory for images or stories so that I might feel a connection, but the 44 years since her death has created a huge gap in my mind. This time, I just said it out loud, “I would like to have a memory of you, Mom.” And in the middle of the quiet, something changed when I looked at her piano. I could see her there, moving her body to the music as her hands moved across the keyboard. Her expression reflected her choices, transported through Bach or enlivened by Boogie Woogie. (click links)

I listened to piano music for the rest of the evening, my own body responding to the rhythms and melodies that are a part of me. I, too, find solace or celebration in musical expression and that singular experience makes me happy. I “watched” her joyfully sit at the piano, in that mysterious-memory kind of way. I didn’t pay attention to the rest of her body…her lifeless, purple legs…. paralyzed by a car accident so many years earlier. Her life has shaped mine, but I’ve focused on the losses for long enough.

Dear friends, we are invited to claim the continuing bonds, or “braids of love” as I call them, that extend between ourselves and our loved ones who have died. They are a vital, healthy reality in that relationship. Braids of love assist us in our healing from loss and offer support as our lives unfold in new ways. Once claimed, we can nurture these connections through sweet memories, by filling a vase with flowers, return trips to special locations, or even listening to finger-dropping melodies in B Flat, with grace notes and sustained hold in just the right places. Tears return, but only for a time. In the folds of the moment, our hands touch, our hearts connect and we remember….ahhh love, there you are. There you are, once again. Thank you.

with love,

Lisa

 

 

 

Today is a day of wonder!

Glimmers September 23, 2019

Dear Friends,

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

The first time I read those words, I had long blonde hair instead of short steel-colored waves. I wore contacts instead of glasses, known to swallow one by accident if it needed moisture. I moved quickly across campus, my body strong and slender, though I felt more fear of it than love for it. Life was full of possibility in the midst of confusion, and those words became an anthem of hope.

They are still, gratefully. Much has changed, much has not. My children are adults in a world filled with unrest and cries for change. My body reminds me of its important place in my life, and now I listen….grateful we are working together. I have learned to slow down, to honor my inner life, while at the same time carry deep concern for the life we share on our dear Earth.

I recently received encouragement from a friend, “Take care and live each day. We never know when the Light of Home will shine on us.” It reminds me of my years leading the Hospital of St Raphael’s bereavement program, days and evenings supporting folks in their struggle with loss. In the midst of honoring their sacred journey in grief, my colleagues and I found ourselves savoring the gift of life itself. Our sense of mortality was heightened, our connection to each new day increased, our trust in God renewed.

Today really is the first day of the rest of our lives! Today, this singular experience unlike any other, is an invitation. We get caught in the mundane routines of life or thrown by the intense joys and sorrows – and we forget. That bit of sunlight on the carpet says, “Come outside, lets play today.” The breeze that cools my skin speaks of comfort and peace. That friend shares a genuine smile and my heart is lifted.

Each moment of this day is an invitation to wonder, each a step into the sacred Mystery.  As JD Salinger put it,

“All we ever do our whole lives is go

from one little piece of holy ground to the next…”

Many blessings on this new and wonder-filled day (click here)

Lisa

 

Return, relax, remember

Glimmers August 13, 2019

Dear Friends,

Last month’s Glimmer was such a gift! Thank you for engaging with the images and sharing the blessings, thank you for joining me in these thoughts and ponderings. And my gift to you? Well, I encourage you to reread the July Glimmer and click on the link in the last line. I put it in as a surprise gift, but too many missed it. I invite you to receive the whole message, including the sound of love: https://www.lisairish.com/c/glimmers/

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Return, relax, remember…these themes remain as our August days stretch, stretch we hope, forever! But something has changed, a coolness arrived one morning and now it’s time to savor the final days of summer. Return, relax, remember…my heart opens to this prayer of hope and healing. I let go of expectation and fall into the rhythm of the words, I receive the invitation….. return…relax…remember…how would it be if we truly trusted our inner wisdom?

In my case, there are actual memories that I’m trying to retrieve, moments that I might tune into and learn from. It’s been a challenging process, the various childhood traumas have obscured other moments of connection and love. But that’s just my path, what about you? As you sit with this invitation, return…relax…remember…what images come forward? As you give yourself permission to stare out at a horizon, a lake’s edge, or a quiet neighborhood scene, what feelings come forward? What thoughts poke around in your mind and heart?

If it’s alright, I may start sharing some of the fruits of this prayer with you. Our exchange has become integral to my experience of the Divine. I’m gratefully reminded of the mystery every time I start writing to you. When some of you respond I receive the gift of our connection and the gift of you – your unique light on this earth. Richard Rohr, OFM tells us,

Presence is never self-generated, but always a gift from another, and faith is always relational at its core.

Return…relax…remember…let us pray together dear friends, through these days of summer memories. Let us watch the earth’s rhythms and become a part of them. We, like the trees, birds, and stars in the sky, are evidence of Love on earth. Once again, Richard Rohr’s words guide us. He suggests that we breathe this truth into our very core:

I have never been separate from God, nor can I be, except in my mind.

