Manna Meditations

when i find holy ground in the weedy underbrush …

Manna Meditations, Day 30

I am going to tell you a story, and you will probably not believe me.

I’m deciding that’s okay.

*

Yesterday, I go out to a place by the river where the orderly, shinier parts of the city give way to rust and refuse.  Most of the houses here hunch wearily with their weight on one hip, as if they’ve been here just a little too long.  The water’s edge is littered with beer bottles and sandwich wrappers and fragments of orange peel.  The trees are spangled with castoff grocery sacks.

I am learning that this can be beautiful, too.

*

I am also learning to  photograph less.

This is a hard things, sometimes:  not to go out snapping at everything.  There is so much beauty, so much wonder, that it’s easy to get lost in trying to capture it all.

But the Manna won’t really be captured — not by me or anyone.  Not ever.

So I go out and I walk long and I learn to trust that little voice inside myself that says:  “Not yet.”

Or, “still not yet.”

And sometimes: “Right here.  Right now.”

*

So I walk.

I walk long.

Miles in, I’ve resisted the urge to go chasing beauty at every bend.  I’ve passed by the lean graceful branches of the willows, stretching out to embrace the water.  I’ve passed the beautifully mottled bark of young sycamores, the hard dark lines of concrete bridges kissed by wet green.

And still, no little voice.

But then I go around the next bend, to a place where the trees collapse into the water in a weedy, trash-strewn thicket, clogged with mud and pooled rainwater, and then the voice comes:

“Here… Stop right here.”

So I do.

I stop on a dime, turn forty-five degrees exactly to the left, and walk straight into the thicket, pushing past low-hanging branches.

When I do, three or four paces in, I stop short and find this at my feet:

A holy name.  An old one.  So old, in fact, that it’s been lost to most of us entirely, forgotten.

And now it’s here, carved hard and deep into a fallen branch, as if it had been left there for me to find it.

(Maybe it was.)

And here’s the thing:  you can disbelieve this, if you want.  I wouldn’t blame you.

But maybe – just maybe – your heart could make space for the idea that what I’m telling you is true.  That it matters.  That the message isn’t just for me, but for you, too.

I won’t try to make meaning here.  I won’t clutter this place with my own pontifications about what all this ought to tell you, what you ought to learn.

The holy ground is yours to step into — here, now, if you like…

I hope you do. ❤

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Manna Meditations

the words i need you to hear today …

Manna Meditations, Day 27

I drive out to a solitary place, where the forest gives way to open fields.

When I park the car at an overlook, the only sound is the wind tearing around the car, trying to find a way into my little shell of warm air.

I have my big camera with me, but for some reason it feels right today to leave it on the seat beside me…  To trust that the Manna need not be caught with a telephoto lens.  That it’s right within arm’s reach.

So I roll down the window and point my iPhone at the horizon instead.  There’s nothing here but a lone tree lingering against the blue.  Nothing but bare ground and open sky.

So I wait.

And I wait.

I wait until the Light and Presence begins to fill the car … until a cloud or two floats into the frame, soft-bodied and slow.

The clouds move close to the tree, until they look almost within arm’s length of those limbs.

And then the clouds wait, too.

I snap a picture, realizing as I do so that I am here to remind you of just one thing:

Ah, friend … You are not alone.

💛

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Almost Poetry, Manna Meditations

this is what i am trying to tell you …

Manna Meditations, Day 12

I find the Light
rumpled in the morning sheets–
toss back the quilt and there it is,
rising in the gold air,
catching in the dust motes,
setting them on fire.

Sometimes, too,
I find it caught fast
in a crosshatch of frost on the windows,
or crystalline, scattered
over spikes of frozen grass.

I swallow it in the sunshine
on my eggs at breakfast.

It glints on my glasses
as I read.

Sometimes I could lick
the Light off my fingers like butter —
Sometimes it drips through my hands
and down my wrists
like spilled perfume.

*

But some mornings,
I wake and it is not there.

I am thirsty for it, calling for it,
crack-lipped and crazed
as a fever patient.

In those days,
the shadows fill the room
and the sky is snuffed
& there is no appetite
for eggs
or butter
or perfume
or the Presence.

*

In that day,
carry the Light to me
in your cupped hands.

Kneel at my bedside, Friend,
and I’ll drink from your upturned palms.

*

Hear me.

Oh, hear me:

When we are not alone
(and we are never alone),

there is always Enough.

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Everyday Wonder

in the land of the living …

You might not know this about me, but I’ve got a lot of old scriptures rattling around in my head.

I was raised in a world where –for better or worse — the Bible was Law.  At the conservative private school I attended as a girl, I copied out long passages of scripture from memory, my girlish hand careful to pin down the exact placement of each comma and semicolon.  

Go on:  picture me now, a wide-eyed girl in a knee-length skirt and high-collared blouse, reciting whole chapters in front of the class.  Hear the lyrical lilt of the Psalms wearing rhythmic grooves into my psyche, the way the breakers wear grooves on the shore.

Decades have passed since then, and still — the Good Book is so deeply etched into the folds of my brain that its words often sound like my own thoughts.  

I couldn’t get rid of them now if I wanted to.

*

I don’t know why, but lately I keep circling back to a little snatch of words I’d all but forgotten:  I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).

The words are King David’s, but they might as well be mine.  

