Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

After such a heavy duty writing schedule during Advent, I was grateful to step away from anything that had to do with writing for a few days. I've rested, recuperated, and am now in the throes of a heckuva fibro flare. Sigh. But I'm still hopeful. And I'm still here, lovies.

After the first day of Christmas, I couldn't help but start thinking of the new year. This year, however, I heard a distinct God whisper asking me not to make any resolutions. It seems my good Father is molding me into the woman he's made me to be, but I've resisted being for too long. Instead of resolutions, he led me to create an art journal for my weight reduction journey, and to make a vision/dream board for 2010.

I've never made a vision/dream board before. One of my lovies, Rachelle Mee Chapman, has been creating them for awhile now. I've always admired her artful spirituality, but I've been timid about expressing myself this way. Until now, that is. Maybe I'm tired and sleepless. Maybe I'm getting old. All I know is that I'm going to be me, because nothing else works. And who am I? A writer, an artist, a worker of mercy; I'm all these and more, but the desire to create is burning in me now, and I feel I must create all these things: new writing, new art, and a house of hospitality.

So, with God's leading, and the longings of my heart, I did indeed create a new year vision/dream board.

You can click on it for a closer view. I spent about an hour scouring magazines and catalogs to find images that resonated with me. I thought about what I'd like my life to be like in the coming year, and several broad themes emerged. There were only a few specific longings that immediately came to mind: one was to focuse more on my physical self. In fact, the first few pictures that jumped out at me were of a woman doing yoga, and a plus-sized woman dancing with total abandon. Both these images surround my portrait, as a reminder of where I want to be (yoga girl) and where I should be in the moment (still a big girl, but one who isn't waiting for weight reduction to enjoy life).

The background, which is mostly covered, is a big, white church. This satisfies my need for fellowship and the house of hospitality that's in process. Beyond the house is a green nature scene (up top), and African Kente cloth on the left hand side. These are connectedness with nature, wildness, good health, and authentic cultural expressions. Again, there's me, at the bottom center, but I'm a dark image. I wanted that to represent me humbly allowing all the big themes to come forward in my life this year. Beside me is a call to LIFE: "Awake, rise from the dead; let the Light shine on you." Amen to that!

As I worked I realized the collage surprised me. Instead of very specific goal and desires, many soft, unexpected things that remind me of simplicity, beauty, and spirituality that I feel is deeply authentic arose in front of me while I cut and pasted. The top banner is a piece of art I found in a catalog that says, "Very Little Is Needed To Make a Happy Life." And of course, to kick off the new year, the words (twice) "Here we go!

Some other affirmations and reminders are:

"Open each day with the Lord."
"The world is full of simple treats."
"Be strong, and don't be afraid. God is coming to your rescue."
Yoga girl's head says, "Trust your journey." Her neck says, "God is near us."
And then there is at the bottom of this piece the words, "Life is beautiful."

I also have a tiny Mother Teresa on my bracelet beside the words, "I just can't stop." This is to remind me to persevere with my passionate work. The word passionate also appears on the collage, as does "luscious," "peace,", "rejoice" "pure poetry," and inside of a bowl of healthy soup, "and all is well."

I couldn't forget the work I feel called to do, so "matthew 25","merciful work", "Eucharist", and "stories" appear, but not necessarily the word "books." Perhaps this is a subconscious way of surrendering being published to the Lord, as I grow into a non-profit org's leader, and the abbess of a small, new monastic community.

I found the words on my cheek irresistable, though I tried to leave them out, honestly. The little square says, "She's sassy, classy, and a little bad-assey." God help me, but we all know it's true. At least much of it.

Lastly, there is a heart with Jan.1, 2010 that says, "Believe with all your heart." The heart has wings. Jesus and his mom are there--of course, especially since I connected so deeply with the mystery of the Incarnation this year through the baby Jesus. I also have a tiny blue bird. I am expecting a year full of happiness, despite this pain that's crippling me today, the last day of the year.

I found out--oddly--plain old Mucinex from the drug store is an amazing part of a protocol for fibromyalgia treatment. Guess what I'm going to buy as soon as my check comes! And of course, mama's getting the weight off this year. Seriously! I even have help--thanks, Heidi!

And what about you, lovies? Are there longings you're feeling that you're sure are God's compass, pointing you to who you truly are? And how will you emerge from your soul's chrysalis to become a new, magnificent being?

I leave you until the new year with this lovely Celtic blessing:

"I wish you not a path devoid of clouds,
Nor a life on a bed of roses,
not that you might never need regret,
nor that you should never feel pain.
No, that is not my wish for you.
My wish for you is:
That you might be brave in times of trial,
when others lay crosses upon your shoulders.
When mountains must be climbed,
and chasms are to be crossed.
When hope can scarce shine through.
That your gift God gave you
Might grow along with you
and let you give the gift of joy
to all who care for you.
That you may always have a friend
who is worth that name.
Whom you can trust, and who helps
you in times of sadness.
Who will defy the storms
of daily life at your side.
One more wish I have for you
that in every hour of joy and pain
you may feel God close to you.
This is my wish for you,
and all who care for you.
This is my hope for you,
Now and forever."

I love you. Truly.
mair-francis

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Little Dorothy Day for Christmas. Enjoy!




The Great Mystery of the Incarnation

of Jesus Christ


"The great mystery of the Incarnation," Dorothy Day said as she spoke about the inspiration for the daily life of those in the Catholic Worker movement, "which meant that God became man that man might become God, was a joy that made us want to kiss the earth in worship, because His feet once trod that same earth. It was a mystery that we as Catholics accepted, but there were also the facts of Christ's life, that He was born in a stable, that He did not come to be a temporal King, that He worked with His hands, spent the first years of His life in exile, and the rest of His early manhood in a crude carpenter shop in Nazareth. He trod the roads in His public life and the first men He called were fishermen, small owners of boats and nets. He was familiar with the migrant worker and the proletariat, and some of His parables dealt with them. He spoke of the living wage, not equal pay for equal work, in the parable of those who came at the first and the eleventh hour.

"He died between two thieves because He would not be made an earthly King. He lived in an occupied country for thirty years without starting an underground movement or trying to get out from under a foreign power. His teaching transcended all the wisdom of the scribes and pharisees, and taught us the most effective means of living in this world while preparing for the next. And He directed His sublime words to the poorest of the poor, to the people who thronged the towns and followed after John the Baptist, who hung around, sick and poverty-stricken at the doors of rich men." ( The Long Loneliness, pp. 204-205).

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXIX, No. 6, November-December 2009.

Icon by Fr. William McNichols

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Welcome, Jesus! Merry Christmas to All!

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” Galatians 4:4

Beloved God with us,

I’ve come to see you. I’m not as clean as I wish I was, but I’m hoping you’ll receive me just as you did the rough, and sweaty shepherds who burst in on you on that holy night so long ago. They were afraid. I guess that spectacular light show in the sky got to them. I wish I felt more afraid than I do. I should, considering this is it: the Incarnation. But all of this is so simple; so ordinary. No, it’s less than ordinary. This is abject poverty. Most babies aren’t born where the livestock is. I keep asking myself, how can this be God? Yet, here you are. I know it’s you, because here I am, on my knees, and my heart is aflame within me.

It isn’t as pristine as the Christmas cards make it seem. It’s cold, and drafty, and filthy, and it smells of animals and dung in here. No wise men are hovering over you with their gifts. The shepherds aren’t even here. Just me, and your folks, and my hands are empty. But Lord, seeing you like this, so vulnerable, my heart is full.

Look at you in that feeding trough. I can’t get over how tiny you are, but oh. You are perfect. The scriptures say when you grow up you won’t be much to look at, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a gorgeous child. I hope I always see you like this: beautiful, new, and surprising.

