A post by Christine: Stay Close to the Cracks

Reading this post had such resonance to my present journey that I ask permission of its writer, Christine at http://godspace-msa.com/2015/02/09/meditation-monday-stay-close-to-the-cracks/ to allow me to repost it here. Thank you, Christine for being a part of my healing journey. May this post bless others as well. The post ends with a link to Cohen’s song about a crack in everything. Visit her site to follow that link. Thank you.

Meditation Monday – Stay Close to the Cracks

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In Eager to Love, Richard Rohr comments that St Francis of Assisi asked us to stay close to the cracks in the social fabric of our world. It is a thought worth reflecting on.

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Everything in our lives and in our world has cracks, wounds and broken places that tell of pain and suffering. Sometimes we try to cover them over, attempting to seal them off from the light. But this only makes them fester and get worse.

Yet it is in the cracks, the broken places of our lives, where violence flares and pain cries out that healing happens. When we acknowledge imperfections, we take the first step towards wholeness. It is into the cracks that light can shine and water can seep. It is in the cracks in the concrete that seeds can lodge, germinate and take root. And as green shoots reach for the sky, the crack enlarges, the concrete crumbles and what was meant to live and breathe thrives once more.

What is your response?

Sit quietly in the presence of God, allowing the love of God to wash over you. Read through the prayer above several times. What cracks in your world, what places of woundedness and vulnerability that give you ongoing pain come to mind? In what ways have you tried to cover these over, perhaps with a facade of laughter or with a semblance of respectability? Are there ways you respond, perhaps with fear, or anger or intolerance that show these are festering? Perhaps there are things you need to confess or seek forgiveness for. Offer these up to God in prayer.

Now think of the light that has shone into those cracks. What has it begun to give life too? Are you aware of green shoots emerging towards the sun? How could you nurture their growth and make help them to thrive?

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At our local mall recently I noticed that what was once a solid concrete slab of parking slots has now been transformed. Deliberate “cracks” have been added between the rows of cars – small gardens that channel the water into the topsoil and down into the water table are thriving. The rain no longer creates a flood of water that overflows the drains and clogs the waterways.

Sometimes when we stay close to the cracks we realize that they need to be nurtured and strengthened to rebuild the fabric of our lives and our society. And as we nurture these it is not only the surface life that thrives but it is the deep wellsprings of the water table that flourishes too.

What is your response?

Read through the prayer above again. What slabs of pavement are you aware of in your life and society that need to be broken up with gardens? Is there something the spirit of God is prompting you to do that could help accomplish this?

Now listen to the song below and allow the spirit of God to stir your imagination. Is there another response God is asking of you?

Waiting for the Light

 “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring    

Last night I was thankful for the reasonableness of most drivers in our area. We had a power outage that covered my area of town. I realized in my move I had lost track of where any light sources were in my home.

Since even Internet was unavailable, I didn’t know how far the blackout had reached but had to go through about 4 unlit corners before I reached lit roads again. Almost all drivers reasonably and responsibly treated them as 4 way stops so I was able to get safely across to an area of town where I could purchase alternate light sources.

On the way home the news said a few thousand home had their power back but a few thousand others would need to wait until at least 1 am. I didn’t know whether I was returning to power in my home or not.

I was thankful for the inside light in my car to help me read the instructions and get the batteries in place for my light sources since I arrived to no power.

I was thankful for the sleeping bag I had bought for cold temperatures, for the fact that we are dealing with the milder possibilities of winter weather and that my light sources were strong enough to let me read until the loud sound of something being worked on across the street could finish and I could drift off.

I was thankful for medications to help me get what sleep I could.

I awoke to light.

That I see the things to be thankful for gives me the relief of knowing this other condition I am dealing with is not depression. That I can hear the positives adds to that relief.

Finding peace in the darkness gives hope that I will be able to gain the resources I need to face this other thing causing me to need help right now. It will come. Peace will return. Stability will be found. Light will return.

Retelling the Story

Question your feelings and stories. Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, you have to stop and ask, given the circumstances, is it the right feeling? Meaning, of course, are you telling the right story? After all, feelings come from stories, an stories are our own invention.    Crucial conversations, Patterson, Grenny, McMilan and Switzler

There is no question that the story fueling this situation I face is incomplete. I have no illusion that I have the full facts of what is going on. I have been playing the guessing game for months, trying to gather information to still the uneasiness continuing to build in a significant relationship. When an occasion came which presented questions beyond my ability to find the answers without the aid I couldn’t seem to get, my inner reserves “let me down” and my coping abilities deflated.

