Monday, November 1, 2010


I can’t recall exactly when I heard Krista Tippett interview John O’Donohue on Speaking of Faith in 2008. I do recall when I downloaded the podcast and re-listened to it over and over...driving to and from Spartanburg last year.

And each time I heard the interview, this blessing touched my heart.


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Parts of it increased my capacity to overcome my deep sadness after one particularly difficult "on-call" of seven deaths back to back. Parts of it connect me with a spiritual experience in a field of wildflowers near Aspen, Colorado. Parts of it remain a mystery – an unknowing; an invisible longing –the unanswered, humble feeling of which I grow more familiar with each read. All of it seems important to my spiritual journey as I show up to this moment, in this place.

In my work-a-day life there is much encouragement, positive attitude and teamwork - but sometimes it has has put gloss and spin on the outside, while abandoning any inner work –that is, leaving us all bereft of naming what is difficult, dark, real about our lives. That rigorous inner work made my chaplain residency program difficult and I grew to appreciate the authenticity gained by doing it.

However, these days,by deftly avoiding any difficult feelings,it seems that much of the webbing that holds us together in communion is lost. I seem to have lost a sense of belonging. I am familiar with this feeling and am pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels this way –and I sense that be-longing and re-membering is part of my call and part of our work as creators of a fresh expression of Church.

In the blessings that O’Donohue offers in his book, To Bless The Space Between Us, he addresses the gritty, sometimes dark realities of life.

He does so while simultaneously nudging the shoreline of the accompanying newness. In this blessing, he names quite clearly what it feels like to grieve and in this way I connect to it. By connecting to my darkness, I feel ready to accept the intimate warmth he offers in each verse. I belong.

In reflecting on the invocations for nourishment, clarity, fluency and protection, I feel understood and find hope.

In the first verse, the notion of deadening weight on my shoulders reminds me of stacking hay in our barn as a child. Back in the day, I could carry an entire bale on my back and hoist it onto a stack, no problem. Now, that hay bale comes in the form of my human failures, unkept agreements, unworked grief. While this weighs me down, I sense the weight on all our shoulders - global warming, political strife, recession and decline - and I sense paralysis.

This weight sometimes causes me to stumble. I love how this blessing- instead of exhorting me to“do more lunges so your legs are strong to endure a fall”, it is the earth who is invited to dance and to adjust with grace, to participate in my finding my balance.

In the second verse, I recall what it was like living in London. Most days the windows were grey, either from fog on the outside or humidity from the inside. It was a relief to rest my gaze on the window pane –not really focusing on the outside nor the inside of my apartment. I never did belong in London and I felt lost. Gazing at the window was relief. I chuckle at the idea of a flock of colors bursting into my apartment.

I recall with delight another time, when I hiked through the meadow of June wildflowers that covered the hillside just beyond the Maroon Bells in the Aspen (CO) wilderness. That day, I was sure that God threw confetti onto the mountain just for us to experience. It was breathtaking. And healing.

In the third verse, I am puzzled by“fraying canvas of a curragh.” I understand that a curragh is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched. (Nowadays, canvas is more usual.) Having done some boating, I can imagine the horror I might feel if the canvas that contains my boat begins to fray. And having done some snorkeling, I can connect with the fear of the deep black ocean beneath me and the unknown that lies beyond.

As a curragh of thought, I reflect on my assumptions – how have they been frayed? How have I relied on the “known”assumptional canvas that contains my understanding of God? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do infants die? Why do murderers live? How can I console the family of the fatal car crash victim in one moment and sit with the driver of the car to console him the next? What would Jesus have me do?

And so, in these times, I yearn for a path of yellow moonlight, inspired by God, to bring me safely home.

For me, when I am offered the nourishment of the earth, I take communion. And when I am offered the clarity of light I know that I will see God face to face. And when I am offered the fluency of the ocean, I remember body surfing in Manhattan Beach and the joy of surprise waves. And when I am offered the protection of the ancestors, I join my voice with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven.

And so, in the slow wind of Spirit's presence, this blessing in this moment covers me with a flowing and protective cloak that minds my life and your life - into common life.

How are you showing up in this moment?

1 comment:

  1. love it! one of the many gifts of your friendship was introducing me to his work.