Oh my! Your mom is bringing you to me! Thank you, Mary. You really are full of grace. This is incredible! I feel so clumsy, Lord. Like I can hurt you if I’m not careful. But you feel so good in my arms. You’re like a warm little ball of pure love. Can you feel me shaking? I’m undone. You’re right here at my heart. I wish I could stop time right here, and hold you like this forever, loving on you, and kissing you like this.

You still smell like the blood from your mother’s womb. Oh, Jesus. You’ll have this same coppery scent again in about 33 years. But it’ll be a much bloodier occasion than your birth. That time, you’ll be dying, so that I can be born anew. Have mercy. I don’t want to think about what I’m going to put you through. Not today. But I can’t help it.

Oh, man. Forgive me, Jesus. I’m crying all over you. You’re the baby, but I’m the one blubbering. I’m not trying to scare you on your birthday, but the shadow of the cross is on this barn, and there isn’t a thing I can do to stop what’s going to happen to you. So, I’ll just continue to hold you tight, if you don’t mind. If I can keep you close to me we may just get through the rest of your story together. Despite how small you are, I’m the one that needs you to save me. This is craziness, but this is the way you chose to do it. Who can understand such mysteries?

I’m amazed that you can fall asleep in my guilty arms. Maybe you’re so quiet and peaceful because even now you know you’ll make it all right. Oh, Lord. Who can understand such mysteries? It’s mind blowing enough to think that you are here: God as a baby, born in the humility of a barn, resting in my arms, my ragged heartbeat sounding in your tiny ear. And you will not forget me. Ever.

Amazing grace.

Sleep in heavenly peace, Lord Jesus. And welcome. I’m glad you’re here.

Merry Christmas, lovies!

mair-francis

Christmas Eve, Last Day of Advent '09


"I am waiting for Christ to be born anew in the whole of my life."

A Christmas Eve Prayer

"While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child." Luke 2:6 NRSV
Light of the world,

The people walking in darkness await you. We who are living in the land of the shadow of death have fixed our eyes to the sky for the dawning of your light. Strong God, coming in the fragile flesh of a baby, there is no room in the inn for your exhausted father and laboring mother. But we are here, watching for the light, scrambling to sweep our hearts clean, and flinging the doors to our messy lives wide open in the shadowy night.

"Come, Lord Jesus."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Emmanuel, O God With Us, December 23, 2009

Lisa and I looked at the perfect house a little while ago. It's just down the street and very close to me, and it feels so right to us. Walking in was like coming home to our first house of hospitality. I can't believe I'm saying this so soon, but after a lot of prayer and reflection, and the certainty that we need a house, we're moving forward on it! Wheeeeeee! If you would, could you please pray that we hear God every step of the way on this, and follow his lead. We can do nothing without him. I mean, it's not guaranteed we'll end up in this house, but like I said, it feels right. Our beloved community is so excited. The potential of this house is immense.

Finding it--and it's ready to move into!--is timely. Last night we welcomed one of our "strangers," a stormy, wilderness of a young woman who came to us a few weeks ago. We helped her as much as we could, but she refused anything else we offered. This grieves Lisa and I; an unborn child is involved, but the truth is, there's only so much we can do for the lovies in our lives. We cannot strip them of free will, not even for their own good.We set out our best offer (it was a great offer). That she didn't it is on her. Lord, have mercy. Learning to let go of someone is as big a lesson as learning when to intervene. God is teaching us so much right now. Honestly, Lisa and I are running to keep up!

Tonight, between cooking perch for dinner, I'm wrapping presents and putting the final touches on the handmade gifts I'm crafting for a few people--some of you are reading this! So I can't tell you what they are. And hey, don't get too excited. They're teensy little things, but made with a goodly portion of love.

Wow. Now, we are so very close to the baby being in our arms! Can you feel the excitement all around? It's as if I can sense the angels rejoicing, just as they did that holy night so long ago.

Experience the wonder of it!

Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver,
the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

O Emmanuel
O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us, Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.--Malcolm Guite


"O Emmanuel, O God with us, my Beloved All. Come!"
mair-francis

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Rex Gentium, O King of Nations; December 22, 2009


Sometimes I get tired of talking about me here. This is an interesting thing, because from the start my blog has been about my messy spiritual journey. In that respect, it's about
me, but I've tried very hard to point readers to Jesus, who is my true north, and yours, too.

Right now, I'm weary of talking about me, especially after last night's brouhaha. So let's just look at Jesus together, the King of nations: the cornerstone. What an odd, glorious king. He who created man, became man. The maker of clay, became lowly clay, submitting himself to be moulded and fashioned in the ill-fitting garment of humanity. There is so much to learn from this kind of humility; so much to see. I want to be like Mary tonight, sitting at Jesus' feet, listening intently to him, and offering him my adoration.

I'll let Malcolm share now, as I do every night. Be blessed, gentle reader.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay

O Rex Gentium
O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.--Malcolm Guite

love,
mair-francis

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Oriens. O Radiant Dawn, December 21, 2009

"Lead, kindly Light, amid th' encircling doom. Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on."--Lead, Kindly Light, by John Henry Newman

O Oriens. O Radiant Dawn. Come quickly. The night is dark, and I am far from home.

I've dwelled in darkness for a long time. Some of it was because I was so stupid. And sinful. I never want to gloss over the fact that I'm a sinner, and sins have consequences. Serious ones. I live with the consequences of things I did as a very young woman every single day. God is merciful. Some of the darkness I dwelled in was because that unforgiving black shrouded the environments I was in, even some of the churches. Darkness can be hard to escape in what the old church folks call "these last and evil days."

Tonight, someone confronted me about some of my darkest darkness. This person is very close to me, and he kinda went on and on. I mean, really, nobody has to tell me the effects of the bad choices I've made. I told him that every day I wake up a 45 year-old failure because of my choices. I know how many times I got evicted. I know how little money I have in the bank. I know when this and that got shut off, and believe me, it hurt me a lot more than it hurt him. I know how often people give to me. And truly, nobody has to tell me about my husband's failures either. I get it. We get it. I don't even have the energy to be in denial about our inadequacies. Even if I did, my lack of success in life, for most of my adult life, would continue to make a strong case against me.

People who have it all don't have to hope in the way we jacked up folks do. Those who have always shone in the bright noon light of a fabulous life don't count down Advent with their hearts aflame because they need that baby here with everything in them. I need him for every little thing, like teaching me, at long last, how to find my footing on the wobbly ground of their existence. I'm desperate for the baby because he. Is. Hope. He's the only one that makes, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," conceivable. Jesus is my promise of a radiant new life, even though I'm 45 years-old, and sleeping in a dining room of a rental house. It could be worse! At Mass yesterday I heard about a family with a mom and dad about my age who had nine children, huddled in a single room of their house with no electricity. I'll bet they've spent a lot of time praying for mercy and provision, and beating themselves up for not covering the basics. And it gets worse than their situation. So we hope. And hope. And hope again to keep from drinking ourselves to death, or sexing ourselves to death, or putting a revolver to our heads and pulling the trigger. Hope keeps us alive. Some days it's all we have. Maybe even most days.

Right now my life resembles a slowly emerging dawn, and here I am, sitting in the cool, glimpsing the day's first lights, streaked with purple, orange and pink. And it's pretty darned glorious. "Isn't it wonderful?" I'm thinking as urban abbess, worker of mercy, and fierce soul friend rises into view. "Isn't it a miracle?" I'm saying, right now, in wonder, despite my tears.

Maybe I'm not making sense. Disregard this whole post! At the moment, I'm crying, and more than a little wounded. O Oriens, O Radiant Dawn looks very, very good to me.

