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Archive for November, 2012

DREAMING OF DOORS. . .

Last night I dreamt about doors.  Each dream I recalled during the night contained a number of doors.  If Jung was correct – and who is to question Jung – and I am each person and element in my dreams therefore, I am a door.  The metaphor, I am a door, provides me with one way of identifying who I am and how I currently experience/engage life.  The door helps me name how I am in relationship to myself, to the other(s), and to the Transcendent (i.e. God, the Divine, the Great Being of Life, etc).  This ‘door’ that I am is an inner door and my seeking to understand this door is crucial to my well-being.  So, gentle reader, I invite you to explore with me your inner door as I explore mine this morning.

What does our inner door look like – the door of our heart or of our soul?  Is it transparent?  Can I-you-we look through it?  What will we find if we do look?  Perhaps it is not transparent; perhaps it is constructed of heavy oak or solid steel.  This door might be keeping someone out who is seeking entrance – someone who wants us to welcome him or her into our hearts.  On the other hand this strong door could be a symbol of my strength to live a life of integrity, conviction and commitment.  The door of our heart might be flexible like a folding door is flexible; this door allows plenty of space for new growth to occur.  Our inner door could be like a screen door – light, airy, open yet a bit opaque.  I’ve always seen a screen door as an invitation to enter.  One of the doors in my dreams last night was a revolving door; I was stuck going around and around and when I did manage to extricate myself from this door I found myself standing outside looking in.  I can name a number of places in my life where I am going round and round so this type of door made sense to me this morning.

Perhaps we have a one-way mirror door; we can see out but no one can see in.  The person can only see his/her reflection.  This could be a signal to the other that we are not transparent AND it could be a helpful mirroring of the other to the other (Who are the folks who are mirrors in my own life?).   Perhaps our doors are double and triple bolted from the inside; we do not want to be hurt again or we are too tender to open ourselves up to others at this time in our life.  On the other hand, I know only too well that at times I keep my door securely locked because I am fearful that the other will be dismayed – perhaps ‘shocked’ is a better word – at what he/she will see if I allow them in; my shame and guilt bar the door to my heart.  Sometimes our doors are shattered open by life’s events and we are fully exposed to the world because of this shattering experience.  Sometimes this is a transforming experience; at other times we quickly re-build the door and strive to ensure that is more solid than before.

In my dreams last night several doors had signs either hanging on them or had words deeply etched into them.  What are the signs that we put up or what are the signs that we have etched into the door of our heart?  Welcome.  Enjoy your visit.  Come in, rest a while. Enter at your own risk.  Do not disturb.  No trespassing.  NO ENTRANCE HERE.  No longer at this address.  Moved and no forwarding address.  Be Aware of the. . .  Wipe your feet before entering. 

 How often does the door of our heart change – moment to moment, daily, yearly, perhaps only generationally?  How often do I allow externals decide for me what type of door I will present to my self and to my world?  When do I allow others to ‘name’ or choose the type of door I will hang?  Given my current door, how does it support my growth and development?  What purpose(s) does my current door serve?  What sign do I currently have hanging on my heart’s door or what words have I etched into the door of my heart?  What else emerges for you gentle reader as you ponder the door of your heart?

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DOORS. . .PROVIDE CHOICES. . .

Mary Oliver reminds me that when I choose to close the door of my heart that I will be as good as dead.  Yet, when I choose to open the door of my heart I do more than simply extend a smile of recognition or offer a nod of welcome to all who seek to cross the threshold of my heart’s door.  By welcoming others – the person or the transcendent – into my heart I open myself to grow and change in unexpected ways, perhaps in mysterious ways.  I risk being transformed.  The pattern of this transformational process is akin to the physical movement of passing through a doorway.  First, I discern that a door exists in front of me, then I move toward the door – sometimes with confidence, sometimes with a bit of dread or just with hesitancy.  If the door is closed then I must open it.  Sometimes the door is locked and I will need a special key in order to open the door.  Sometimes the door can only be opened from the inside and so I must knock and wait patiently for the door to be opened.  As the door is opened and I prepare to step forward I move across the threshold, the middle of the doorway.  For a brief moment I have choice – I can continue to step across the threshold or I can retreat; either way I choose to move the door will close behind me (as the Quakers so elegantly put it, ‘Way opens and way closes.’).

I imagine that this same type of movement happens internally when life situations – events or moments – invite me to become more fully who I am called to be in my world.  My choices, my decisions, determine whether I will cross the threshold and enter into a space of growth or whether I will turn away and cling to the person I am at the time (you might recall, gentle reader, that in Afghani the verb ‘to cling’ is the same as the verb ‘to die).  I know if I choose to cross the threshold that more than a shift or a change will occur; I know that a transformation of some sort will take place.

