The Blooming Season of the Spirit

  Day Lily open

I know that my Savior liveth and he shall stand as the light of day upon the earth, and even though this body be destroyed, I know that I shall see him for myself and not as a stranger.

July is upon us. And my day lilies are in bloom. But they only last a day. That is why they are called day lilies! But while they bloom I want to capture their beauty. I have a lot of watercolor paintings of day lilies, trying to do just that. I have to be quick. As soon as they go into an arrangement I start the drawing. I do take photographs for reference to paint from after they shrivel up and fall off the stem. But when I look at the photographs, it just doesn’t quite capture what I see with my naked eye. And I have a really good camera. But when I look at the flowers directly or anything for that matter, I see things the camera doesn’t. Nuances of color, subtlety of shape, the lines within the petal that seems to be a pathway into the flower and off to its edge. Even the edges are more pronounced. With the actual flowers in front of me I can get a panorama, and a much better sense of the relationship of one flower to the others. And I love the pods. There are so many. Which rather off sets their short flowering, because the next day there will be others popping into view. The trick is devoting a couple of weeks to the adventure and challenge of trying to capture their beauty on paper. I think that’s why artist like to paint flowers. There is a beauty in them that we just have to replicate. Take with us. Make them ours for more than just the blooming season.

I think our soul life, our spiritual life, imitates nature in this way as well. We have ‘blooming’ seasons, when the self seems to open to the Spirit. The light of the Son falls upon us and we reach for its radiance. We bloom. We are in the state of becoming and growth. Open to the greater possibilities life offers, when we take the time to just look. Life in full bloom is a life lived in Christ. Open to his Spirit shining in our lives.

Others may hold pictures or image of the story of Jesus, of the Christ life, up to us, for us to look at. There are so many views; from which angle do we make our approach, to capture or convey something that is so real yet often so elusive? St. Paul tried to do it in his letters. In Philippians he says to put on the mind of Christ. I think it’s in the mind’s eye, in the heart’s eye, our own, that we see for ourselves the truth and the beauty of his flowering in our lives. To look directly and squarely at the gospel stories and let our eyes find what only we might see there. To get a better sense of the relationship from one parable to the next. In this direct gaze, which seems to ever be beholding a blooming season that never ends, we might be able to capture a truer likeness. And in that radiance better see our own flowering there.






A Forever Valentine

All things are eventually redeemed in the heart of God.

 It’s Valentine’s day. It’s also four days before Ash Wednesday. Today is that one special day of the year we celebrate love and let those we love know it.  Red hearts, roses, chocolate, special dinners, cards expressing our love for each other, perhaps even love letters, the ways we show those we love what they mean to us. On or before that day we go out of our way to find and give some expression of our love for another.

God too went out of his way to show his love for us, his valentine to the world, in the person of Jesus.

In Jesus there is a real, human heart, that flowed out upon a ground stamped with the very opposite of love. The opposite of Life. Jesus’s heart is not just a symbol, but the very real, that great cosmic heart that is still beating today.

Love is the envelope in which Lent arrives. It is at its beginning and at its end. At the end of Lent is the celebration of Jesus’ love for us, his undying gift of himself to us.

Lent is the journey in love to Love. The path of love for forty days. In Christ’s sacred heart is the Real, human love of God for us.

At the close of Thessalonians Paul once again encourages the people to turn their hearts toward the love of God.  This is a love that never gets overlooked, doesn’t forget to be mailed, doesn’t end up in a drawer or eventually tossed in the trash. It doesn’t melt, nor does it fly away like a red balloon headed for the heavens. It’s edges don’t turn yellow or the words fade, becoming unreadable. This is an enduring love that once sent remains. Is always readable. A remembered love. An ever present love. A Present this Love. A love that stays with us. Ours simply for the asking. Our simply by breaking open the seal of our hearts. To find another heart waiting there.

Love needing to become tangible, flesh, alive, beating, even at the risk of breaking. A Love that became the world. It’s little and large messages everywhere we look. In the smallest farthest star, in the gritty speck of sand, in the imprint on the leaf and the petal of a flower. In the oldest tree and the newest baby. In a stranger’s smile and the eyes of each child. In the playful kittens and the dog’s insistence to roam. The essence of things is a broken off piece of the Creator’s heart. In each person is the breath and beating of that heart. In that  love we become Real. We are made Real.

Like the skin horse said to the Velveteen rabbit, ‘Real isn’t how you are made…It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

And its forever.



Rhizomes and Weeds

rhizome  Paul uses images of the natural world as the deepest grounding for the spiritual life we experience as the transformation of our invisible selves in Christ. He says we are divinity, sacred beings, invisible, like the deepest rhizomes in the garden, in the visible world.
Christ lives in our hearts through faith. In this faith we are planted in the love of Christ. So that this love is planted deep within us, covered by the protection of the fertile soil, the earth in which we are rooted, like the rhizome making its gnarly way underground, bringing to light the beautiful flowering irises. He also says that our bodies become the fertilizer for our lives of faith. He is talking about the decay of the body as the death of immoral behavior (of the flesh). The rhizomes I see working as that faith which is born from the imagination. Like the creation of the world out of darkness. Where only the water, without which nothing can live, existed and over which hovered the breath of the Creator. The Creator ready to pour his love out to make a garden, a garden that would someday be the ground out of which the Word would become flesh again, seen as an obliquely described spiritual body. Christ Jesus as our root and rhizome.
Like these clear summer nights, when the stars are blinking overhead, faith as imagination is not just our reaching for the stars, but our deepest longings digging into the often rocky soil for the rhizome of ourselves. It seems that the more we look and learn from the natural world, the better we are able to see ourselves, our souls, imaged there. From this faith filled imagination something emerges out of the heart’s inklings and intuitions that tells us there is a force in the world, pushing, pulling the roots to its surface we experience now as drenched with the sacred. It is this sensibility like the pull of the sun and stars where we experience the roots of our humanness, the seed bed of image and likeness, our true selves as the Christ-self.
Then there are the weeds. The perennial flowers have all bloomed and vanished from my garden. The annuals are thriving since we are experiencing an unusually cool summer. These cooler summer night cause my impatiens sully forth in full force and bloom. But now that I don’t have any cut flowers in the garden, except to water, I wouldn’t be out in it as much, if it weren’t for the weeds.
The rhizomes are only half the story. So what I realize is that in spite of the fact that the garden comes with weeds, it is the weeds now that keep me close to the garden. The weeds in my garden make me more tolerant of the weeds in my soul. I will never be perfect. There will always be some weed or other. For just like my garden where it becomes futile to think there will be no weeds, my soul is always going to have some weeds growing there as well.
I think that is why St. Paul begins many of his letters calling out the negative behavior of his followers, weeding out behavior that is unbecoming to the faithful, so that he can go on to address the more important matters of planting the gardens of our spiritual lives where the ground has been (more or less) cleared so that the love of Christ might take root and bloom. Even the difficulties Paul faces, and we know face us as well, make for the transformation of self-centeredness into other-centeredness. Our weeds and wobbles grow compassion. A compassion grown from a deeper self-understanding and thereby ours for others as well. So those weeds are what makes me think about how to make room for something better, truer, perhaps more beautiful. To keep working in the ever-changing garden. To open a wider path for Christ to walk into the garden of my soul.