I can't help it. I see Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the beautiful light of dawn. I see him in the dark. I wouldn't have--couldn't have-- endured it if I hadn't. My past is meaningless in his numinous, loving light. And Jesus just keeps illuminating me, crazy God that he is. It doesn't matter to him how much I've disappointed anyone, including myself. And if that doesn't convince me of the reality of the Incarnation nothing does. Watching for the light reminds me of what I know best about him: He loves me! He stays. And I'm so thankful for the light.

I'm just thankful, y'all. No matter what.

splendor lucis aeternae,
veni, et illumina sedentes

in tenebris, et umbra mortis

Splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens
Paradiso XXX; 61
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking” -- Malcolm Guite

Come, Radiant Dawn. You are so beautiful. And I need you.

Thanks for listening. I love y'all.
mair-francis

Sunday, December 20, 2009

O Clavis David; O Key of David, December 20, 2009


Isaiah 22:15-25 / Isaiah 9:6-7 / Revelation 3:7

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death

O Clavis
Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard.
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free

Today is the last Sunday of Advent, and I'll be happy to light all four candles today, and just sit awhile pondering what all of this waiting means. I need that kind of respite. Just me and the Advent wreath, which ironically, I've not lit a single candle on since I brought it home. I guess this doesn't feel like home yet. And I can't get used to not having some kind of table where we gather to eat, here in my own house.

Anyway, I woke up too early this morning, after going to bed too late. I sleep more, but I wake often in the night. Sometimes, when I'm up alone I find myself hungry. I'm not talking about physical hunger. I mean I find myself eating to stuff down some nebulous pain, anger, or sadness--something. And I find no comfort in this sinful behavior, no matter how much I stuff myself.

I'm weary of being so hard-headed. And discouraged. God has given me this amazing life: I'm living deep in so many dreams, yet "that thing" still nags me. And we've all got out "thing" that we wish we could stop doing, but can't seem to to save our lives. Lord, have mercy. Seriously, if I don't do something about my compulsive eating it's going to kill me. Literally. Me and most of my best friends are past 4o now. Our eye sight is worse, or hips are wider, our hair is grayer, and some of us our trying to pray away the high blood pressure and diabetes we wouldn't have had if we'd have listened to the still small voice telling us we had to change our ways a long time ago. I'm getting closer and closer to those particular medical problems, and I've got enough on my plate. For real.

I've considered sitting and talking to the friends I know who have lost a lot of weight and begging them to tell me how they did it. But I already know the answer. It isn't hard. So, why haven't I done it?

I guess it doesn't matter what the answer to that question is. Not really. Because I'm damned stuck whatever it is, and I don't like it here. But here I am, more than a little disgusted at myself, which is useless too. I just have to give it to God. Right?

Lately, I've come to realize that life is in the things I do, all together. It's the way I think, and the moves I make, each and every tiny little step makes up my life, whether I'm conscious of it or not. I am a two hundred pound, chronically ill black woman, mostly because every day I did something to get and or stay this way. If I ever want to be something else, like a... say... 135 pound, much healthier black woman, it will be because I'll have the yogurt instead of the Pepsi, and the apple instead of the chips.

So once again, I'll take this matter to him. God is my life, after all. He's in every step, even the bad ones I make, because he loves me enough to stick around when I'm acting really stupid. What else can I do but give it all to him? I'm deeply moved today by my sweet Jesus, so powerful he opens and no one can shut, and shuts and no one can open, and beloved friends, it's as if I can see his hand on this awful door of buried pain that keeps me entangled in the sin of gluttony, and I just know he's going to close it for good. Very soon. It brings tears to my eyes to think, truly, my deliverance is near. The signs of it are everywhere.

This morning I watched, "Paris Je T'aime." I was struck by a song at the end of the movie, so I went to iTunes to see if it were available for download. But iTunes (God as iTunes) recommended I check out Matt Maher. I'd downloaded the O Antiphons, chanted, along with O Come Emmanuel a few days ago. I guess iTunes figured (God knew) I'd like him, too. So, I go to the recommended album, and it has a song, "Lamb of God." This is one of my favorite things to sing during Mass, so I clicked on that one, and fell in love with his version, complete with Latin. Y'all know I become all quivery inside when I get to hear, say or write anything in Latin.

I looked for a video on Youtube, and ended up finding one here. And then I looked up the lyrics, because it helps me to process what God is saying to me when I see words about. This is why I write. And why I read. So here were the words:

Wonderful,
Counselor,
Mighty God,
Prince of Peace,
Emmanuel,
Morning Star,
King of Kings, and
Lord of Lords

Lamb of God, you take away,

the sins of all, the world
Miserere nobis
Bread of life, You take away,
the sins of all the world
Miserere nobis
Agnus Dei, You take away,
the sins of all the world
Dona nobis Pacem

Did you notice the song starts with the names for Jesus in Isaiah, which have been my Advent focus, especially this week? Reading them felt like a lovely reminder from God that he's been with me, very close by, this holy season, and this One I'm waiting for, he's the one with the key to the door that seems to be locked to me. He doesn't just have the key, he is the key. And this kind Lover, is telling me that he's will take away my sins, including the one that has me so upset this morning. He's urging me, once again, to go to the table, the Eucharistic feast to share the family meal with my brothers and sisters that will save me. Give us this day our daily bread. That's what God spoke to me and rocked my world. Jesus is my bread. And he feeds me on sooo many levels. This morning I'm hungry. Not for physical food. If God is drawing me to the Eucharist, it only stands to reason that God he will use this feast to heal my eating disorder.

"O Clavis David; O Key of David, I'm locked inside this pain. Fling open the door, and free me. O Clavis David; O Key of David, within me there are bad, bad thing. Shut the door to them, because they dark, vile things inside are tormenting me. Come, and do not delay, my Beloved. I need you badly here."

mair-francis





Saturday, December 19, 2009

O Radix Jesse, O Root of Jesse. December 19, '09


O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, stand as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us,
and delay no longer.

I spent the day puttering around the house. I wanted to go over to Third Street House where apparently shortbread and scones were being made--how could I miss that!?--but all I could manage was to stand at the front door, watching snow flakes drift and swirl from a white sky. Today my throat is sore and my body is achy. Not even energy to do this without LOTS of typos I pray I can fix before you see them, but it's crazy! I can hardly hold my eyes open. As much as I could I tried to clean today, and worked on crafts projects: Christmas gifts for some friends. Soulful music drifted from my iPod speaker, and as I labored, I couldn't help but think that I was preparing my home for Jesus to come. And it felt so real. Like he was a so close he could call my cell phone to let me know he's on his way, and will pop in anytime now, plop down on the red sofa of love, and have a glass of egg nog.

My hope. My altogether lovely hope forever.


Isaiah says:

“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

Those words are everything to me.

O Radix


All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,
Rose from a root invisible to all.
We knew the virtues once of every weed,
But, severed from the roots of ritual,
We surf the surface of a wide-screen world
And find no virtue in the virtual.
We shrivel on the edges of a wood
Whose heart we once inhabited in love,
Now we have need of you, forgotten Root
The stock and stem of every living thing
Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,
For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.--Malcolm Guite

O Radix Jesse, root yourself deep within me. Come, O Root of Jesse.

mair-francis

Friday, December 18, 2009

O Adonai, December 18, 2009


"O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm."

You've gotta love a burning bush, right? I mean, that would have totally gotten my attention. There I am, going on about my business, when WHOOSH! The holly in the front yard goes up in flames and God's voice starts talking to me from therein.

"Yes, Lord???" I'd answer, and it wouldn't be hard to ask him what he wants either. Not with that level of interest in me.

