Michaelmas

Image

Michaelmas

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. -G.K. Chesterton

Michaelmas is almost here! How are you reflecting on the dragons in your life? Can they be tamed and turned into life-giving energy? Click through to read last year’s reflection on this wonderful festival!

Advertisements

Extended Grace

Waymarkers Friends,

My writings and musings have been quieter this summer.  What with my children home from school and a deep-belly sense that our family is in a time of transition,  I intentionally drew a boundary line around ourselves that would require me to stay present to them.  It is far too easy for me to live in my head where words and phrases are lined up in a beautiful order, out of reach of honey-sticky hands and air-borne balls, and not fully see or hear what they are needing me to watch (for the hundredth time) or say (do I really need to repeat the answer to that “why?” AGAIN?!).  I needed to call myself out of my writing reveries to be available for spontaneous fun and play, of which we have had a summer full!

This awareness and intentionality has also been motivated by my response to a clear call that was as loud as the spring-time crrrrrrk-crrrrrrx of Iona’s corn crakes this past May.  I’ve been dawdling with my graduate studies for years, a common thing to do when starting your young family begins simultaneously with M.Div work…eight years ago.  However, while walking beside corn crake filled fields and working out my own personal questions while convening the 2013 Iona Pentecost Pilgrimage, it was evidently clear that a concerted return to school was in order for me to continue the vocational work to which I have been called.  Fear clutched onto my excitement as I entertained this possibility, an emotional combo that has always affirmed God’s presence and pointing in said direction.

The early summer months had me writing emails to deans and directors and soon was involved in the process of discerning whether to remain in my eight year old intended program, or imagining anew as a result of clarity around my work these past few years.  And to tell the truth, my decision was made when the Admissions Director from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology handed me a smallish, palm-sized journal with Mary Oliver’s words inscribed on the front cover:

     Instructions for living a life:
     Pay attention.
     Be astonished.
    Tell about it.

These powerfully simple words break down the pilgrimage process with facile force, and the effect wasn’t lost on me in my own journey towards making a decision to cross this school-threshold once again.  I was paying attention to the signs and wonders that were imparting a message to get myself back to a community of learners and engage the rigor of academics as it relates to my work.  I absolutely was astonished as synchronicity after synchronicity affirmed the call to return to my studies, but at a new place, with a new focus.  And so now, I must tell about it.

I want to be transparent in this process and share with you all the inevitable shifts, disruptions, and tears I will likely move through in the coming months as I exercise my work within this academy.  I want to log how this decision and formation will both buoy and break me, fill me up and leave me flat on my face.  Going back to school will humble and hone me…and require me to live within the pages of books, the whitish rooms of blank papers, and reveal myself to new relationships.  My family will be impacted by this, and this understanding has moved me to tears many times over these summer months.

Knowing that my decision will place my youngest in someone else’s care several times a week and that I won’t always be home to greet my boys with oven-fresh smells has made my heart ache.  This tremendous feeling of anticipated loss stalled my hand many a time as I went through process after process to matriculate to The Seattle School.  Even last night, as my daughter lay asleep in my arms, her warm smells wafting to my nostrils, I wanted to bury myself into her, imprinting her onto my cells for fear I will miss something, or not notice something once school starts up for me next week.

I had to go to campus today to pick up my books and Anna came along.  I hesitated, projecting a negative outcome for her seeing the school that will take Mommy away. (All this sounds very dramatic, I know, its just school for goodness sakes!)  The feelings were there all the same, and I tentatively brought her in the front doors.  She grabbed my hand…and I was prepared to dally and even turn on my heal to leave…and led me towards the desk, mounted with bags of books for students.  Her smile engaged the administrative assistant and we were at once in the final process of my enrollment.  Once we had my books for the quarter, I quickly felt ready to go and return to my life as a full-time mom, she tarried and asked if I would take her into the library.

