Friday, October 28, 2011

Prayer by Maya Angelou

Father, Mother, God
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have 
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy, 
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most--Peace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Reflections Written During My Stay at Incarnation Monastery

Monday, October 26, 2009

Listening to the sound of a train's whistle crescendo as it races through town and a bird sounding like a bad imitation of a crying baby drowns out more familiar melodies of chirping birds. But the winds just listen, like me, this beautiful sunny, baby-blue sky morning--listening for God. Wondering what God will say to me today.

Beauty and wisdom can be found up or down; up and down.  As I stopped to rest on my hike back to the monastery, I looked down.  And there among the Berkeley greenery I saw a gray rock (painted it seemed) with clusters of three-leaf clovers growing around one side out of the dark rich soil.  The three-leaf clover is a cultural symbol of luck; and one doubles one’s luck if among them one discovers a four-leaf variety.  “Between a rock and a hard place” (in this case the cement sidewalk) this felicitous and iconic plant grows and thrives. If it can do so “between a rock and a hard place,” surely we can too because God is our rock, our refuge, and a very present help in times of trouble. 

I wondered to what extent one could detect the changing of the seasons in California.  The weather, of course, turns a bit chillier; although it has been pretty warm most of my days here.  But the maple tree lives here as in the mid-west and east. Geography makes no difference. Whether she is planted in Ohio or California, in the Fall her locks turn butterscotch, burnt orange, pomegranate red, and they fall from her head leaving behind bald branches.  But in the spring, as in the east, she will again don a full head of healthy lush hair.  This late October day in fall, her discarded leaves lay a carpet on the ground and become crisp beneath my California feet.  Geography makes no difference for other things as well.  An African American woman sporting a natural hair style always elicits some stares as well as interesting and crazy comments, even from other black women.  This happens from coast to coast.  How beautiful are the falling leaves and the confident black woman with the natural do from east to west. God designed both.

Thursday, October 29
I had a final lunch with my cousin buddy.  I’m glad we had the time together to reconnect.  We ate at an Italian fast food restaurant around the corner from his job.  He had chicken primavera and I had vegetables and spaghetti – it was very good.  My Italian lessons are paying off.  Early into my lessons I noticed the close similarities between Latin and Italian—many of the verbs and nouns are the same. One of the menu items at the restaurant read “Frutti di Mare.”  I remembered “mare” as the Latin word for “sea.”  The description was shrimp, mussels and other shellfish – “fruit of the sea.”  Languages open up a side of the world that otherwise would be closed to us.

My cousin gave me a parting present of a post-card magnet of Oakland.  He collects them.  I presume the one he purchased while we were at Jack London’s square replaced the one he gave me among the collection that covers his green refrigerator.  I purchased a pair of hiking shoes from Buddy’s store with a 40% discount as a relative.  They are very comfortable and I’m looking forward to wearing them in Naples....

This evening I felt a little sad about leaving Berkeley and the monastery.  This place has grown on me; it is beautiful; it has become a part of me.

Father M knocked on my door last evening to say good-bye.  We had a short conversation, and I discovered that he is a doctoral student at the Graduate Theological Union – in his second year.  He primarily takes courses at the Jesuit School.  I discovered he is not a Camaldolese monk, like others, but a Benedictine monk; they are related, however.

Friday, October 30

I set the alarm on my cell phone for 6:20 am so that I could attend my last laud and vesper service with the monks.  Today, as a result of my conversation with Father M last evening, I paid closer attention to the hymnal.  It contains songs and prayers, but most of the litanies are taken directly from the Bible—primarily it seems from the Psalms and the prophetic books.  Today the readings were of Psalms 100 and 51.  After Father T read from the Gospel, we entered into a few minutes of contemplative silence.  Father A prayed for me—my future as I leave this place.  It warmed my soul.  It is always nice to have someone prayer for you.  My mother prayed for all of her children.  When she could not sleep at night, she would sit on the side of the bed.  And I remember asking her what she was doing—she said praying for her children.  I hope to get to the point that when I cannot sleep instead of laying there like a blank slate allowing any and all thoughts to parade through my mind, that I will take the opportunity to connect with God in the silence of my body’s discontent.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Third Excerpt from my Stay at Incarnation Monastery

Sunday, October 18.

Missed the morning service with the Monks. ...Took the short cut from the Monastery again. (Paced myself better going back up; but that last block was a female dog!) Decided I would find the restaurant that posted their menu on a chalkboard out front advertising a fried trout dinner with mango salsa for $14.95.  Thought I found it; but instead something great found me.  It turns out that during the day the restaurant donates space to CharityFocus, which runs the Karma Kitchen.  This group takes over the restaurant on Sunday afternoons and serves Indian food on a pay-it-forward basis.  Once you’ve eaten, you receive a bill for $0 and an envelope in which you can place any amount of money or no money, depending on your ability to pay or not.  The idea is that your meal has already been paid for by the previous patron(s), and any money you place in your envelope helps pay for the next person’s meal.  Great idea!  And the food was great.  I had a little bit of everything on the menu—it was limited, but good.  And limited is relative when you think of half the children around the world who subsist on a grain of rice or come one step closer to starving to death.  The mango lassi was the best I had tasted in a long while.