But what do I do with the tiny, still voice that speaks so softly inside of me? Most of the time I have to strain to hear him, embarrassed to say, AGAIN, "I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you. Could you please repeat that?"And bless his holy name, God speaks each and every day, all day, doesn't he? His voice is all around us: in the poor; the stranger; the neighbor bloodied and hurting in the road that so many of us good, professional Christians walk right by, often on the way to God's house. But the Samaritan, the outcast, stops and meets the need before him.

We don't always want to hear God when he speaks by the good-as-gold mouths of the poor in spirit, but the longer I live--and that's longer than I'd imagined!--the more I'm convinced that it's in those distressing disguises Mother Teresa talks about that Jesus says preaches his most compelling messages.

Fortunately for most of us, God doesn't only speak through the marginalized. If you've watched the sunrise illuminate the dark hours of the morning, you've heard God. If you've been surprised because you've glimpsed a profusion of red poppies on the side of the road while driving on the freeway, and the sight of it enlivened your hope, rejoice! God is no stranger to you. I love the line from Alice Walker's The Color Purple:

“Listen, God love everything you love—and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration….Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

O Adonai
Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day.
O you who dared to be a tribal God,
o own a language, people and a place,
Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,
If so you might be met with face to face,
Come to us here, who would not find you there,
Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,
Who heard no more than thunder in the air,
Who marked the mere events and not the myth.
Touch the bare branches of our unbelief
And blaze again like fire in every leaf. --Malcolm Guite

I am waiting to hear my Adonai speak, and to give him the fullness of my attention.

O Adonai, come!

mair-Francis

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Sapientia; O Wisdom December 17 '09. Keep Your Os!


Okay, so I'm totally deviating from what I've been doing with the "I am waiting..." prayers. I'm still waiting, and longing for Christ, and I'm still watching for his coming, but right now I'm really drawn to the O Antiphons. They're the seven antiphons that are either recited or chanted before the Magnificat during evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Each year, from Dec. 17, through December 23rd, a different O Antiphon is featured. And then comes Christmas Eve, and the Vigil service. Personally, I. Can't. Wait.

Actually, waiting has been the whole point of Advent, and it's been pretty magnificent all told, but I digress.

I couldn't find out any information about the exact origin of the "O Antiphons," but they could have sprang up in monasteries as early as the fourth century. By the time the eighth century rolled around, most of the liturgical churches in Rome used them in their celebrations. In fact, monasteries used them so often people would say to one another, "keep your O!" This strikes me as being really funny for no good reason.

Each O Antiphon highlights a title for the Messiah, and corresponds to a prophesy in the book of Isaiah. Here they are in short form:

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Adonai (O Lord)
O Radix Jesse
(O Root of Jesse)
O Clavis David
(O Key of David)
O Oriens (O Rising Sun)
O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
O Emmanuel. (You know who this refers to)

I do love any excuse to share something in Latin. Forgive me. It's just looks so pretty written out! Tonight is the 17th, so I'm praying O Sapientia, and my heart is lifted toward Jesus, my much needed wisdom.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

Which is to say:

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

I'm imagining the full and lovely mouth of God the Word, deep in my soul. It's wider than the sky, and dark as the night. But it isn't an ominous dark, because out of this generous mouth his breath flows like a breeze, and I can smell its honeyed scent.

"O Wisdom, my heart says, "o gentle whisper of all that is holy; sweet breath of God, breathe on me; blow through me. Save me from myself."

There are so many things I need to know, and it all feels so abstract. But to see my Beloved as Wisdom grows my hope and blunts my fears. In him, the thought of wisdom becomes not just accessible, but personal--deeply personal--and certain. I'm thankful for that, and I just want to bask in his wise and winsome presence.

Last night's insomnia brought me gift of this poem by Malcolm Guite, and I'll be sharing his reflections all week:

O Sapientia

I cannot think unless I have been thought
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken
I cannot teach except as I am taught
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O Light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me
O Memory of time, reminding me
My Ground of Being, always grounding me
My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me
Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring
Come to me now, disguised as everything.

Amen, Fr. Malcolm. O Sapientia, O Wisdom, come.

mair-francis

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

3rd Wednesday of Advent


"I am waiting to slow the heck down so I can rest and enjoy you. Come, Lord Jesus. Rescue me from my chaos!"

Okay, it's sooooo late to be posting, but on the bright side, somebody is going to get some sleep tonight! No wee small hours today, I don't care how beautifully Carly Simon sings it. Fortunately, my night owl mate, Ken, is already lying across the foot of the bed snoozing. This is a mercy. He won't keep me up!

He's at the foot of the bed because he can't crawl next to me because my books are crowding the bed. I've been furiously writing since mid-September, and even more this month. All evening I worked on a Kwanzaa gallery for Beliefnet, and I just stopped. Can you believe I've blogged every day? That alone is grace, grace, grace. What's most gratifying is that a few kind souls have said these silly words of mine have been their Advent. Even the short longings I Tweet! That's a testament to the mercy of God. I knew I'd fail at anything heroic. He told me I could tell him every day, at least once, something I'm waiting on him to do." And that's all I did. I guess he knew the keeping the Divine Hours would be a bust, though we have been doing morning prayer, and even shared it with some people Lisa and Will offered hospitality to at Third Street house. The DeLongs were a lovely family. But I digress...

The Lord totally didn't mention the Divine Hours to me. He simply suggested, he didn't even ask, that I do that for one small thing.

One small thing is all you need sometimes, lovies.

Whew! All my Beliefnet assignments are done. Only one more deadline now, and I start my new life as a worker of mercy, and a writer without a contract. Exciting! And terrifying, but we won't get into that tonight.

And now, a couple of Excedrin Migraine tabs before it gets so bad I can't sleep! I'm gonna kick these books and this laptop out of my bed, and goooood night! I'll sleep like a baby. Like that really cute fresh baby who's sweet face I found on the net. Sorry I can tell you who that lovie is. Baby's wise parents left no info. But what a yummy!

Okay, I'm going! I'm going.

May the Lord bless you,
protect you from all evil,
and grant you fresh, new baby sleep.

"Come, Lord Jesus. My colic-free sleep like a baby."
mair-francis

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

3rd Tuesday of Advent: Tucked in By the True Shepherd


"I am waiting for my true shepherd to give me rest. Come soon, Lord Jesus. I am very tired."

Guess who's still up waaaay past her bedtime?

You are correct.

How is it possible to be exhausted, to the point that I'm actually nauseated and have a headache, but I still can't sleep? Apparently my body thinks I'm supposed to sleep in the day time. When I should be working like human beings.

So, I decided to go to Universalis for a Word of God/Liturgy of Hours fix. Mind you, I wouldn't necessarily call this keeping vigil, at least not tonight with some infomercial on TV blaring." But I did take a peek at some prayers and the readings for today, and guess what I found for this afternoon?

"I will pasture my sheep, I will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall be a true shepherd to them." Ezekiel 34:15-16. My bold emphasis.

Boy reading that over just now sure did conjure my Beloved. I feel like I've gotten an early Christmas gift! I'm actually getting sleepy as I type.

Wow. Jesus totally just preempted my Advent waiting (and misery) to visit me. Such a vivid, tender passage. He really is here in it. I guess he didn't think I should wait, even until as soon as this afternoon. Aren't you grateful that while we are watching for the Lord's arrival, he is here, exactly when and because we need him so badly?

I know I am.

:::yawn:::

Goodnight, and good day, beloved friends.

Mwah! "Goodnight, Lord Jesus."

I love y'all.

mair-francis

Woodcut by legendary Catholic Worker artist, Ade Bethune

Monday, December 14, 2009

3rd Monday of Advent: Feast of St. John of the Cross


"I am waiting to see the fount of bright light, although 'tis night. Come, Lord Jesus."

