Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bring it Back Gently

By: Saint Francis de Sales

If the heart wanders or is distracted,
bring it back to the point quite gently and
replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.

And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour
but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence,
though it went away every time you brought it back,
your hour would be very well employed.

The Signal

By: David Ignatow

How can I regret my life
when I find the blue-green traffic light
on the corner delightful against the red brick
of my house. It is when the signal turns red
that I lose interest. At night
I am content to watch the blue-green
come on against the dark
and I do not torture myself
with my shortcomings.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Closing Doors, Ending Chapters: The Good News

By: Kyle Elden

I had this really sweet moment where a deep life truth became evident through a connection with a friend. I believe we have these experiences throughout life. We interface with people, and together we are given these understandings about our existence here on earth.

During this orange, glowing gorgeous morning sunrise over Lake Superior I was sitting with a dear friend, who is currently amidst a divorce, and we were discussing the deep grief and loss present when we either have to make the choice to, or are forced to, close a door, end a chapter – to say goodbye to a person we love. This happens for a variety of reasons: divorce, break-up, death, geographical move, betrayal, a friendship ceases, or just a natural drift. Maybe it is your best friend, your fiancĂ©, the father of your child, a great love of your life, the death of a parent, your roommate. Whoever it is and whatever the reason, it does not mitigate the fact that your time with that particular person (the good and the bad), your connection, and the love you shared is significant and real. That which has occurred, cannot be undone. What unfolded between you, in your life, will forevermore be what happened. I remember this line from an Indigo Girls song I used to like in high school, Mystery, “so what is love then is it dictated or chosen, does it sing like the hymns of 1000 years, or is it just pop emotion, and if it ever was there and it left, does it mean it was never true, and to exist it must elude.” Yes, everything that exists does elude; however, because it once existed, it does mean it was/is true.

So, as the sun was rising and the lake was doing its morning dance with the sandy shore, my friend and I talked about having to say goodbye. She shared her heart with me about getting a divorce, and how this is the true, right and honest thing to do to love and honor all involved. At the same time however she will always love her soon-to-be ex-husband and will miss many things about their time together. This does not change the reality of this ending. I knowingly nodded, understanding the bittersweet, painful business of closing doors, ending chapters. Then, she looked me straight in the eyes and stated, “but I know, even though he will no longer be in my life in the same way, he will be one of the first people greeting me with love and open arms in the after-life!” And we both spoke not another word. We just nodded with this deep truth, this knowing, and began to cry – grabbed each other’s hands across this kitchen table, squeezing with all our might, and we found comfort.

Ahhhh, people do come and go in and out of the forefront of our lives. Here on earth we are on this journey and continue moving forward. Things change, people leave. We cannot hold, keep, grasp on to that which needs to be let go of. The deep life truth that became evident to me in this moment is that this is not all there is to the story, this is not the end. When we leave this human form, we return to our true home with God. And with God the love we share in this life and the significant people we have had to say goodbye to will once again be present. Love is boundless and infinite when we are with God. In the human realm we need to have boundaries, we need to have parameters around relationships and people, we need to say goodbye for a variety of different reasons. We cannot contain more than we are able at one time because this leads to more suffering and pain. But in God’s realm, there are no boundaries, there is just pure love. I imagine this complete joyful reality where all these people are with me and all this love is present, I am laughing and completely joyful, and that would be heaven to me!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Love Story

