On Being Astonished

What is it that astonishes us these days? Is it the headlines that flash across the written page, or in gossip carried to our all to willing listening ears? Olympic feats, milestones reached or previous limitations met and surpassed? Perhaps, however, it is something closer to home. Sparked by an awareness of God at work around us, even in the seemliest detail often overlooked and missed- astonishment abounds.

In the poem entitled Messenger, by Mary Oliver she speaks of the beauty of discovery in our natural world. Creation giving and responding to its Creator, and each of us partaking in the holy within our everyday.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Yet, can astonishment also be found in the imperfect, broken or worn parts of our lives too? Absolutely. For, we cannot deny the many ways we fall short of the often self-imposed standard of perfection we hold.  But are we really willing and ready for change?

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,

Here, with all due reverence to Mary Oliver, I find astonishment and beauty also in the reworking and remaking of my very being into who I was meant to be. Even the letting go and surrender of that within ourselves which is “still not perfect” can very well be a daily source of astonishment. To the point that I believe she strives to make, however, we mustn’t get wedded to the imperfections themselves. Rather, to attend to the work of responding- to the graced invitations around and within us.

which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.               Messenger, by Mary Oliver

So what do we do with these astonishing gifts- these simple moments of revelation and acknowledgement? Do we live a life inspired, willing to experience surprise, wonder and transformation?

Reflect:

Spend a few moments outside today. Be still, and invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you in revealing these “hidden” gifts of the moment. What is to be learned for you in being astonished?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Joy Stealer or Faith Grower?

Perspective they say is everything, and when we choose to look at situations with new eyes, better yet God’s eyes, we are given a real invitation to grow in faith..

Currently, in our society where individualism and our own happiness has been regarded as utmost priority there is great emphasis placed on that which makes us momentarily feel good.  We are quick  to avoid the situations that disturb our inner peace, upset out schedule and call us out of our comfort zone. Even in our relationships we grumble, resist and distance ourselves from those that are most difficult to deal with.

I pause here for an honest confession… I have chosen the path of feeling annoyed and complaining lately. Faced with a seemingly unchanging resistance from others to my own desire to be joyful,  I had decided it best to create some distance. A mini retreat of sorts, I recognized that I needed a break in order to get a bit of perspective. In taking this opportunity to go out into the “wilderness”  to spend some alone time in prayer, to reflect on what  is being asked of me I now have a better understanding of what Christ desires.

First, I realize that I cannot remain on permanent retreat from all that I feel attempts to steal my joy. Obvious exemptions would be situations that are physically or mentally abusive. Yet, what I am talking about are difficult people, or particularly trying situations that continually test my patience and call for regular forgiveness.

Case in point:

1.The “one way or no way” attitude: The phone rings and I notice the caller id. As the conversation ensues I am struck by the familiarity of the questions and topics of discussion.  Can we ever go deeper? No, not if it remains a one sided barrage of questions where there is only one answer desired. No, not if there isn’t active listening, appreciation of the other person, and a desire to have true dialogue. So, I listen and leave the discussion wondering why I spent my time in this way.

2. The “blinking red light”: Here is the person that is constantly in hot water. If the issue doesn’t involve them directly they feel it necessary to stir the waters that potentially create a tempest situation. Oh, did you have plans today? Well, this is far more important and if you weren’t concerned before..you should be by now.  So, I listen, offer advice, help where I can, and spend the day praying that they find peace.

Selfishly at times I have asked God, “Why have you placed these rocks in my path, why am I being asked to deal with stubbornness and anxiety?”

His answer, “Elizabeth because you have yet to learn the incredible lessons of love and forgiveness that I have been so desperately seeking to instill in you! Do you honestly think that you are without fault, malleable, secure in my loving plan and accepting of all that I am calling you to be?”

“No, Father… I have much to learn. Yet, I am desperately trying to understand though. Isn’t that good?”

Yes, but you cannot get comfortable with where you are- because I am asking so much more of you. Each of my children has a purpose and a journey. Sometimes this journey leads others to learn from you and other times their purpose is to challenge you to grow.

I have choices in how I encounter others. If my life isn’t rooted in love, patience, and forgiveness, how are others to truly  know Christ through me?  Moreover, our lives are meant to be proof of God’s deep call to a new life, faith that though times get difficult there is hope that our loving Father is working all for good.  This inbreaking of the Kingdom of God isn’t merely an inner journey or a futuristic promise of heaven…but it begins with me today.

Peace,

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