Another sleepless night. I'm so so tired, yet I'm still awake, destroying any chance for a productive day. I'm beginning to think I'm not just an insomniac, but I'm downright in sin with this thing. My mind races at night, and depression peaks in those familiar wee small hours. It's not all about the night watch, though I wish it were. More often than not when I'm awake like that I languish in bed, spending countless hours watching television, or rummaging the pantry for food which I inevitably over-eat. Lord, have mercy. And what's worse, I'm avoiding what I'm really hungry for. Why, I do such a stupid thing I can't say.

My priest hinted during my last confession that the problem is bigger than my ability to handle it on my own. He said I should get counseling. So did Lisa. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but I haven't followed up on it. It feels for all the world like another thing to do, and I talked myself out of it. But I'm not making any real progress. Two steps forward, fifteen backward. I'm not here to be the same (or worse!). In so many ways I'm changing. Why deny myself this grace of healing the Lord keeps urging me to, in so many ways, and through so many people? All he wants to do is heal me. The worst is over. I survived it all. I can look back in order to go forward.

Right???

Sigh.

I ask for mercy. I'm given it abundantly. God even blesses me with lovely, happy days like yesterday. And then the night comes and I'm wild; feral like an animal in my soul.

I think that's why I love St. John of the Cross so. He knew nights. His may not have been as wild as mine, but they were just as dark. And it doesn't matter what suffering causes the darkness. Dark is dark. You can't see. You don't know what's happening, nor understand it. Yet, I find like John many starry nights, when bright lights penetrated the black. And that is a mercy.

John's words:

"Never was fount so clear,
undimmed and bright;
From it alone, I know proceeds all light
although 'tis night."

This morning, I want to see more of that light. Oh, Lord, help a sistah out!

So, I'm waiting. For the light of the world. Oh how I'm waiting for him in this harsh night of restless sleeplessness, so void of tenderness. The darkness drives me to destruction. Within it is a seething pool of anger at myself for things I can't change. "Come, Lord Jesus." Those three words have so many layers of meaning. Come quickly, gentle savior, and grant us wild-minded ones peace. And absolution.

mair-francis

Sunday, December 13, 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent: Happy in the Lord


"I am waiting to see his face, who is my joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Come, Lord Jesus. Do not delay."

Sickness and disordered sleep have kept me away from Mass these past few weeks of Advent, and I mourn the time I'm wasn't in God's house, partaking of the sacraments, and celebrating the beauty of the season with the faithful. Still no sleep this morning, and a rather stormy interaction with Ken in the wee small hours, which made it easy to decide against Mass when the alarm went off. I'd only dozed an hour or so. But unhappiness shrouded me early this morning, and I couldn't stand another day without the Eucharist, exhausted or not. So, after pressing the snooze button four times, I finally dragged myself up. If I had to crawl to Mass on bloody knees I would. Fortunately for me, even bleary-eyed and semi-conscious, I remained upright. Mostly.

Aziza and I walked to Mass through a fine mist of rain in temps that resembled no mid-December I've ever known. All we needed were jackets, but we had our matching pink coats. I held her small hand in mine, and she carried her new Teddy Bear, Snowball, in a Build-a-Bear Snuggli. It was one of those mornings that makes the scripture that says weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning was oh-so real.

We weren't late, though I'd left us precious little time to get ready, and the ushers seated us near the front. Yay! Fr. Norman wasn't there, and I missed him, but a young, funny priest celebrated with us, and his homily was great. The music touched me as it always does. It's a lovely blend of the old and the new, African American spirituals and praise songs, and traditional Catholic liturgical music. I love my church. It comforts and embraces me. All of me.

After Mass Aziza and I went to the fellowship hall for the first time and had Spalding's donuts--they are the best in the world, lovies. Krunchy and sweet on the outside, but soft and yummy in the middle. We walked back home in that same gentle rain, and I came home and made roasted green beans and sweet potatoes for our community dinner. I made vegan this time, because my friend is fighting cancer, and I intend to help her kick its butt. Dinner at Third Street House was as lovely as ever. Billy Ray made Banana's Foster, and I'd never had the dish. Uh-mazing! In the words Louis Armstrong so aptly sang, "I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

Today's reading was Philippians 4:4-7.

"I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.

There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus."

If someone had told me to read this scripture from a scroll this afternoon, when I finished I'd have handed it back to them the way Jesus did when he read Isaiah. And like Jesus, I'd have said, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled."

I have nothing extraordinary to say, but I feel joy rising up from my bones. I simply want to thank God for love, forgiveness, community, countless gifts, and all the happy I could stand today. Just because.

I am so grateful.

mair-francis

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2nd Saturday of Advent

"I am waiting for you to breathe on me, and blow the cobwebs out of my head. Come, Lord Jesus. Without you I live in a valley of confusion."

The wee small hours of the morning again. And you're not even surprised. How predictable am I? I'm so tired. A migraine has tormented me since yesterday, and now the cold draft blowing through the room from outside makes my neck, shoulders and hands ache. But it isn't only physical pain bothering me. My wild mind is particularly untamable this morning.

I'm keenly aware of how the gospels diminish you, rather than make you greater in this world and my selfishness and desire to manipulate and control every little detail of my life is resisting this subtraction. It's more than a little scary, too. God keeps asking me to die, die, die. Not a big, urgent, terrifying, "DIE!!! DIE!!! DIE!!!" But a quiet, sweet siren song to surrender everything to his will. And I keep fighting against it, at the same time knowing that I must die, and that I will give in. I have to. I can even say to a large degree I want to. But it hurts to be a seed fallen to the ground, split open--a violent process--before the first shoot of love, of true vocation begins to emerge. Seeds are hard. Rough. Breaking them means burying them--and it's dark underground! And saturating them with water. Don't get me started on those metaphors this time of morning.

Dorothy Day is my constant companion now. I feel her soul hovering and gently prodding me to a holiness I haven't dreamed of. It isn't a big, heroic holiness, unattainable. No, it's a hidden, nobody-will-see kind of holiness. The kind that bites the tongue, ever ready with a sharp retort, and aborts an unkindness before it is born, ugly and screeching "pay attention to me." It's a holiness of constant work doing things nobody knows you're doing. And frankly, nobody cares.

I read Dorothy's diaries every night and see her offer up things like her rashes, and a host of other ordinary annoyances--she wrote about them all!--and this speaks to me of a woman who gives God everything. EVERYTHING. And even as I sense her nearness--thank God for the communion of saints--she urges me not to be like her, but to be myself. This is a self I have little experience trusting. A self I'm not even sure I like, much less want to trust or believe has the capacity to do anything good for God.

Edwina Gateley is also on my mind a lot. I'm reading her book "I Hear a Seed Growing" about the beginnings of her ministry to prostitutes, and feel ridiculously ill-equipped for this task. Again. I also feel thankful as I read. Both she and Dorothy journaled the most vivid accounts of their work, with surprising detail that encompassed so much ordinariness and so much feeling inadequate. I'm richer for their words, me with so many lofty ideas of what ministry is all about. I had it all wrong. Serving is not what what will make you greater. It's a stripping away of your ragged sense of self-importance until you can finally figure out what John the Baptist meant when he said we have to decrease, and Jesus has to increase in us.

Christ is coming. Tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent. We're very close to Jesus' arrival now. And I can still hearing John crying from his wilderness into mine, "Prepare the way of the Lord." I'm still scrambling to get my spiritual house in order.

I'm fine when I'm fine. But right now I'm not fine. When I feel so unsettled, I find myself scratching my head going, "Doh! I didn't know this wilderness would bewilder me!" And the unrelenting questions like, "Um... how does one start a house of hospitality without a house again? Anybody know???" Because today I have no idea and everything I said the other day about it, including trusting God for it, sounds crazy. Crazier than it did that day.