Because I was dining alone, I sat at what became a community table.  What happened next proved providential. Within a few minutes one of the volunteers asked if I minded if a young lady joined me.  I looked up and there stood a young African American woman, Amber, in about her early 30s. None of us (the volunteer, Amber, and myself) were California natives.  The volunteer had only left England a week earlier; Amber, my table mate, was only three years out of New Orleans having survive hurricane Katrina.  Amber said a therapist told her she had post-traumatic distress disorder as a result of Katrina. But the good news was she could also experience post-traumatic stress recovery.  She was majoring in neurology and music.  We talked about meditation, among other things; how we must be comfortable with letting the mind wander, not yielding to the temptation to reign in our thoughts before we can fully identify what our mind is thinking. Made perfect sense to me. What made my encounter and conversation with Amber so providential was the conversation I had with my friend Sheila the day before. Sheila and I had discussed meditation. How did she understand meditation? How do we control our minds that are so proned to wander...?

Tuesday, October 21, 2009

I can’t seem to stay out of the book stores.  I’m drawn to them like ants to bread crumbs.  As I browsed the clearance section of [name’s] book store, an African American man came in to sell some books to the store.  This book store buys and sells books and keeps no inventory of what books are on its shelves—I know, because I asked.  The man selling his books wore light pink soiled pants and talked very loudly, but not obnoxiously so.  He was very gregarious and had no inhibitions about speaking to anyone in the store—even me.  He provoked my first laugh of the day—don’t even remember what he said now—but I remember how good it felt to laugh.  The man also shared that a store nearby had a special of two bottles of wine for one and he was going there to take advantage of it.  As he left he shouted something else at me, don’t remember it either; just know it made me laugh.  This man was obviously not as well off, financially, as others in the store at that moment—but his soul was happy and that happiness spilled over—no, it oozed out upon those he encountered.  I think he said something like life is too short to be sad about anything.  Yet, many of us are mad about any and everything and that madness spills over into the lives of those we meet.

While I was in the store I purchased three more books—two were clearance books that I got for $1.00 each and one was $6.98.  One of the clearance books is about meditation.  The first few pages have already been helpful.  Meditation is about “being.”  Being present in the moment.

I am learning to pace myself better as I return up the mountainside.  I am so accustomed to walking quickly that it is difficult to slow down. Today I achieved a slower more rhythmic pace.  Upon reflection, I tend to operate on the premise, consciously and unconsciously, in everything I do, that it is better to tackle unpleasant tasks quickly and get them out of the way.   This modus operandi does not work when climbing steep mountains; it just makes you more afraid they might kill you! lol

Still taking the “short cut” back up the mountain—the last leg before reaching the cement stair case is the worst.  So I called my friend and colleague Sheila again, thinking this would be a good time to discuss a theological issue concerning women and beauty that was asked of me earlier via email.  Although the conversation took my mind off the climb making it less painful—I even walked part of it backwards—the effect on my sweat glands was the same—I was drenched again.  I wonder when will my body stop reacting in this way.

At sunset today, about 6:30, I witnessed, in a matter of seconds, the San Francisco fog slithering across the Berkeley sky like an opaque monster; covered everything; detroyed my view of the bay from my room. Things change quickly, but God has so wonderfully constructed us that our bodies, our minds, our spirits and souls can adjust, if we so desire and choose.

On thing that never changes in every city and college town, whether it is Harvard square in Cambridge, Mass or Berkeley, CA the home of the UnivCal Berkeley campus, people are homeless.  With some their homeless status is evidenced by the overloaded carts that prop them up and store all their earthly possessions—their mobile homes without walls or floors or ceiling.  ...As Christians or ethical people who believe in God or a higher power, we should adjust to meet the needs of our fellow human beings—should we not?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Second Excerpt from my Stay at Incarnation Monastery, Berkeley, CA

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The day started out cloudy, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be forced to fast again since I was not going to walk down the mountain in the heavy rain.  But the sun marched through the clouds, and the temperature rose to a comfortable 65 degrees.  After some reading, I put on my tennis shoes and walked down the mountain to find something to eat. (Don't know which was worse on my knees & legs, going down or coming back up; both could be painful!). When I reached a level terrain, I stopped at the first restaurant I saw on the opposite side of Shattuck called “Crepevine.”  It offered a wonderful selection of healthy foods. I chose the grilled salmon with avocado on wheat bread with a salad and potatoes – very good. After lunch, I decided to venture on toward the University of California at Berkeley, past the Bart train station and almost to Bancroft.  My cousin Buddy works at Bancroft and Telegraph.  I would meet him for lunch on the coming Friday.  Walking back toward the monastery, I decided to sit and drink a café moca at a small coffee shop and mentally prepare myself for the steep, sweaty trek back up the mountain.

...When I got back I changed my sweaty clothes to attended the evening vespers service again at 5 pm.  Father A led out this time wearing the green stole over his cream colored robe.  It seems the officiating monk for the evening wears the green stole; the monks alternated officiating over the service.  But Father T always led the chanting and litany.  Perhaps this is because he is the senior monk.  I prayed when I entered the sanctuary for God’s Spirit to move upon my heart and in the room.  God is always willing to move upon us like God's Spirit moved upon the face of the deep in Genesis, hovering over the waters.  God never disappoints in this regard.  Several words transformed me in that moment.  Father Matthew read, “my soul waits for God in silence.”  Wow… every time I thought of it, God’s spirit touched my soul so that it overflowed and tears poured out through the opening of my eyes.  Those words touched a place in me, unexpectedly.  I had been alone reading the word, silently and aloud, praying, seeking for a word from God.  Sometimes it’s all about the silence, not the words of scripture or the melody of a song, but that space in time not manufactured, not fabricated, but just permitted to be.  Another word from Father A about the gospel parable of the wheat and the tares also fed my soul that evening.  Most interpreters read that parable as a dichotomy between us and them or as a caveat not to become, or to beware lest one become, the tares. Father Andrew noted that the tares and the wheat are found within each of us.  Something we need never forget.  Powerful!