Sparks of Divinity

fireplace

 

It is chilly and damp in the Pacific Northwest and we have been building a fire almost everyday in our fireplace.  This morning as I sat by the fire and sparks were flying, I started to think about how we build these particular fires in our fireplace.

Luke builds a bonfire, stacking log upon log, wedging in kindling and fire starter.  Once he has created an enormous blaze, he stands back, admires his work and walks away.  Soon his fire has burned out. (Sorry Luke)

Rick has a different approach.  He also stacks logs and kindling just so but he stays close by.  He tends it, is attentive to it, moves a log this way and that to provide maximum flow of oxygen allowing it to grow steadily.  He may walk away but comes back every now and then, remaining faithful to his fire.  Ultimately Rick’s fire maintains a steady burn, giving away warmth and eventually coming to glow for hours even after the flames have subsided.

Tending to a fire is often used as a metaphor in spirituality and so my mind goes there…to our own inner spark of divinity, the root of our being that unites us to God and one another.  Sometimes it roars and other times it glows, consistently needing our presence and attention.  At times our attention is enough to keep it going and other times it benefits from the fanning from another.  And thankfully, if it wanes and we allow, as the psalmist writes, even in our darkest night, O Lord, you kindle a fire within.

And since I still have Magi on the brain, I recall that we read in the Scriptures that toward the end of their journey, they reach Jerusalem and begin to ask around for the child who has been born king of the Jews.  Herod and the whole city become troubled.  When they don’t find him in the palace, trusting their inner spirit, they set off toward Bethlehem.  Suddenly the star reveals itself again and leads them onward.  Once they find and pay homage to the Christ Child, they are asked to rely once more on their inner truth and go home by their own way, rather than return to Herod and expose the child as Herod had commanded.  Throughout there journey, they were consistently present and attentive to their inner flame and it made all the difference.  Because of it they were abled to be filled with wonder, surprised by joy and overflow with love.

As I sit back and reflect I have to ask myself how faithful I am to my inner flame of divinity?  Do I attend to it regularly and throughout my day?  What is going on for me when it roars…or when it glows?  Am I aware, and do I give thanks when others fan my flame?  In moments of darkness, when it seems like my light has been extinguished, do I remember to turn to God asking that a fire be rekindled within me?  And, finally, do I make room to be surprised by the wonder,joy and love that comes when you least expect it on the road?

The Advent Journey

night starsFor the last few years I have offered a Yoga Advent Series in my parish.  Taking off the general theme of Advent, I choose a focal point for our meditations.  Last year’s was “Praying the Magnificat with Mary.”

This Advent I was inspired by the quiet darkness of the night sky giving way to the glorious star leading the Magi to the Christ child.  In a darkened room illuminated by a sole string of star lights, we offer the prayer of our bodies, mind and spirit.  So everyday during these last weeks I have been walking with the Magi, seeking…following the star of desire and fullness and love.

I have come to wonder about those moments when the travelers on this long journey questioned what it was all about as they literally, trudged through the sand, in sometimes harsh conditions.   Mostly, they probably experienced day after day more of the same.  The same task, the same vista, the same challenges, so much of the same.

What started out as a wonderful adventure quickly turned into the monotony of their daily life on the road.  Did they wonder, as we sometimes do, who we are and where we are going?  What about when they couldn’t see the star–when it was obscured by clouds or during the day?  What kept them going?

We get that, don’t we?  The excitement and thrill of beginnings often turn into the same-old-same-old.  Fabulous honeymoons turn into months and years of tenacity and hard work.  Fresh smelling newborn babies grow into somewhat smelly children requiring daily care.  First days of work or school become endless deadlines and mountains of paper.

Perhaps those were the moments they found their way to ask themselves whose they were as well.  To whom do I belong?  For whom do I get out of bed each day?

Most certainly there were also moments that inspired the answers to those questions.  Perhaps the captivating sight of that glorious, alluring star–the evidence of God creating something new in the world.  Or maybe it was an encouraging word from a fellow traveler.

As for us, the answer forms in flashes and glimpses as well.  A look or touch or memory that reminds us of the deep well of affection we have for our partner.  A moment of awareness through laughter or play  with our child or the marvel that may overtake us every now and then when we look at them.  The gratitude we experience for the gift of work and colleagues or accomplishment of our own.

I am reminded of these words by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. below that so beautifully points me in Love’s direction and begins to answer my questions.

Fall in Love

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

 

St. Agustine’s Thanksgiving Tip

Wonder-46-Cornucopia-Static-Image

By now you may have overdosed on gratitude.  If so, please indulge me.  I am a little late to the party.  You see I approached last week’s celebration of Thanksgiving with lack-luster enthusiasm, to say the least.  I just couldn’t muster up the gratitude and I felt completely awful about it.

My Facebook feed was full of grateful friends with lovely things to say about their many blessings and so forth.  But I felt…nothing.  I could blather on about all the things that are in the “not too great” column of goings on in my life (but why?)

And at the same time, of course, I know I have plenty of grace in my life.  But what do you do when it doesn’t bubble up and runneth over your cup or cornucopia, or whatever?

Well, quite uncharacteristically, I took it to prayer.  And by uncharacteristically, I mean, I usually try to hide that kind of thing.  I try to sanitize it (as if God doesn’t know me!)  Or I work like heck to manufacture something on my own, but that never works.  It doesn’t feel organic or honest.  This time, however, I remembered that quote from St. Augustine that I posted here last time.  If you remember, he says something like:  “I have all these things I want to give you, Lord, but first, can you please give them to me.”

I think that is pure genius!  Why do we think we have to be the ones to generate all this goodness and virtue and compassion and gratitude on our own?  Doesn’t it make sense that since God is the Source, God generates everything?  Clearly this was one time when I needed to ask for the thing I wanted to give back.

And so I did.  I asked for gratitude.  I asked to see the truth of my life, not the stories I was telling myself.  And thanks to Macrina Wierdekehr, I turned some questions around a little.  Since I had fallen into my questions about enough, I asked myself if I had enough joy to share with my family this holiday season.  When the answer was “not so much,”  I asked God for the joy too…while God was at it.

The transformation was very subtle, as most are.  I went about my duties.  I dutifully prepared pies and rolls and side dishes and brined the turkey.  Before too long I felt a warmth growing within me.  I started a list on the refrigerator of my gratefulls.  Luke added to the list.

Days later, by the time we all sat down together at our dinner table on Thanksgiving, I could honestly and wholeheartedly thank God for the gifts of gratitude and joy that I had come to through no conjuring of my own but rather, by God’s generosity.

You know what?  The next time I find myself lacking, when I am coming up completely empty, I am going to remember St. Augustine’s tip:  “Let me offer you in sacrifice the service of my thoughts and my tongue, but first, give me what I may offer you.”