I'm reading about Edwina's preparation for her ministry to prostitutes, her wilderness. She called it a retreat, but I know better. She wrote:

This is the beginning of my retreat,
I am tired and sad,
still trembling, still fragile,
knowing in my soul that
God is gentle.
But I am still a
little afraid that I might
crumble and die
if I hurt anymore.
All I can pray this evening is:
Mother God, Father God,
gather me up
in your arms - and
let me sleep....
I feel like a child
left alone in the dark too long.

A hearty amen to all of that. Maybe it's this early morning hour when sleep eludes me that's driving this post. Or maybe it's a wilderness thing. Or maybe it's me being split open for seed. I don't know. All I can say is that I'm grateful I'm not alone. You're here. And I'm glancing up from bed to where I moved St. Therese's picture--I moved her from the living room to make way for the Nativity icon. She's here. And Dorothy. And Teresa of Avila and Mother Theresa. All of them saying, "Go the little way." Even Edwina, though she's alive and well, and hopefully asleep at this hour. Her words bring her presence in my room.

I have no idea how any of the work I'm craving in my soul will be born. It's all shrouded in darkness this morning. And the only way I can bring any light to it, is to stay in the Word, pray like a dying woman, and rest in God's arms with the saints who keep urging me not to think bigger, but much, much smaller.

And wait.

"Come, Lord Jesus."

mair-francis

Friday, December 11, 2009

2nd Friday of Advent


"I am waiting for my loved ones to rise again. You, who are the Resurrection and the Life, come quickly, and reunite us."

So, last night I was searching for a friend from high school, Paula. I'd recently heard her sister Reshonda was so kind to my mom when my aunt Suzie passed away around Thanksgiving. And then mama told me Reshonda suddenly died. Lord, have mercy. Of course I prayed for them, but I thought maybe I'd Facebook Paula, see what she's up to these days, and offer her my condolences. Everybody is on Facebook.

Everybody except Paula. The information I found on her was beyond scant. I google myself and a frightening amount of information comes up, but the only thing I found with Paula's name was the obituary of her brother, Paul.

Paul is dead??? I thought, shocked. I was so saddened lovies. I didn't know Reshonda at all, though her death touched my life through my mother, and I mourned with those who mourn her. But Paul and Paula were old friends. We went to school together. Shared classes. Ate lunch at each others tables. Paula was the pretty, fun loving girl who never met a stranger, and Paul was the soft-spoken cutie who had a crush on me. Crushes on me were rare, y'all. I was not the popular one. Nor was I a social butterfly. I was a little sweet on Paul, too. He had the biggest, prettiest eyes, and a massive afro back when big afros were hot! But nothing ever came of it.

I'm getting older, and grayer, and my waistline has disappeared. I've had a few moments in which I wondered about my old crushes. It wasn't long ago that I thought about cute Paul and wished him well. He'd had some trouble early in his adult life, and spent a little time away. I'd hoped he righted himself, as we often do when we're a little wiser. Then again, sometimes we don't. I'd lost all contact with him and his sister. I only know because I learned from a Michigan newspaper site that he passed away the day after his birthday last September. I found no information about what he died of on his second day of being 44, and it was with a heavy heart that I added the weight of his death onto the burden of others I've known to be lost to us living this year. My wonderful, crazy aunt Suzy. My lovie Steve's newborn grandchild. My cousins father, on the birthday of her dead mother! Lord, have mercy. My cousin Linda. And others, too. And then I took that huge ache to my Beloved.

All week I've been thinking about the first advent of Christ reminding us of his second coming, and I can't help but feel a surge of immense hope. The one who destroyed death by death will come again, and give us so many of our loved ones back. Those who sleep in him are like butterflies in their mysterious chrysalises. At the last trump they will be changed into bright and beautiful butterflies and together we'll soar. I am so very grateful for that joyous thought, so needful in these days as dark and cold as a grave.

Rest in peace, my lovies who sleep in death. I hope to see you all soon.

"Come, Lord Jesus. Do not delay."

mair-francis

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Metanoia! 2nd Thursday in Advent

"I am waiting for the Bridegroom to come. And I want to be lovely for him. Come, Lord Jesus, my tender lover. Do not delay."

So today I rested! I know. I've been resting for a couple of days, but that was Nyquil fueled rest. That was forcing my body down so that it could heal. Today I rested to ease my mind. In my joyous languishing I did some reading. I got a kick-butt e-news letter from Ruth Haley Barton today. Love her! She wrote about John the Baptist, and I love him more than I love Ruth! He's one of my favorite saints, with his extreme personality; his locust and honey diet; his wildness and his wilderness. Even his doubts in prison when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one?" move me. When I think of St. John the Baptist one word comes to mind:

REPENT!!!

Ruth said the Greek word for repent is metanoia. It means "to turn around; to change your mind; to "go beyond your mind." I've heard the first two, but I never heard the "go beyond your mind part." I don't know about you lovies, but I need to go beyond my mind badly right about now. I seem to get stuck fairly often, thinking the same old thoughts, which begets engagement in the same old behaviors, which means I don't change at all. Or I change for a day or two, but it doesn't last because, I have to face it, sometimes my spirituality is an inch deep and a mile wide. I can put on a good show, but it's all smoke and mirrors, and none of it impresses God.

I'm hearing John's voice crying from his wildness a call that resounds in my own wild places: Repent! He says, and I can't get away from the word. Turn! Change! Go beyond the limitations of your mind! Another voice cries too, and I hear it in the core of my being. "Prepare the way for me. I'm coming quickly. Are you ready, my beloved?" How I know that sweet sound, and I hear the urgency, the hunger in his voice. Like he's in a wilderness himself, away from me. From us.

I've been so busy thinking about cuddling sweet baby Jesus, that I forgot all about the fact that Advent teaches us to watch and wait in wonder for all the ways Jesus comes. He's not just the baby. He's also the Bridegroom, and I'm over here looking a hot mess!

"A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together, for the mouth the the Lord has spoken."

I'm doing a little soul cleaning y'all. And to be honest, some body cleaning, too. There are too many crooked places in my life, and the Lord's road to me, his beloved, is a little too littered with my garbage. It's time to make his journey to my heart easier.

A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right? He's coming, and he wants to make an honest woman out of me, in oh so many ways. He wants to be one with me, and I want to be ready for such a glorious union. And lovies, I intend to be beautiful for him, inside and out, whenever he arrives.

Prepare the way of the Lord, indeed. And may God have mercy on me, and teach me what I need to do to receive him well.

mair-francis

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2nd Wednesday of Advent '09

"I am waiting for your rest, and for your strength. Come, Lord Jesus. Do not delay."

Today I got up from the bed. I pulled my sweats on over my long johns, put on my wool socks that Alana knitted, and braved the day. Thank God for friends. They sent the socks and long johns!

I bundled up in as much as I could against the cold, only to get outside and find it wasn't so bad out there. It felt like it was about 50 degrees, very pleasant when the wind wasn't blowing. Kind of cold when it was. The sky was both bright and sunny, and gun metal in parts. The wind was fierce, and sometimes still.

The weather mirrored my soul this morning: wild and paradoxical. I trust, and I doubt. I work, and berate myself for not working. I am sick, and I am well. I am tired, and I am on fire. And this great wind keeps gusting through my life, bending branches, lifting leaves, blowing away the garbage And Lord, there is so much garbage.

ZZ saw that there might be tornadoes in Atlanta. We do not live in Atlanta, yet she worried that we, too, would be devastated.

"Our house isn't very sturdy, Mama," she said. So earnest at ten.

And me: "Our house is old, baby. It's been around a lot longer than we have."

I had to remember I was talking to a child who was scared.