I have been taught many labels and phrases for times like this in life: ‘too weak’, ‘falling apart’, ‘not good enough’, ‘this is tearing me up’, ‘I’m letting everyone down’, the list goes on and on. Old voices of accusation scream to be heard in the quiet of this needed isolation from certain high stressors in life. My life alternates between trying to move forward and a mind freezing emotional overload that stops me in my tracks. I am not coping as well as I would want to. My inner judge works hard to assign me the verdict of guilty beyond redemption as it did so much more easily once upon a time.

The difference is the voices of others who have gotten to know me over time in a deeper way then many of us take the chance to be known. These voices listen to my stories about myself and challenge them. The same happens from new appropriately chosen voices whose help was requested in this situation.

“I would like to question the idea of you ‘falling apart'”, began one such support. Then in evidence she listed the steps I am taking and the choices I am making to try to bring a positive resolution to what is going on. “Does that sound like someone who is falling apart?” She did not deny the high anxiety that is affecting my ability to function at the best of my capacity in daily life. She did not pretend that wasn’t there. She simply looked at the actions of my life to change this place. She held up a mirror of growth even in the midst of feelings of weakness.

Colleagues have given affirmations on my work. Those who are working with me through this process continue to be present and supportive. Others, such as those on a thread in a social media site, have done so simply by accepting my stated need for the support of thought and prayer as I seek to use respect and grace in this. They honor that, without asking me to explain the situation for them to judge.

Each of these resources helps me to edit the story I write about my ability to see this through to the best ending I can find, whatever that will be. They fill the margins with hope to counteract the turmoil of discouragement and fears I have not yet overcome. Without denying the residual weakness from the past that is affecting me, they mirror back to me where I am acting forward in a way that exhibits strength.

There are many ways to come alongside in situations of stress.  The support of those who don’t need to know the details in order to be supportive in thought and action is as important, maybe even more important, then the resources on the inside who are working with me to solve the situation.  Those who can help reinterpret the facts into a story of growth and strength are powerful agents of healing and hope in times a person does not measure up to their own societally sanctioned expectations.

Is there a story your encouragement and insights have the potential of changing into one of greater strength and possibility?

Facing the Challenge

“I chose being — being present, being open, being malleable. Life is saying, “okay, I will give you the challenges that will help you become grounded in that kind of living.”
(Facebook comment in response to a post about choosing a word for the year)

The first month of the year hasn’t ended and I am already glad I chose a goal instead of an expectation as my focus for the year.

I am floundering. I am struggling with seeing the Promise of being in the moment. I set this acrostic as my goal:

Being – to live out the PROMISE of each moment by being:

Present
Responsibly
Open,
Malleable
In
Situations,
Evolving

My play simplified it into this definition: To make each moment a living POEM:

Present
Open
Engaged
Malleable

The present situation is a magnifying glass showing me all the places my elasticity has been compromised by putting such tight strictures around my life.

But wait. Maybe what is happening is not the problem. Maybe the lack of elasticity comes in a belief that if I am not handling this in such and such a way right now, I am failing, I am falling apart, I am the problem.

That is where friends have come in. They look through a lens that sees a bigger picture. They become mirrors holding up our strengths. They become the balance when we struggle.

So I will be PRESENT even here in this place that feels like a mindfield I don’t know how to cross. I will stay aware, not giving in to the urge to push it away with sleep and white noise distractions.

I will responsibly OPEN myself to way and resources that can help me find a way back to more emotional stability and devise the strategy necessary to face what is. I will open myself to new possibilities.

I will stay ENGAGED. I will write, draw, paint, collage, interact where I need to, seek out the resources to help me take the next steps. walk, play a game of cribbage with my elderly friend once the illness ban is lifted from his home.

I will allow this moisture of tears make the clay of my life MALLEABLE in this situation so that I can find the shape it is to take in the future, even if I need to leave the present, much loved, mold behind.

