You might be asking why I’d have a morning poem as an evening poetry selection. It’s because it is too good to resist sharing, and the last stanza in particular has become a life prayer over the past few years.
by John O’ Donohue
I bless the night that nourished my heart To set the ghosts of longing free Into the flow and figure of dream That went to harvest from the dark Bread for the hunger no one sees.
All that is eternal in me Welcomes the wonder of this day, The field of brightness it creates Offering time for each thing To arise and illuminate.
I place on the altar of dawn: The quiet loyalty of breath, The tent of thought where I shelter, Waves of desire I am shore to And all beauty drawn to the eye.
May my mind come alive today To the invisible geography That invites me to new frontiers, To break the dead shell of yesterdays, To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today To live the life that I would love, To postpone my dream no longer But do at last what I came here for And waste my heart on fear no more.
I haven’t been “to church” in over a year. Long story, but after my whole life, I needed a break.* Sunday mornings are no longer a mad dash to arrive on time. I get up when I feel rested. Eat gluten free pancakes or French toast with Alan and the boys, go to the gym, plan my menu, make a new “weekly” page in my bullet journal, write, read, and work on projects. Occasionally, I feel heaps of guilt for not being involved and serving the way I was raised to. There was a security in doing the same thing each Sunday, to knowing I was serving God and the church community, and in receiving approval from the circle I was in.
After major life changes in the past two years, including leaving the church I was involved in and getting a divorce, I’ve been finding new ways to relate to God and think about spiritual matters. This can make me feel unsure of myself as a spiritual person, as a believer, as I explore outside of the familiar framework I’ve leaned on since childhood. Will I return to a local expression of faith some day? Perhaps I will. I like to think I will.
For now, I’m looking for God everywhere I am, as I always have. I am retaining my relationships with friends who believe. We share thoughts and ideas, holding real and honest conversations about church and faith. After leaving the community I came from and spending this past year asking myself what I believe and what do I identify with, I sense a close connection with Celtic Spirituality or Celtic Christianity.
What mattered to the ancient Celtic believers resonates with me: having a hope-filled outlook, caring for our environment, appreciating art and music and using them as an expression of worship, being hospitable and open to change, etc. Like the Celtic Christians, I use imagination as a way to connect to and understand the divine. Although these characteristics can be found in other faiths and indeed, in other forms of Christianity, this is where I feel most at home. It’s interesting, because as a young adult of eighteen or nineteen, I felt drawn to this way, and here I am again. As T.S. Eliot said,
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
As I always have, I enjoy finding resources to enrich and develop my spiritual understanding.
Here is one tool I use to dig deep: it employs the practice of a weekly and one yearly examen, or reflection of my days in these seven areas: spirit, mind, body, work, home, relationships, and resource stewardship. There is also a moving forward or “reset” for the week ahead. Included is spaced to develop something called a “Rule of Life” that one can develop as a way to be intentional about personal priorities for daily living. Check it out:
The next three books enrich my spiritual journey. Maybe they would do the same for you.
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessingsby John O’Donahue would make a lovely gift to another or oneself. I received my copy as a gift. The contents are grouped by “Beginnings”, “Desires”, “Thresholds”, “Homecomings”, “States of Heart”, “Callings”, and “Beyond Endings”. No one wrote quite like him. The grace and musicality of his words, poetry or prose, speak and reach into the dark and confused places, as well as the light and clear ones. Here is an excerpt from the poem “For The Interim Time”
You cannot lay claim to anything: In this place of dusk, Your eyes are blurred; And there is no mirror.
Everyone else has lost sight of your heart And you can see nowhere to put your trust; You know you have to make your own way through.
As far as you can, hold your confidence. Do not allow your confusion to squander This call which is loosening Your roots in false ground, That you might come free From all you have outgrown.
What is being transfigured here is your mind, And it is more difficult and slow to become new. The more faithfully you can endure here, The more refined your heart can become For your arrival in the new dawn.
The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner. I’ve only just begun reading and savoring the content in this book, exploring the practices and engaging in the artistic reflections. Week Three, for example, “Sacred Tools and Sacred Spaces“, discusses the sacraments of daily life, the sacred art of living and then engages the reader with contemplative practices–lectio divina, reflection questions, visual art exploration, and poetry exploration. It’s deep, but has fun hands-on ways to explore and express.
The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen, I’ve already mentioned this week, but here it is again. This was his personal journal from a very dark, anxious and fearful season in his life–his journey through. A friend of mine gave it to me at the start of a dark, fearful season of my own.
So here is a glimpse into my own story of faith. I’d love to hear from you–what’s encouraging you today?
* (Disclaimer: I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church or local expression of faith. There is plenty of life, growth, encouragement and goodness to be found in thriving faith communities the world over. If you have found such a place, I hope you can stay, call it home and become one of the family.)