And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 

In a different season, I might have seen that goodness as prosperity… Goals met. Accolades won. Or perhaps even some deep place of spiritual enlightenment

But now, I’m wondering if seeing the goodness of the Lord isn’t just a matter of noticing the dew on the clover:

  

The shadows playing on the sidewalk:

  

A sunset, washing gentle and gold over our Roanoke sky:

  

Maybe seeing the goodness of the Lord is a matter of faith: the simple, outrageous belief the smallest works of the Creator might be, in their way, holy… 

And I’ll tell you: this life is brief, but for now I’m here, and I believe that all this beauty is mine to see. 

And to share.

Here’s wishing you the same. ❤

 

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best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

Sleepless, Under Shooting Stars {a Flashback}

If I’ve managed to convey one thing in my little series about insomnia, I hope you know this:  insomnia is hard … but also, it can be pretty special.

Few words capture this better than the ones below, which I wrote just after the night of my ninth wedding anniversary.  It’s one of my favorite posts … I guess because it reminds me that sometimes, the hard things give us our most beautiful moments.

And somehow, that seems like a good place to end.

Enjoy…

///

A week ago…

  
It’s three a.m. and I’m lying in bed, feeling the slow wash of the oscillating fan stirring the sheets.  I settle closer against my husband, stare at the ceiling and wonder — a familiar question — if I’m the only one awake.

I’ve spent my life as an insomniac, and I can tell you:  there’s no loneliness as deep and existential as the one that comes when you lie sleepless in the dark — especially beside someone you love.  You lean into him, letting his breath tickle your neck, his heartbeat drum against your spine.

Still:  while he sleeps, he doesn’t even know you exist.

But on this night, instead of the usual ache of his absence, I sense T’s presence — his breath conscious, shallow.  With me, somehow.

“Are you awake?” I whisper, and in a moment there’s his hum of affirmation.

“Me too,” I say.

It’s the night of our wedding anniversary, and outside, the Perseids are falling:  shooting stars streaking the black, like they do every year on August 12.

Suddenly it just feels wrong:  us, asleep.  The universe, awake.

“Do you want to go see the stars?” I say.

We do.

*

We go in our pajamas:  bundle ourselves into the Volvo with extra coats and two cups of iced coffee.

T drives us into the mountains, away from the city lights.  We drive, and drive, through one empty street and then another, climbing the hills until the black bowl above us is twinkling clear.

And then we stop.

T switches off the engine.

The sudden silence shocks us, until our ears adjust to all the other sounds of the night.

*

In the cicada-hum and cricket-song we open the sunroof and wriggle halfway through, leaning back with our elbows on the car’s cold roof, our bare feet on tiptoe on the leather seats below.

Somehow it feels like we’re standing side-by-side in waist-deep water.  The black sheet-metal shines, reflecting stars.

Time passes, slow as a single drop of water easing down the lip of the faucet.  The stars twinkle but seem otherwise unmoved.

And then, the first streak of light tears across the sky.

“Did you see that?” T almost shouts.

“I did!”

We wait longer.  Time passes — five minutes?  ten? — and more meteorites flash earthward.  Some are just tiny dashes of light; others look like small comets, with long tails that leave a smoldering afterglow.

We laugh.

We holler.

We gasp.

“Did you see that one?” 

“Look — over there!”

We watch until our necks hurt from craning them back.  Until our eyes feel owlishly wide:  unblinking in the starry dark.

*

And now here I sit at my keyboard, a week later, pondering the way it works:

The way we must put ourselves in the path of wonder, whether that’s the wonder of human love or natural beauty, the wonder of grace or God or goodness.

And I know — there are moments when we stumble over the magic like it’s a tripwire.  We skin our knees on the glory and raise our hands in hallelujah.  In those moments, the Mystery chooses us. 

But those moments are few.  And — my God — I don’t want to go through life asleep, hoping and dreaming of the next one.

So I get up in the middle of the night.  (Are you with me?)  I push back the bedsheets and stumble into the dark like a sleepwalker, hearing that voice at my back, still and small as my Sunday-school teacher told me it would be: 

Open your eyes, love. 

Open your eyes. 

Engage. 

And I walk out into a world where stars fall like rain.

I crane my head back and stand very still, my eyes wide-open.

*

Maybe you’re standing here, too.  ❤

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Almost Poetry

the imperfectionist’s prayer

oh, Lord, leave me…

… undone.

heal me,
but don’t –
(forgive me
for saying it)
– fix everything.

keep me
a little messy,
a little broken,
disordered and
a touch disorderly…

do this so that someone might stand in just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right state of mind, and see — oh, God — as the sun slams through the wreckage, lights up its edges, stripes it in shadow, and makes it — for a brief moment —

beautiful:

daylight1

oh, Lord, leave me like that. ❤

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Twenty-One

advent2

Can I say something honest to you?

I grew up in a world that talked a lot about God — a lot — and I’m not always comfortable with the things that world taught me about him.

Tonight, though, as I walk the streets on this darkest night of the year, I stop in front of a plywood manger scene in someone’s front yard.  And I suddenly realize I’m grateful — so, so very grateful — for one thing:

I’m grateful that the God of my childhood was so physical, and so human…

A God in the shape of an infant, thrashing and crying in the straw.

A God who wept actual tears.  Who bruised and bled and broke.

A God who tells me that the divine can, in fact, dwell in this place:

… this hardscrabble earth.

… this fast-fading skin.

*

 

I turn my hand over.

I trace the river-blue veins in the wrist.

I think about the spirit that flows through that living water, and I can’t help but say:

 Oh, God … It is good. ❤

 

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