By: Kyle Elden

This life I’ve been given, precious and unique – my one and only. Each day a miracle filled with boundless amazing gifts. I can’t help it! I’m smitten with you life, downright grateful. I’m grace intoxicated, buzzed on happiness – joy spins circles and makes me dizzy, leaves me smiling. The sun rose like a rosey-red faced little kid playing peek-a-boo, poking her sweet little head right over the broken open lake today, all that ice melted away from the warm almost-spring rainfall, back into its other form, water (so sure of herself, moving and flowing, you would never know she was once frozen, she was stuck) – that holy moly sunrise brushed my kitchen wall with gorgeous pink light as Andrew Bird sang and whistled me into this new day. And yes, I was alone so I danced a bit, I spun, I made goofy faces and laughed at myself in the mirror. And I don’t care if I look like a nut cuz I’m happy as hell. A little dark roast coffee with raw honey and cream, a petite garden salad with dripping wet sliced oranges, runny yellow beautiful soft-boiled eggs and Third Street Bakery 8 grain toast with melted butter glistening across the top. And freaking a’ the lake is shimmering as the sun floats up out of the darkness, now all golden and aglow - throwing down a light show right out my back window, filling in every shadow. Grace, grace I drink you up in all of this until I’m absolutely intoxicated, until I’m filled with these blessings like a fizzy water, a carbonated drink all shook up and overflowing the moment the lid is cracked…and grace, I drink you up in my water with fresh squeezed lemon. You follow me wherever I go. You are the water that splashes against my skin as I wash my face. You are the breath I breathe. You are my daughter’s smile, and freckles and little hand wrapped inside my hand, staying in bed just a little longer on a school/work day to cuddle with her sleepy little lovebug self – her head of dark curls nestled in on my shoulder just under my chin, arms tangled up in one another. You are the Atlantic ocean and seashells and A1A Beachfront Avenue that I just visited and makes me sing the Vanilla Ice song rockin’ lovers driving Lamborghinis that I know every freaking word to and I’m the girl in the bikini with my friends in the sun and my little girl doing tornado tricks in the pool. You are the sweet taste of a gin and tonic with a touch of grapefruit and the soft sting of a fresh sunburn, a succulent juicy burger with melted cheese and ketchup dripping down my chin, dripping onto the plate, and sweet, sweet watermelon bursting in my mouth. You are the faces of my family and friends and invitations to different states with cactuses and the best holy mother of god single-track rocky trails imaginable to run along, sweat gleaming on every inch of my skin and mountain ranges all around. You are SeaWorld and Shamu, pink flamingos and the magic in my daughter’s eyes. You are wine and beer with good people and laughing til’ our stomachs hurt, making up crazy dances to old school 90’s music of Prince and Rex in Effex and Naughty By Nature Hip Hop Hooray, and Madonna– we’ve got the running man and roger rabbit down, around-the-clock and fancy basket ball moves with lay-ups rocking across this club’s dance floor. You are skinny dipping in Lake Superior under summer stars and a plump peach moon, standing around a bonfire dripping wet with smiles and stories. You are sharing green smoothies with friends or freshly juiced apple carrot juice and homemade, four bowls worthy, venison stroganoff. You are sun-salutations to sunrise and falling down on hard packed snow with guttural laughter with my daughter, stumbling over one another and skis hand in hand, teaching her to downhill ski on Spirit Mountian’s bunny hill. You are dance parties in the living room and my daughter’s funky fashion shows, Cyndi Lauper style with red high heels five sizes too big and pink crooked ballet tutu. You are oh my goodness crab legs dipped in a deep cup of melted butter with chives, watching Bridesmaids eating vanilla bean cheesecake slathered in Brandy peach blueberry sauce laughing our guts out, or slopping through a pint Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food watching Chappelle’s Show laughing til’ we cry. You are also in these tear and mascara and snot saturated crumpled up napkins from broken hearts, and deep cracks, and obstacles we bump into and mountains we all find ourselves climbing up, scrapped up knees and blurred vision. You are in the holding on with nails dug in to the skin of that which is changing or has already died, the letting it fly away like the ashes from this fire made with dead branches of trees we planted together - all orange sparks and smoke blowing away forever. In the saying goodbye, all the memories, memories imprinted in my mind, on my heart for eternity.....You are the cold feel of my grandma’s skin on her forehead, after she’s died when I say goodbye, the smell of her on her hair I savor for the last, last time. You are the hand on my shoulder, the utterings of prayers, the strong arms that hold me as I sob. You are the phone calls, the listening ears, the kindness that overwhelms, blows in like an east wind and sweeps you off your feet. You are all this love bubbling up from the beginning of time, the love that is painted by God in the marrow of our bones, as sure as the blood that flows through our bodies, the love that draws us through life like a magnet waltzing, whether we know it or not, with the One who gives us this gift. So look up, look up – look around – yes, notice, notice where you are, who you are, what you are – and make your life, with all its cracks and scars, with all its brilliance and light, a prayer, a great love story, a beautiful offering.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Before You Know It

By:Kyle Elden

Before you know it
you smile again
find yourself humming,
singing out loud when alone
a prayer of gratitude spilling from
your lips as you catch the sunrise
spreading light across the morning
soaking the sky with the deepest pink
and you know there are a million
ways to hide from your heart
a thousand reasons to be sad or scared
but even more, even more reasons to be
fully alive
to move forward
as the hawks are called forth
to migrate, over and over again,
to wherever there is more bounty

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Believe In YOU Charles Bradley :)

Man, this brother can sing it - uggghhhh! I tell ya', I feel it, every. damn. time! I've been diggin' this Charles Bradley No Time for Dreaming record like crazy. I can't help but sway and wink and wanna say things like, "Hey baby, get in the car....let's roll..." all smooth-like, in a deep sexy voice, eyebrows raised, as the sultry music pours from the open door, picking up my friend for a soulful drive to a cabin adventure this weekend.....I imagine I'm in a beautiful emerald green 1970's Monte Carlo, but my champagne Subaru Forester is the furthest thing from it...;) check it kids:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