As I sit here this morning reflecting on my life and my spiritual journey, I remember the innumerable times when I chose to turn away from, or I just flatly missed, the opportunities that waited for me on the other side of the door.  At times I was so self-preoccupied that I even missed that there was a door there at all.  At other times I remember stopping in front of the door full of apprehension; I was aware that if I choose to open the door and cross the threshold I would have to let go of something or I would have to die to something in order to enter the space beyond the door and so once again I chose to cling to what I had, to who I was, and so I turned and walked away.  I can still sense the depth of relief and sadness I felt when I chose to do so.  I can even remember using a great deal of energy as I held the door shut as it was being opened from the other side.  I remember other times when I lingered on the threshold weighing my options.  I also recall being tossed over the threshold by ‘circumstances’ beyond my control; by life’s events.  Sometimes I was nudged over the threshold by a mentor or I was called forth by the ‘being’ on the other side.

More often than not, when I chose to respond to the invitation to discern a door, to then approach the door, to open the door, to step across the threshold into ‘new territory’ that I experienced being filled with awe and wonder as I embraced the mystery, the unknown, that I had stepped into.  I used to think that with age all of this would be ‘easier’ for me; perhaps it is better for me that it is not for I must continue to be awake and aware, intentional and purpose-full when it comes to discerning, approaching, and choosing which doors to open and which thresholds to cross.  As I look up from typing these words I can see the top of a door just over the horizon; excuse me while I close for now and take a step.  Will I choose to step toward the door or away from it?  Ah, this is my question for today.

My Singaporean friend, Yim Harn, took this photo of a door she found in France; thank you my friend for reminding me about ‘doors.’

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REMEMBERING 23 NOVEMBER, 1963

Grief Stricken

For me, the decade of the 1960s

was the decade that we murdered

hope.

 

John, Martin and Bobby were the

symbols of hope for many of us.

With their murders hope was

killed and so was our innocence,

if not our idealism.

 

The garden of fear and hate brought

us the fruit of murder.  We also

began to nurture the seeds of cynicism,

disconnection, suspicion, non-civility,

resentment, self-interest, and discontent.

 

Today, forty years later, we are eating

these seeds, now fruit, and we are being

nourished in ways that are killing us,

individually and collectively.

 

Each day I strive to find hope,

I strive to live a life of love,

I seek to discern empathy for all beings,

I commit to being compassionate,

I struggle to see the dignity in humanity.

 

Some days I retire with contentment and

peace as bedfellows.  On other days I

retire full of dis-ease; I am fear-full that

hope, plus love, care and compassion died

forty years ago and I weep.          –Richard W Smith, 1 March 2010

 

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My mother died on Thanksgiving Day ten years ago.  Today, in honor of my mother and her legacy I have decided to share with you, gentle readers, the words I spoke during her funeral Mass on the Saturday after Thanksgiving [so many necessary pieces fell into place so that we could do so on such short notice; too many things to list here].  I titled my eulogy, A Living Gift, and offer it today in remembrance and thanksgiving.

Last night as I was reflecting upon what I had written I felt stuck as I did not have a good beginning nor an effective ending to what I wanted to say this morning.  As I was sitting in the Milwaukee airport waiting for Archbishop Roger Schwietz to arrive [NOTE: Gentle Readers, my mother would support young people on their journey – even to the point of bringing them into our home to live with us for a time – one of these was our second cousin Roger Schwietz who lived with us as a young priest upon his moving on he asked my mother what he could do for her she said, ‘Roger would you please say my funeral Mass?’  He said he would and now many years later Roger, now an Archbishop, did not hesitate when my brother called him in Alaska, ‘I will be there.’  And he was.].  As I was sitting there a poem emerged into my consciousness.  The first two lines of this poem by Dawna Markova capture something important about my mother and so I offer them to you now. Markova writes: I will not die an unlived life. . .I will not live in fear. . .

 My mother, Dorothy Smith was a living gift to all who encountered her.  Her very presence gifted us with many presents.  She was slight of build, at 5’1” and her feisty, fighting weight was about 102 pounds.  YET she was large of stature at 6’6” – her soul energy weighed in at more than 275.  When she entered a room one sensed a bit of a regal presence; there was a neat, fastidiousness about her and her home.  When she looked at you, her penetrating blue eyes, and the turn of her lips, spoke volumes – from praise to criticism; from questioning to affirming.  Her looks would send a clear message, like ‘Don’t’ put your elbows on the table,’ or ‘Be humble,’ or ‘Don’t talk like a sausage.’ 

