Scattered Thoughts on Spiritual Practice

So many things to write, talks coming up. Every day now I must devote myself to thinking on these things. I do some of my best thinking "out loud", and that's why I'm here. I hope you don't mind.

As of yesterday I was given an assignment to talk about beauty. It doesn't seem to fit with any of the other eight talks I have to deliver. I've been fussing with it.

This morning I woke thinking about the last words I typed in last night...

Beauty has a shape. It is dimensional.

I don't know what that means. Except it somehow fits with a conversation I had with a friend, about what prayer looks like. I said I think prayer isn't just sitting alone in a room, staring at the four walls and saying some kind of obligatory words. I said I think maybe praying could be as simple as this: go on a hike, with a sense of openness and a willingness to compose (think David and his poems) and all of it in a posture of "here I am God."

Prayer has a shape then too, a shape that includes footfalls, rock climbing, touching dirt, maybe picking wildflowers. It's seems to me this is the primary prayer shape recorded from Jesus' life. And he went out into the hills. (that's my paraphrase). There were the Festivals too, great times of prayer and devotion. These were also dimensional (one of my favorites is when they would pour water out of jugs, onto the pavement, for the Feast of Tabernacles).

Have we pared spiritual practice down to a thing we do with pencils and books, barely dimensional? And, as we instinctually know about beauty when it is pressed flatter and flatter, have we lost something vital along the way?

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Haiti at Tomatillo

I have been slow to put into words the disaster that is Haiti— until we received a difficult call on our way to a Mexican restaurant. Somehow the call and the ordinary moments that followed converged; I didn't eat much supper but rather watched my family and opened my hands to a poem...

"Haiti at Tomatillo"

Roasted winter
squash and black
bean burrito, with
cilantro pesto sauce

sounded good,
promised maybe,
so I ordered

but it wasn't what
I hoped it would be;
my littlest daughter
poured tomatillo salsa

on rice, lettuce crisp,
her eyes brimmed
hot tears, chin quivered,

"It's spicy," she said,
"the bad thing is you
can't unspice it." And
I remembered his

words in answer to
the call, just as we'd
been looking to turn

onto Cedar Street.
It seemed to me he
was meeting the voice
on the other end

with a mirror tone
of soft muted sorrow,
"They found the body?"

and I imagined his friend's
face on the line nodding
yes, black eyes melting, yes
black like the eyes of

the hostess here, black
like forever. My husband
now lifting a red plastic

cover, noting with a turn
of parchment paper
that indeed his last
tortilla had slipped by;

so he did what anyone
might do and closed
the empty container.

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Lost Where I'm Supposed to Be

I do not have many words these days. It is inconvenient. I have multiple speaking engagements on the horizon. I feel a bit lost (it is, I guess, the quintessential experience of being "at a loss for words.")

Imagine the comfort then, when I found this tonight...

"And remember the journey of the children of Israel as the followed God out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Tracing their route throughout the forty years of wandering... would suggest that they were lost. But they were precisely where they were supposed to be..." (from Benner's Sacred Companions.)

Where am I? At a loss for words, I seem to be more in pictures these days. Maybe I am lost where I'm supposed to be...

"Lost Where I'm Supposed to Be" in soft pastel, by L.L. Barkat

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