Hand in hand we walked through high shelves dauntingly packed with hundreds of titles; I matched my step with hers, not wanting too much of my excitement for this realization of a dream, or dread of breaking a bit from my family to impact her experience in this charged place.  She whispered, “Is this your classroom, Mommy?”  No, honey.  Those are upstairs. This is where I will read and study.  We passed the librarians.  “Are those your teachers, Mommy?”  No, sweet-one.  My teachers are likely upstairs, too.  With each question and step, she gripped my hand harder, until she finally had me walking bent beside her.  With a pride-filled whisper, she stated, “Mommy, I like it here.  And I’m glad you are going to school, just like my brothers.”  Tears streamed down my face as I was given the great gift of grace by a two year old, who knows nothing of posturing, or producing false statements. With her inquisitions, genuine interest and understanding that school is a lovely, held place (her knowledge of “school” comes from where her brothers go, surely a place of comfort and peace!), she was giving me permission to pursue my passions.  Surrounded by the smell of new worlds and ideas, this library became a holy place for me today.  A place where I could bring my fears about this new transition and God’s saving grace would be imparted through the tender hands and words of my daughter.

And so, I cross the threshold into this new season of student life, with the goals of holding a Masters in Theology and Culture in my hands in a few years, and share this with you all in hopes that you will be willing to listen to my rants, my wails, my inspirations and my breakthroughs.  I hope that Waymarkers will still be a place where our little community is on the look out for God-given markers that guide our way through this life.  That this will be a place where I can reflect with you all the great gift that my daughter gave to me today: standing in the library and helping me mark the way.

Godspeed,

Mary

A Sacred Journey, Part 3-Coming Home, A Strange Return

Friends,

I’ve been blessed by this invitation to guest-blog at A Sacred Journey and share some of my thoughts and reflections on pilgrimage and Iona.  Today’s post is the last of my three-part series as the “Pilgrim in Residence.”  In this piece, I share what I have sifted down as the essential impetus for going on pilgrimage, but a value that can only be confronted upon returning home.  We leave searching for something great and beyond ourselves.  We return to find that much of what we had left in search for, is found just beyond our doorsteps when we engage and live on behalf of something other than ourselves.

I invite you to read, and reflect with me on the gift that pilgrimage both brings about for our souls as well for the greater communities all around us.

Click on the image below to be taken to the NEW POST at A Sacred Journey.

Godspeed!

Mary

homeboots

A Sacred Journey-Part Two from the Pilgrim in Residence

It has been a joyful opportunity to share with the Sacred Journey community a bit about my pilgrimages to Iona, Scotland and further reflections on the Arrival stage of pilgrimage.  It always blesses and challenges me to see not just these trips as sacred, but every day of our life.  Click on the image below to read further about what you can do to create an intention around your life’s journey and preparing for the place of your heart’s arrival!

IonaAbbey

Iona Pentecost Pilgrimage: An Island Between Heaven and Earth

A set on the stage of "An Island Between Heaven and Earth"

A set on the stage of “An Island Between Heaven and Earth”

The Sacred Island of Iona is riddled with fables, legends and lore.  Around every bend you encounter places that are linked to a history deeper than our own and stories that reverberate with both the whisking wind and the beat of angels wings.  While we came here keenly aware of the mysteries that shroud this island, our time on Iona was strengthened by opportunities to pull apart the veiled sacred sagas and see behind the curtain the very real people and relationships that have curated all that Iona is known for today.  From our geology lecture and field study, to tours of the Abbey and Staffa Island, this intimate isle grew up and out of its misty myths into a very real place.  A place that is governed by the same laws of nature as my residential address: indeed, my feet, under the authority of gravity, stayed on the ground here on Iona in the exact same ways they do at home.  And the people here, they grocery shop and eat too; it isn’t all miraculous maritime mana dotting the countryside perpetually available to the sacred souls musing about.

No, this is a real place.  A harsh, isolated place.  A place where in the winters one could go mad for a spot of sun.  But it has also always been a place for which people have longed.  A place where pious pilgrims prevailed, and where nobles and kings are entombed.  It is a place of heart-aching beauty that has inspired the very real people behind the legends to come here and be about something greater than, and beyond, themselves.