Softer now: "It'll be okay. We're just gonna pray, and trust God. What else can we do?"

Yes, I know. Not the wisdom of the ages, but it was all I had to offer at the time.

But seriously, sometimes it really is as simple as that. We drag ourselves out of bed. We soldier on. We walk the girl to school. We trust. The wind blows all around us. It looks like it's gonna storm, but the sun is shining at the same time. Don't bet on any of it. Not the sunshiny part of the sky, or the stormy part. It's all the same. We'll live through our joys and pains, our triumphs and our tragedies, our brutal failures, and our shining successes, and sometimes we'll do it simultaneously. I think it's best to see all of it from this place of humility and detachment. And great love. That detachment is hard! The humility and love aren't easy either, but what else can we do? I don't like any of the alternatives: arrogance, inordinate attachment, and apathy.

Part of the reading for today:

The Lord is an everlasting God,
he created the boundaries of the earth.
He does not grow tired or weary,
his understanding is beyond fathoming.
He gives strength to the wearied,
he strengthens the powerless.
Young men may grow tired and weary,
youths may stumble,
but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength,
they put out wings like eagles.
They run and do not grow weary,
walk and never tire.

and in the Gospels:

Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.

I have no idea what either of them have to do with Advent, except that maybe on days when a soul is bone weary and can't seem to breath right in it's wretched body, and it feels like one's lungs are going to explode. When a person has no sense of bearings, and everything is fuzzy. When a soul is too tired to feel, it simply has to do what it's always done. Rest, then get that body out of bed. Take the girl to school. Know that it lives beneath the same wide expanse of sky that Jesus did. Soldier on. Rest again. Naps can be your friend.

Jesus rested. Then he got out of bed. He put on his tunic and his robe. He tied his sandals, and braved the day no matter what it brought. He too, was full of paradoxes but somehow he made sense of them. He was God and man. Fully. Truly. It's crazy.

And you? You are made in the image and likeness of God. Imagine that!

Rest. Get up. Rest again. Get up again.

You'll make it.

Stay alive.

mair francis.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

2nd Tuesday of Advent '09



"I am waiting..." Come, Lord Jesus.

I have to keep it simple today. I'm sick. A sore throat I caught from Nia Grace has turned into a really bad fibro flare, as often the simplest viruses do. All I want to do between the muscle and joint paint, burning throat, aching ears, and Nyquil haze is sleep.

I'm thinking about that baby, again: God, not as man, but as an helpless infant. It's common for people who are chronically ill to feel useless, but even on my worse days, I can do more than a baby can. It cheers me, believe it or not.

Then again, sometimes I can't do more than a baby, and I'm a big baby myself. Lord, have mercy.

Wasn't the Word made flesh generous to give us such a simple, yet sublime image of himself? A little baby, completely dependent. I've never made the connection between the infant Christ and my frequent sicknesses, but as I lay here thinking about how I missed morning prayer, even by phone, and how I didn't get to help Lisa offer hospitality to the guys yesterday, my consolation comes from knowing that on days when I can do little more than sleep, I have the infant Jesus to identify with. He probably slept a lot too, as all infants do. But that doesn't mean he didn't have a destiny that God would use mightily.

Sleep in heavenly peace will never be the same for me now.

Goodnight, and good day, gentle reader.

mair-francis

Monday, December 07, 2009

Second Monday of Advent, '09


" I am waiting to take up my corner of the stretcher, and tear through the roof that keeps my friends from you. Come, Lord Jesus." Luke 5:17-26.

So this morning one of my friends Tweets me asking how I am. "I want Jesus to come, too, she said. "But are you okay???" She's not the only person who's asked me that. I'm thankful to God for their concern. I understand it. Some of my Tweets have sounded a pretty sad and reflective. But they should be! Advent is a penitential season, and penance is often full of mourning.

It's not like I'm sitting here in sackcloth and ashes. I'm just taking these daily little pilgrimages deep within my soul every time I type the words, "I am waiting..." I'll be honest. And sometimes I find sorrow in my longing. But it's a sorrowful joy, because I have so much hope.

Still, this devotion is not without it's challenges. I'm not used to waiting for Jesus. Most of the time I'm certain that, he's here. That doesn't mean I never worry--though it probably should. And it doesn't mean I never miss the mark and sin. The Lord knows I do. What I mean is the gift of his presence is rarely hidden from me now, but I have to admit, waiting for him has surprised me. Most years any sorrow I felt this time of year had everything to do with an unrelenting sense that I'd failed my children. So, I worked and begged for as many Christmas presents I can get my hands on so they could have "a good Christmas." And all I did was create a bunch of people who expected stacks of presents every year, whether or not we could afford them. But this year, I'll have to teach them something else, and if God gives me strength, wisdom, and grace, I'll be able to articulate to them what's really good about Christmas, and what gifts, indeed, keep on giving. Like friendship, particularly the friendship of women.

Lisa and I are doing the same devotion, posting the "I am waiting" prayers, but for several days I found the scope of her longing much larger than mine. I bowed my heart to my dear friend, as she taught me, without knowing she was doing it, to open my heart to include the suffering of many in my holy longing. I'd been so much about me, me, me, but my friend helped me to flip that and include the whole world in my prayers. And so much more is happening in me as the result of being near her and some others in my life, including very new friends. I'm learning that giving love at Christmas is far less about presents, and much more about presence.

The gospel today is about friendship: Luke 5:17-26. I'm going to share it with you, with a few modifications. Indulge me.

"Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were people who were deeply spiritual for a living, and seminarians who had come Lexington Theological Seminary, along with a few teachers from Georgetown, and the University of Kentucky, and one guy even flew in from Colorado Springs! And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing. Jesus' work, that is. Not so much the guy from Colorado Springs.

Then some women appeared, struggling to carry a stretcher with a paralyzed woman whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. They loved her that much, to carry her by their own hands through that throng of people. But the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting her in, so the ladies went up on to the flat roof and lowered her and her stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. This wasn't easy. Women don't like to make a big mess, and none of these gals wanted to bring a lot of unwanted attention to their friend. They just wanted her to get some help. It was hard on all of them to watch her to languish that way. Her kids had to crawl in bed, just to be with their mom, and her spirits were sagging beneath the weight of her illness. Guilt and shame assaulted her daily. What were four gals who loved their friend fiercely to do? Tear through the roof, of course.

Seeing their faith Jesus said to the woman on the stretcher, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ The ladies gasped in delight, and tears sprang to their eyes. He may as well have said all of their sins were forgiven, and maybe, in some way, they were. The grace given to one affected all, and the five of them began to rejoice. Forgiveness of sins was enough.

The teachers and the professional Christians began to think this over. And you know what happens when church folks think. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy?' they asked. 'Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Needless to say, the ladies were too busy being happy and healed to have even noticed this conversation.

Jesus, aware of the professional Christian's thoughts, said this: ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralyzed woman – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’

And immediately before their very eyes she got up, picked up what she had been lying on she and her girls went home praising God, their arms linked around each other, crying, and laughing, all of them healed with the one. And the people were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’ But the friends never said this at all. They knew what could happen when you love like that: enough to go to Jesus, breaking through the opposition, because you just can't stand to see your girl suffer like that anymore."

Sure, I took a few liberties, but we have to make the Word personal, right? I'm so fortunate. So bombarded with grace. My girls take me, sin sick and paralyzed by insecurity and fear, to Jesus. They break through whatever barriers they need to, with their practical ways of loving. They talk to me for hours on the phone, reminding me when I'm curled up in a ball in bed, of who I am, and what it is I do. They send checks when I'm not expecting them so the rent can get paid on the short months, or for "whatever" on the impossible months. They press twenties into my hand, and whisper so my babies standing beside me can't hear, "Get some of those coats on sale we were talking about for all of you." And they show up with a Christmas tree later that night because they know you can't afford one. These women send emails and Tweets that say, "Are you okay." But only after they've sent a few urgent prayers up for me.

Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have, I'm going to give because of what the women in my life have taught me. I can pick up the phone and call a few people I know would like to hear from me. I can send a kind message or two to a few friends on the net. A new lovie was just diagnosed with breast cancer. If it's one thing I have it's food! This gospel (and my friends) have inspired me to take her a basket of goodies that will bolster her health the natural way. It's my small way of giving her Jesus, who is life, and healing from breast cancer. I want to take up my part of her stretcher, and break a few shingles. And in this small kindness, I may find a few of my sins forgiven.

"Come, Lord Jesus."

mair-francis

Okay, so the icon totally has guys on it. But what could I do? The story about the women is in my imagination! And I'm too busy writing to paint! But I'm trying lovies. Give me a minute. Maybe by Christmas I will have picked up a paint brush again.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Baby, 2nd Sunday of Advent '09

"I am waiting simply to hold you. Come, Lord Jesus."


So, we go to my sweet baby Gwynnie's play tonight at the Opera House. It's called The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Gwynnie played the role of Davida Slocum, and she shined as brightly as I knew she would.

The play was full of delightful little surprises and humor. It's was mainly about a hardscrabble family with six unruly kids, the Herdmans, who wrestle their way into the best parts of a church's Christmas pageant, all because they thought snacks would be served at Sunday school. There was plenty of insight into class and perception, and poverty, but it was lighthearted fare. Until the end. The end was a little devastating.

It was a kid's Christmas play, of course. I knew, somehow, those Herdmans would end up showing us all the true meaning of Christmas, but I never would have expected how powerful the climax of the show would hit me.

Imogene Herdsman, our rough and tumble Mary, who'd not only played catch with the baby Jesus doll, and did a hilarious tug-of-war with the Sunday school teacher turned pageant director over him during rehearsals, (and isn't that a great metaphor for how the "righteous" often wrench the Christ Child right out of the hands of the true poor in spirit); she had the nerve to burp him during the pageant! As if Jesus were a real baby!

Something happened to Imogene on that stage when she truly took Christ in her arms. She, so sassy and aggressive, grew quiet as it all began to hit her: he came as a baby. Whoa!

Maybe the reason she burped him is because he had become real to her, and everyone knows you have to burp real babies, or they'll get colicky. Watching her made me of the story of Simeon the just man, who'd lived right all of this life, and had waited past his weariness in his old age for the promise that he would see the Messiah, the Consolation of Israel, with his own eyes. When Jesus' parents bought him to Simeon, the just man had no idea who he was. That is until he took the Child in his arms. Only then was Christ's divine identity revealed.

In the play tonight, Imogene had a revelation embracing the baby. She took him into her arms, and the sobering reality of the incarnation hit her hard. God had come in the fragile garment of flesh, shivering and howling, comforted by his binding in swaddling clothes. He'd made himself so vulnerable that he couldn't even hold his own head up.

Last week on Facebook, I wrote about waiting for Jesus, poor and needy, thinking of Matthew 25. Immediately I was rebuked! One of my lovies said, "Jesus doesn't need us; we need him." But in the play, the Jesus I saw was just a baby, who needed, as all babies do. I watched as Imogene, only playing the mother of a plastic doll, by grace, somehow, receive Simeon's revelation. And it became my revelation, too: betcha by golly wow, he was the one that I've been waiting for forever.

Imogene cradled Jesus tenderly, as her Joseph stood beside her, his hand resting protectively on her shoulder. She drew his tiny head to the warmth of her neck, and she rocked, and touched, and looked at him with wonder, tears streaming. The angelic choir members, in their cardboard and glitter wings and bed sheets, began to talk among themselves. What was Imogene doing? "She's crying!"

Mary is crying.

I cried, too. I tried so hard to hold it in. It was a kid's play, for goodness' sake! But hot tears slid down my cheeks on their own. There's so much to be sad about. The love of many has waxed cold. People don't take care of one another. The one who has two coats, rarely gives the second to another. There's war, and hunger, and disease, and lack, and such hatred, and even hostility toward God. What in the hell is he doing here like this? This is a dangerous place, and he's just a baby, still scented with the coppery smell of human blood from his mother's womb. Jesus is cold and shocked, as his skin adjusts to the the brisk air he spoke into existence. Jesus is hungry, and crying to be fed. He is rejected, a newborn in a drafty barn that smells like animals and earth.

Baby Jesus is who I need this Advent season. Over the years, I've mostly taken the Nativity story in as a whole, but this morning, all I can see is a baby. And I'm in awe, holding him, and whispering into this tiny little ear, "What are you trying to say, coming here like this?"

But he doesn't answer. He's too little to talk to me yet. So I take him to my breast, crying as loudly as he is, feeling as vulnerable and bewildered as he does. And I hold him close to my heart. "They're going to kill you, you know." And Jesus and I weep, as all babies do.

Maybe this is all I'm supposd to know about him right now: the baby needs love and protection, and if he's in my arms, I'm the one who has to give it to him.

"Don't worry, Jesus," I say, wiping my eyes on his swaddling cloths. "I won't let anything bad happen to you. I promise." At the time I mean it. God help me; I really, really mean it.

At the time.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Saturday, first week of Advent '09

"I am waiting because I must. Come, Lord Jesus, bearing bread and water. Hide yourself no more."

What a day we had yesterday. Lisa got not one, but two phone calls regarding groups of people who need hospitality because there was no room at the inn. One is a family--with a pregnant woman--who've been driven from their home because of a carbon monoxide problem, and the other is a group of boys that are part of a youth ministry. We laughed as these calls came back to back. Tuesday God says he's going to send us people. Wednesday, we've got a person. Thursday I tell one of my lovies, who is trying to decide whether or not to keep her baby because of a lack of support, that we'll receive them both: choose life. Friday eleven more souls are on the way.

As far as I know, our family of five hasn't arrived, but that isn't the point. The Lord is showing us there are needs all around us--surprising, often shocking needs, and few people open their arms and homes to welcome Jesus as he comes, bringing kids, and needs, and issues, and just whatever. But he's calling us to radical hospitality. Lisa and I love the irony that we keep being sent pregnant women during Advent. Isn't Jesus something? And you know he has a great sense of humor. Then again, so many people are hurting.

I asked Lisa at one point where these people are coming from. Surely the Diocese isn't reading my blog! How did folks know to call Lisa for hospitality right now? But she and Will have been here offering hospitality for four years. Not in the way it's beginning to happen for us now, that urges us to get a house, like, today! They've been building this work I'm just now stepping into all along. Our beloved community life is born of another community. My prayer is that God will make these connections clear to us all, and that we all, humbly, move into our proper places, so God can use us as he will.

Yesterday, I was asking God to open our blind eyes, and help Lisa and I discern what to do. I meant really practical steps. Before that, I was telling him what a dumb sheep I am. Spell it out for a sistah, Lord! And today, when I am tired; when I am enjoying languishing in bed after finally finishing the Teresa book, God Alone Is Enough, I am grateful that my Beloved has come with such wonderful assurance. For without him, and his constant guidance and provision, we can welcome no one.

Today's reading is from Isaiah 30:19-21, and 23-26. I'm going to just focus on what stood out in Holy Spirit neon today:

"The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left."

These words wash over me, baptizing me in grace and peace. I just want to sit in silence and awe, and in gratitude at the thought of it. "This is the way; walk in it," is exactly the kind of guidance I asked for.

Beloved Jesus, you are amazing. Come. I have so much to tell you, and most of it is, "I love you."

mair-francis