May it be so,                                                                                                   

Lisa

 

 

Quotes from The Universal Christ – How a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for and believe, Richard Rohr, Penguin Random House, 2019

 

 

Birthday Invitation

Glimmers July 23, 2019

Dear Friends,

As I get older, my birthdays seem to speak a little louder. How is it for you? Do you notice the annual movements of your heart inviting you to greater awareness of what it means to be alive?

I have to confess, the meaning of life has been a topic of reflection for most of my days walking upon this earth. Yesterday, though, I was floating instead of walking. I found myself drawn to hidden shadows along Lake Beseck, where the dark water exposed unknown depths not easily seen in the sunlit center of the lake. Tree boughs and water’s edge come together to form a place of respite, a sacred space in the midst of a summer day. The willow’s leaves whisper as I paddle under her long, thin branches. Yes, it was a place of relief from the heat, but it was more than that. Quiet is speaking here, and I am listening.

For so many years, I have been looking backward at the puzzle pieces of my life. I have most of the edge-pieces and have filled in much of the scene. I’ve spent long hours, years really, searching for a few lost pieces. Some relationships and moments help me retrieve those missing fragments of my life, it’s as if I get a second, third and fourth chance to learn the lessons of loss, shame, abandonment, anxiety or fear. Each time is another opportunity to accept my limitations, embrace my gifts and open my heart to Love. Each time, I step into the Holy and experience the mystery of my humanness. Through God’s grace, I sometimes see the preciousness within. As Paula D’Arcy said,

“God comes to you disguised as your life.”

Other people float past my chapel on the lake, but I am still listening to nature’s voice. “Return,” the willow’s whisper touches my heart. “Relax,” the insects sing out at day’s end. “Remember,” reverberates through the light’s reflection, travels across the water and laps up onto my feet. I am one day older, steeped in the Mystery, and grateful for the fullness of life.

With affection, Lisa

 

 

 

Sometimes we grieve together…

Glimmers June 30, 2019

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, I heard a 6 minute description of the current living conditions of detained migrant children along the US-Mexico border.  I cannot get the words and images out of my mind. Their plight has become a part of my prayer. Their experiences of loss have kindled my own.

We all face the pain of death in our lives, we resist as death steals our loved ones away. But loss does not stop there, it has many forms. Francis Weller’s The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief  masterfully names the layers of loss that we carry as human beings, from “everything we love” to the “sorrows of the world.” The Second Gate, as he describes it, is “The Places That Have Not Known Love,” and it is here that my heart is caught when I remember those children.

I have places inside that did not know love. My mother’s car accident, when I was 18 months, created a patched-together upbringing with missing pieces. While they did the best they could, my parents moved into survival mode and everything changed for that little one. We all have such places, of course… little hidden secrets, fears of inadequacy, conscious beliefs based on unconscious pain. Grief’s great gift of healing leads us into these spaces to release the pain and make room for love. This is part of our human journey, part of our story, or as Wes Anzinna put it in a NYT Sunday Magazine article,

“A lot of things had to happen for me to be me.”

I am finding my way. There are many folks who take steps to open their heart to the pain inside, allowing grief’s wisdom to lead them toward healing. Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” and Scripture reminds us, “Let light shine out of darkness.” Life includes the process of loss, healing and hope.

I leave you with an image, friends, the image of a woman aching after a loved one’s death, courageously saying yes to love’s presence in her heart. Her smile fills the room with her light. At the same time, I hold the image of the children, wrapped in silver plastic. I ache for their places that do not know love. Their story is indeed one of the “sorrows of the world” and I grieve for all of us.

Grateful for your loving hearts,

Lisa

 

Step into the Holy

Glimmers May 31, 2019

Dear Friends,

I have missed you! The month of May was filled with travels, out into the world of Italy and deep within the heart of Lisa. I come home changed by the new sights, sounds and feelings I encountered…the winding, narrow roads through Tuscany, marked by the tall Cypress trees that stood as sentinels on our journey; the memories of my parents that returned, unexpectedly, but a treasure to renew our braids of love; the awareness of my place in the world, a citizen of the planet along with every other human being.

The calendar image for May of 2019 winks at me with one last reminder before I turn the page:

“Wisdom is not knowing more, but knowing with more of you…”   Cynthia Bourgeault

It’s interesting that our ego-driven consumerism can find its way into our spiritual journey. We seek to gather more – books, teachers, experiences – searching for answers. As the challenges of life mount up, we work to respond with a corresponding pile of lessons and quotes!  Cynthia Bourgeault’s reminder (yes, it is in the form of a quote) invites another pathway of growth….a wisdom found from within.