It is with a mixture of groans and hope that I move out. The past cannot be undone. Well intentioned actions not understood can’t be made what they aren’t. I cannot go back and change schooling options of the past to make me acceptable where I  not accepted. I can only move forward from here. That is what I call EVOLVING. Beginning with where I am, with what I have and know in this moment, I can grow.

BEING

There was no better word I could have chosen as a goal for this year that looks like it will be bringing a lot of change. Now to just live today with that feeling of PROMISE.

Shades and Shadows

Now it is my turn to decide what to do with this black crayon in my hand. It may not be clear right away how best to enhance the art of life with this creative tool, but if I am willing to take the time to step back and look at the whole picture, the answer will come. It will take patience and wisdom and a willingness to look within to the inner artist who sees beyond my limited outer vision. (https://ljandie57.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/the-black-crayon/)

It can never again be the picture it was. Carefully applied colours and points of light are buried beneath the black shadings. Greens and grays blend a mask hiding the carefully placed lines which once was. As incomplete and artificial as it was, the image I had held on to for so long no longer exists as more than a mapping of shapes and a loose rendition of colors chosen long ago. I opened my heart and hand choosing to use the black for change. With inner healing, old options were no longer available.

For too many years I ingested the black anger, eating the black crayon, avoiding the deeper shades, burying the darkness inside when it wouldn’t just go away. Turning it toward myself brought thoughts of death and self harm. It didn’t matter whether I acted it out. I was no different in that interior place where self conception flourished or died then someone who acted on those thoughts. Knowing this inner darkness growing with each new shadow I took inside, my outer world became more pastel, more secretive to hide what I saw beyond my face when I looked in a mirror.

No more. Anger and emotions we label as dark are a part of the hues and shades creating the richness of life. We are not created to ingest and bury those materials holding some of life’s creative potential. Can you imagine a landscape without shadow or shading?

So I took paint brush in hand and let my inner artist undo the paled colour palette which had made my artwork incomplete. The deed has begun. I look at it now and can see potential I had not seen before. There is depth and dimension I had not imagined.

It isn’t finished. I can’t yet see what the new tones will bring into being. The change is too deep to happen in a single setting. It will take time and openness to the inner artist to bring forward the new vision I am only beginning to see.

In life events, it is no different. Moments come when something within says, “No more!” When there is no further to bend without breaking and something has to give. Having been taught by forces in life certain mores of acceptability, and coupling that learning with previous  maladaptive ways of addressing uncomfortable relationships, the tension of choosing to address the problem instead of hiding from it is testing every reserve within me.

For days I held that black crayon in hand not sure how to use it to create art in life instead of destroying what I had. I began reaching for resources, others whose guidance and support can help me make healthy changes within the tension. I am accepting the emotional turmoil and accessing resources to support me as I take these new steps.

I do so without  knowing how the painting or this time in my life will turn out. Will the potential depth be something I can carry out? Will my inner and outer resources be enough to complete what has been begun?

I only have the ability to change myself. I have neither the moral right nor the power to change another.

So I will pick up my brush. Squeeze the tubes of paint and design what is in my power to do. I have heard though that it would be helpful to pick up a tube of Payne’s gray.

The Black Crayon

AC041389lb Was it three or four young men who joined m for those sessions that year? Some things were in common. All of them were creative, artistic in their own rights. And all of them acted out aggressively when they were angry or frustrated. How could these boys be helped to manage the strength of their emotions in a world of systems and rules?

6983401a_origOur sessions began with a drawing lessons – a box of eight crayons, a limited medium with which to depict the world. Each crayon was given an emotion and as the first drawing progressed, I talked about the emotional connections I had with each colour. I pointedly avoided the black crayon. How many times they, and I, had been told that our angry wasn’t acceptable so since I labelled that crayon anger, I wouldn’t use it in the drawing for any reason.

I then began a second drawing. By then the boys were into the ideas of the colours having meaning and were suggesting the colours to use. They  took my lead and carefully avoided black until the only colour not used was that black crayon.

It is then that I introduced that one last crayon. Black. Anger. What should I do with it? The tension and blankness was palpable in those young men as I introduced this emotion they had so often been taught was wrong. But it was a colour in my box. What could I do with it. 6983401b_origSo I demonstrated some ideas.