 She lived a full-life of 88 plus years. . . as a spouse and life-partner, as mother, grandmother, great grandmother, mother, and godmother, as daughter, sister, cousin and aunt, as matriarch, as friend, as support to many, as volunteer.  When you were with Dorothy, even for a brief period of time, you experienced her intellectual presence, her physical presence, her emotional presence, and her spiritual presence. 

 INTELLECTUALLY, you encountered a woman who was thoughtful, intelligent, crafty, open to learning; one who was contemporary – no matter the year; one who was a critical thinker and a superb story teller.  She brought with her an excellent sense of humor and could – and often did – laugh at herself.  She was creative, festive – she loved a good party.  She was a risk-taker and a gambler – ‘Don’t bet with Dorothy’ was a common refrain.  Yet, often she would allow you to choose your team and then she would take the other.  She bet without attachment – mostly.

 PHYSICALLY, you encountered a woman who was a superb cook – anyone who tried one of her cookies would end up begging her for another.  She was a musician, a sewer of afghans, and a collector (of glass and of needy young people that she brought into her home).  She was advisor, a teacher [how many of us did she try to teach to cook?).  She had a high tolerance for pain – physical, emotional and spiritual.

 EMOTIONALLY, Dorothy was caring, stubborn, at times belligerent.  She was committed, caring, grateful, jovial, kind, tough, charitable, resilient, real – what you saw was what you got.  She was receptive to all.  She was the emotional glue for many.

 SPIRITUALLY, she was all heart and soul.  She trusted in God.  She was faithful.  She was religious.  She was, for many, an angel and a guide.  She loved the Green Bay Packers, tennis and golf and was in deep spiritual angst whenever Pete Sampras or Phil Mickelson lost a tournament (which was, to her chagrin more and more often these past years).  She was always there – giving to ALL who were in need.

 For many of us in this church today, Dorothy was a role-model who set the standards really high; yet, she was so fully human that she accepted and forgave our human foibles, mostly without hesitation.

 We have all been blessed, Dorothy, by your Presence/presents.  Your legacy will live on through so many people that your Presence/presents will continue to gift the world.  We will miss you and we will pass the gifts you’ve given us onto the next generation.

 Partly because of you, Dorothy, partly because of you, Mother, we will not die an unlived life and partly because of your example and faith, we will not be afraid!

 A while back I posted this photo of my parents on their 60th wedding anniversary (they were married 65 years) and I have decided to repost it today on this day of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

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Today I woke up thinking about ‘following.’  For me, the photo below is a visual metaphor for following.  During the day a number of questions about ‘following’ began to emerge into my consciousness.  Following the photo (which was taken by my Singaporean friend Bee Kwan) I have listed some of the questions that came to me today.  Perhaps, Gentle Reader, you might choose to add your own questions to mine.

We all follow – by choice, or by habit, or by . . .  How do we each decide ‘who’ or ‘what’ to follow?  Who do we choose as ‘guides’ to follow?  Who do we choose as ‘leaders’ to follow?  What values do we choose to follow?  What assumptions do we choose to follow?  What principles do we choose to follow?  What paths do we choose to follow?  Why these particular paths?  Who are the teachers that we choose to follow?  Why these particular teachers? Why do we choose to continue to follow a person, an idea, a life-path?  Do we choose to follow because there is a destination we are striving to reach?  Do we choose to follow because the journey itself is the destination?  Do we choose to follow ‘blindly?’  Do we choose to follow because we are fearful?  Do we follow what truly matters to our heart and soul?  Do we choose to follow what has meaning for us?  Do we choose to follow a well-worn path; a path that others have blazed ahead of us?  Do we choose to take the path less traveled?  Do we choose to survey our own path?  Do we choose to step off of the ‘beaten path’ and explore the path that is ‘potential?’  Do we follow in reaction to or in response to?  Do we choose to follow so that we will be accepted by others?  Do we choose to follow so that we will not be marginalized?  Do we choose to follow because we ‘want to be part of something’?  How much courage does it take for us to choose which person or path or idea to follow?  Do we choose to follow impulsively?  Do we choose to follow with discernment?  What or who else guides our choices as followers?  Who follows us?  Why do they follow us?  Do we choose to seek out those who might follow us?  What is our response when we turn around and discover that someone is following us?  Do we coerce others into following us?  How do we know?  Do we manipulate others into following us?  How do we know?  Do we persuade others to follow us?  How do we know?  Do we influence others to follow us?  How do we know?   Am I willing to accept that I am response-able as one who chooses to follow?

 

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