By: Kyle Elden

In my job at St. Louis County as a Child Protection social worker I have the privilege to be on the planning committee for the Health and Human Services Conference. This is a rather large proportioned conference which draws a couple thousand people to attend. St. Louis County has been responsible for bringing in renown speakers such as Rabbi Kushner author of When Good Things Happen to Bad People. This year, thanks to Mary Bridget Lawson, we are blessed to have Sister Joan D. Chittister, a best-selling author, internationally known lecturer, and the executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center of Contemporary Spirituality, as our keynoter. The title of our conference this year is to be Scarred By Struggle, Transformed By Hope. This title comes from the title of one of Sister Joan D. Chittister's books. When I heard scarred by struggle, transformed by hope, it struck me. This title, this concept completely highlights the dichotomy of life. It doesn't gloss over suffering and struggle, which are inevitable parts of our life. However, it also includes a glimmer, a promise: HOPE. Here is an excerpt from the book:

There is no one who does not have to choose sometime, someway, between giving up and growing stronger as they go along. And yet if we give up in the midst of struggle, we never find out what the struggle would have given us in the end. If we decide to endure it to the end, we come out of it changed by the doing of it. It is a risk of mammoth proportions. We dare the development of the self. Life forges us in struggle. From one end of life to another we duel and joust, contest and dispute, rebel and revolt – against forces outside ourselves, yes, but against tensions within us as well.

I have seen person after person broken by the breaking open of life’s great fissures. And I have also seen them survive. I have learned through them that all struggle is not destructive. I have come to understand from them that it is not struggle that defeats us, it is our failure to struggle that depletes the human spirit.

All struggle is not loss. All those who struggle do not give way to depression, to death of the spirit, to dearth of heart. We not only can survive struggle but, it seems, we are meant to survive in new ways, with new insights, with new heart.

Struggle is a part of life. In fact, struggle is an unavoidable part of life. It comes with birth and it takes its toll at every stage of development. In each of them we strive for something new at the price of something gained. We tussle between the dark and the daylight moments of the soul. If we stop struggling, we may die. But if we struggle and lose, we stand to dies as well. So how are we to think of struggle? Is it loss or is it gain?

Life itself is the answer. If not one can escape struggle, then it must serve some purpose in life. It is a function of the spirit. It is an organic part of the adventure of development that comes only through the soul-stretching process of struggle. No other dimension of life can possibly offer it because no other process in life requires so deeply of us. Struggle bores down into the deepest part of the human soul like cirrus tendrils, bringing new life, contravening old truisms. The problem is that struggle requires the most of us just when we expect it least.

Wow, I love this. How often I've looked at myself and others and wondered what the difference is in this person's life, in this person's unique response to the difficulty life sometimes bears, and recognize the choice we have to succumb to depression, darkness, and death of the spirit or that of expansion, growth and wholeness. How often do we see ourselves and others exist in a limited form of the potential that exists. I've said to myself on many occasions "you are so much greater than what you are living out, putting up with, existing in!" When we are amidst struggle it is perplexing, unbearable and downright painful. However, when I have come out on the other side of struggle I look back, and although I may never want to live through that same experience again, I am amazed by how much I learned, how much growth took place, how much I developed, was changed for the better through that struggle.

Therefore, no matter what the "struggle" experience(s) you may reflect back on, or be amidst, it is not in vain. This Leonard Cohen quote, "Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in" speaks beautifully to this truth. Those cracks in our lives can be where the "light" gets in if we so allow it to shape us in that way. For me, I can honestly say that I am grateful for the struggles I've endured. Some of the most valuable things that have been instilled in me as a result are deeper relationship with God, humility, knowing how to love wholly, not taking people for granted, treating others as I wish to be treated, and the list goes on.

Sometimes we view other people at fault for our struggle, our pain, our heartache. Not that the actions of others don't impact or hurt us, that is absolutely true. But the manner in which we are able to respond that that is paramount. In the Bible Matthew 5:43-45 tells of of the radical message of Jesus “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. or Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. One of the greatest lessons I've learned through the struggle of forgiveness is that anyone that has hurt or disappointed me has not done so with malicious intent. It is through having compassion and understanding, love and forgiveness, and blessings pouring out for that person that I have been freed of the toxic fruits of bitterness, anger and wishes for ill will. I have been filled with peace and joy and experienced unconditional love. I am able to thus run my fingers over these scars from the struggles of existence and be truly transformed by the hope that resounds.