For the first drawing I talked about it building up and being allowed to get out of control. With abandon I scribbled black over the drawing I had so carefully worked on. The boys’ eyes nearly bugged out of their heads and their gasps were audible. I had ruined the picture. I couldn’t undo the damage I had done. That black, that anger, had destroyed something they had appreciated. Proof positive to them, anger was a harmful thing.

But then I took that second picture and I took that black crayon again. Only these time I used it were outlines and shadows would enhance the image I had created. The same black crayon that had been destructive became something that more clearly brought out the depth and clarity of the image.

RimofLife_smIt is the same with anger. I was often taught growing up that anger was sin. But when I read the Bible passages on anger, something stands out. I read to be angry and not sin. Anger is not the problem. What we do with it is. I don’t have to spend my energy pushing down what exists. I need to allow that anger to show me where a depth or clarity is missing in my life and work to correct that.

It is found in the actions of the Rosa Parks, the words of the Martin Luther Kings, in the changing understandings of Mandela that finally led to new recognition of disenfranchised people. It is Jesus in the temple seeing religion sold to those who could afford the price.

When one of the young man came and ask for a box of crayon and paper when he felt like exploding, I knew they had made the connection. That young man later wrote songs performed in assemblies and concerts. He had begun to understand the choices we can make with all we carry inside.

The anger that resides in me is not about as big an issue as any of these but there is within its depths a desire for justice and the right to be heard on behalf of others. Now it is my turn to decide what to do with this black crayon in my hand. It may not be clear right away how best to enhance the art of life with this creative tool, but if I am willing to take the time to step back and look at the whole picture, the answer will come. It will take patience and wisdom and a willingness to look within to the inner artist who sees beyond my limited outer vision.

What will you do with your black crayon when you hold it in your hand?

Being in the promise of each moment

 “I chose being — being present, being open, being malleable. Life is saying, “okay, I will give you the challenges that will help you become grounded in that kind of living.”
(Facebook comment in response to a post about choosing a word for the year)

There is something inside that knows if we can simply find enough stillness to listen.

It had been a year of finding balance in life — a year beginning with a lost feeling of anxiety and ending with a more relaxed accepting attitude toward daily life. I had settled into my own skin quite literally. The angst of nonacceptance of self had faded into the albums of memory and I was at peace in my skin.

It had been a year of learning mindfulness — a year of learning to more intentionally live in the moments that are, accepting their potential to affect the future through living into each new day, celebrating what is instead of regretting what could not be changed. It was a time of learning to forgive myself by having the grace to accept the humanity of all — my own and that of others. It was a year of letting go, of letting be, of finding new horizons in my todays.

As the year began I looked inside again. My self had known the year before. In choosing the word “balance” I had been set on a path of growth. What word settled its feather touch of knowing on my soul?

BEING.

The inner “Yes!” rang like a well tuned finger cymbal resonating through the molecules of my inner self. Such a simple and yet such a profound word. My thoughts settled on a definition for the word and began to build acrostics as guide post for the journey of the year.

Being – to live out the PROMISE of each moment by being:

Present
Responsibly
Open,
Malleable
In
Situations,
Evolving

My play simplified it into this definition: To make each moment a living POEM:

Present
Open
Engaged
Malleable

When only days into the year a situation arose with the potential to redraw some of the outline of my living, these acrostics became a lifeline for thought. They are giving me guidance and questions on what it truly means to be present, open engaged and malleable in a situation that will require change in some form in circumstance that are not in my control.

In this time, I am learning my first lesson about what it is to be. Being does not mean pretending to feel what you don’t feel. It does not mean passively going with the flow.

It means being present to what is truly within so that it can be processed instead of pushed away. It means accepting emotions for what they are while choosing to living grace toward others.

It means to be open to more than one possibility, accepting of our own intuitions and knowledge while not determining the choices and truths as perceived by others. It means considering ideas we may have pushed away in the past.

It means being engaged in the weighing of choices and possibilities and doing what needs to be done to prepare to move forward in what is the reality of life and the consequences of choice.

It is a malleability that knows how to bend and flex as necessary but also know that sometimes reshaping may mean moving beyond what has in the past been our comfort zone.

I don’t know what changes will occur because of this road I am now moving along. The future is more unsettled, less secure. Being present as I begin moving along this path of being, I realize one thing. I am at peace with the traveler who makes this journey. I believe she is capable of facing this adventure with courage and grace. She has within her the capacity  to live whatever this journey brings.