My recent conversations with a young neighbor offer an example. As I listen to this nine year old’s questions, I’m reminded of my own curiosity at that age. I explain my gardening to her and I remember my mother’s love of the garden – even though she had to drag her paralyzed legs along the dirt as she worked. We smell the lavender and taste the chives while we talk, my heart is happy.  In  that holy moment between my young friend and I, I am present to her with all of these aspects of myself: my curiosity, my story of love and grief, my connection to the earth.

When more of me is engaged in my life, the sun is brighter and a friend’s smile touches my heart in a new way. When I welcome more of my story on this day, I experience a fullness, a peace which “passeth understanding.”  Here, on this sunlit morning at Lake Beseck, I encounter the Holy and I stop trying to explain it.

Blessings to all, Lisa

   

 

 

 

The Season of Transformation

Glimmers April 18, 2019

Dear Friends,

I have been thinking about transformation lately.

I guess that’s not surprising, Spring is slowly making its way into our formerly frozen New England landscape. Change is all around us. I’ve recently had the opportunity to be with grieving folks, offered programs for two different groups at Connecticut retreat centers. People arrive with broken hearts, with a desire to stop the sadness. After learning a bit more about the Land of Loss, they leave with a willingness to let grief guide them through the difficult terrain. Some speak of a desire “to live in healing more consciously.” Again, transformation is taking place.

I’m experiencing transformation in my own heart, as well. I’ve loosened my grip on expectations, opening myself to new ways of being. It’s ironic though, the path isn’t completely new to me; it’s as if I’m settling into a more authentic version of myself. The “big change” that I’ve been resisting is more of a refinement. The Sculptor has smoothed away unneeded stone, letting beauty be revealed.

My Lenten practice this year has been a commitment to daily movement through yoga and other physical activities. It’s not about losing weight, but a more intentional relationship with my body. My body and I have been out of touch for much of my life.  Three and a half years ago, she got my attention with a broken leg. Now, she speaks in more subtle language and, through our regular “conversations,” I am finally listening.

Why do we resist the changes that appear in our lives? Of course, we all have our own stories, our unique reactions. As human beings, though, we often share a defensive response to the demands of life’s revisions. We try to push it all away. But the death of a loved one, for example, does not let us avoid life’s call to change. Neither, on a much smaller scale, does a broken leg. And so, we try to learn from the crisis and grieve the loss. We honor what was, we pray for what is and trust what will be. Transformation does not happen in an instant, its a process of opening to mystery.

As we stand before the ultimate mystery of Easter, this holy week leads us through a sacred letting go.  We listen to a story of transformation and look at our own lives.  Can we open our hearts and shout Hosanna at the arrival of Love? Will we share community with others, loving them as who they are? Can we confront the emptiness found in the absence of love, however that experience comes to us? And, when our hearts are ready, will we say “yes….Yes….YES!” to the fruits of new life that are bursting from within?

Jesus showed us the way on his path, what does our own path of transformation look like?

Happy Easter, dear friends!

Alleluia!

Lisa

 

Am I Enough?

Glimmers March 23, 2019

“There is comfort in keeping what is sacred inside us, not as a secret but as a prayer.”

Terry Tempest Williams

 

Dear Friends,

This quote entered my heart a few weeks ago. It comes as invitation, as reminder. As a child, I would ride my bike through the walnut grove, an adventurer under the sunny skies of Northern California. Alone, or with my friend, I was free to climb the rock piles, rest under the trees, poke around the creek bed. This was my secret place – away from the emergencies at home – where I could experience life’s fullness. I was learning to pray.

A lifelong extrovert, I engage with the people and activities around me. As I age, however, I relish the comfort of quiet, sacred moments. I’m traveling a path to life within – a more introverted approach –  into my place of prayer. Here, I pause, listen for answers to my questions or just trust the silence.

Recently, I was a volunteer “sorter” at our local library. Hundreds and hundreds of donated books needed to be organized for an upcoming Book Sale. As I put the paperbacks on their designated shelves or the non-fiction hard covers under the proper sign of “Biography” “Photography” or “Education,” I consider the hours each author spent to create that one book.  I remember my own journey as an author… the many demands of editing, rewrites, or obtaining permission for quotes. I smile at the thrill of that accomplishment, heart full of gratitude, while I imagine my book tossed in the “Self-Help” pile.

I keep my thoughts to myself as we organize the books stacked around us, grateful for this reflective moment….to keep what is sacred inside, not as a secret but as a prayer. Through this experience of birthing a book, then 12 months later see it’s temporary nature, I’m reminded that life is filled with impermanence.  At the same time, I trust that my contribution adds a little more light to the world. And that is enough…today I am enough.

And so are you, dear friends. The gift that you are lives alongside the human flaws and foibles that concern you.  Let us move into unitive thinking where all comes together in the Grand Design of creation. Richard Rohr, OFM puts it this way in “Eager to Love,”

“The transformed self, living in union, no longer lives in shame or denial of its weakness, but even lives with rejoicing because it does not need to pretend that it is any more that it actually is – which is now more than enough!”

With affection,

Lisa