And so it was with George Fielden MacLeod, Baron MacLeod of Fuinary, a Scottish soldier and radical reverend who believed the ruined medieval Abbey stones cried out to him to rebuild their resplendence.  While this man’s eulogy is the stuff from which tales are told, in 1938 he was a young captain emerging from World War I with a profound sense of God and a disillusioned notion of politics.  His awareness for social justice was as real as the grit and grime he saw daily on the faces of the unemployed in Govan.  But what is indeed legendary about this man was that he responded to the visions of a restored Iona Abbey, and a transformed church that would reconcile people and denominations from all over the world, a church that would become the Iona Community.

An Island 2

Cast (L to R): Keith Hutcheon, Andy Paterson, Adam Tomkins, Corinne Harris, Des O’Gorman, Lisa Moffat, David McBeath

This clarified sense of Rev. MacLeod and the beginning’s of the Iona Community was offered to us by means of theater and a fantastic troupe from Cutting Edge Theatre Productions.  Within the Iona Village Hall, we were given the gift of insight to the conditions that created the context of the rebuilding of the Abbey.  We laughed at the well written jokes and jests between volunteer men, present to this dream despite their social class dichotomies.  We were cut to the quick with the very real stories that occurred on this soil so that we could be afforded the luxury of comfortably lighting a candle in the sacred beauty of the Iona Abbey.

imgres-2Written by Alistair Rutherford, “An Island Between Heaven and Earth” presents the story of George MacLeod’s dream to transform stones into splendor and to reform the Church of Scotland in the doing so.  And, it worked!  His maverick methods caused many to question the social norms of the time and to work towards ecumenism and social justice.  To this day, the Iona Community continues to provide resources and relevant assistance to global issues of inequality and justice, while also providing a place to where people can gather in community, learn together and participate in worship.

This play provided the perfect reminder that when we come upon sacred sites and pilgrimage places, it is because something not only fabled and fanciful occurred, but something very real happened there.  And most likely something very hard-the kind of hard that pushes back on the status quo and demands something different.  The kind of real and the kind of hard that are flanked with reconciliation and transformation.  George MacLeod called Iona a “thin place”, with only “a tissue paper separating heaven and earth.”  I can’t help but believe that this kind of place occurs when the visions for what it means to live on earth come into alignment with what living is like on the other side.  Now, this is the stuff of legends that I want to surround myself!

Bravo, Cutting Edge Theatre Productions, bravo!

An Island Between Heaven and Earth

Cast (L to R): Rev. George MacLeod (Adam Tomkins), Bill Amos (Keith Hutcheon), Archie Dunlop (David McBeath), Bobby McKay (Des O’Gorman), Milorad Petrovitch (Andy Paterson), Dinah Fallon (Corinne Harris)

Iona Pentecost Pilgrimage: Day of Silence

cloister

The practice of silence is a way of opening up our ears and eyes to fresh and new awarenesses.  By quieting our tongue, we are able to listen in profound ways and by engaging silence; we are agreeing to listen to the still small voice of God.

Our Day of Silence invited our group to intentionally draw apart from one another and choose the quiet as a companion to our day.  The white, soft sand of the North Beach, inviting meditation benches, ancient pink walls of the Nunnery, and rocky, surf beaten shores of Iona’s southern side provided places in which we encountered the inarticulateness of ourselves and of God.  Following such an intense day of walking and reflections, this day of being alone with the elements was a welcomed respite.

Our normal lives are filled with amplified sound coming at us from all perspectives.  There are the very real noises of planes, trains and automobiles.  Then there are the myriad of subtle sounds-cell phones, text messages, Instand Messaging, and other modes of media. The demands of relationships can also offer up their own version of needy-noise.  We make pilgrimage to leave behind the normal structures of life to engage the Holy; we also must leave behind the noise so to better hear God.

Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon [God] in yourself.
-Teresa of Avila

rock northbeach2 Northbeach