You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.

Beatitude Poem

French Pantoum form. This poem uses words that suggest the beatitudes of Matthew 5 and Luke 6 but is written in a lyrical poetic style of deliberate repeats called a French Pantoum. Read it out loud to get a more intimate experience of the blessings.

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Janet O. Hagberg, 2012. All rights reserved.

Reflections on this poem

After each line ponder how you have been blessed in this way and pause to remember how each of these blessings has touched your life. If you have not felt blessed by some of them and desire that, just ask for that blessing. The core blessing is to receive God’s unconditional love.

                                         Is This God, or What?

I read a book recently about how science is beginning to decipher some of the mysterious happening in our lives. Mystery is usually left in the realm of faith but with more scientists and quantum physicists acknowledging a Master Mind, the interest in this non-linear world is increasing. Still, though, there does not seem to be unequivocal proof of something beyond us. However, no one can disprove it either. I’m intrigued by these studies but in the end, my relationship with God does not rest on what others can prove or disprove. It depends on my lived experience of the intimacy, love and power of God and the subsequent transformation of my life as a result. Interestingly, others agree. The author notes that a lot of us—more than 50%–have had at least one miraculous experience of a presence beyond us. She starts the book with this quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep you dreamed? And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven and plucked a strange and beautiful flower! And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?

I think of God as big–transcendent–as well as close and intimate–imminent. At times these two characteristics of God come together in wonderful, strange, humorous or even frightening ways. But most people never talk about these amazing occurrences even though they are apparently quite common.

Here is a sampling of these experiences that friends have shared with me.

• One friend experienced a spot of blue/white light in her bedroom one night that moved around the room and came from no identified source but offered her a deep kind of calm.

• Another person mentioned that, during a time of great unrest in her soul about what her calling was, she saw the word SING spelled out in the clouds. Her husband saw it too. She took it to mean that she had to find her voice in whatever her next career would be.

• A friend with cancer visited her oncologist’s office and saw a heavenly figure standing in the corner of the office soothing her in this time of stress.

• A colleague, after making a difficult decision about his housing, felt strong confirmation from a hawk that flew under his deck to his office window and sat there looking at him from a distance of about two feet. When he looked up the symbol of the hawk in a spiritual book, it suggested that hawks represent God’s grace.

• A woman sitting in the woods one day felt an overwhelming sense that everything in life; plants, people and animals are all deeply interconnected.

• A male friend was in the path of an out-of-control vehicle that should have hit him and all he remembers is that some non-human force pushed him out of the way so he was not even touched by the car.

• A woman friend was stranded in an unfamiliar place with a broken bike. A small garden shop owner helped her in exceptionally generous ways, even driving her across town to a bike shop. When she stopped to thank him, he just said, “Isn’t that what we’re all here for?” She felt quite strongly that he was an angel.

• And when my mother died at a young age, her spirit appeared to me to give me a guide for my life, a figure from a scripture story that was meaningful for me. That spiritual guide is still with me and gives me comfort and guidance.

I hope that you will add your own story to this listing, since 50% of you (or more in this group!) have a story to tell…

If so many people have these experiences, why don’t we talk about them more often? When someone is about to tell me one of these stories they usually say, “Well, I wouldn’t say this in public,” or “this may sound really strange to you.” Yes, these stories sound strange, maybe even irrational, but ultimately they feel undeniably spiritual—and intimate. Perhaps that is why we shy away from sharing them. So why do they happen and what can we do with them?

My experience is that these mysterious experiences are God’s way of breaking through barriers of time and space to speak directly to our hearts and souls. Since it is soul communication, it can’t be proven or disproven. The experiences bring about comfort or affirmation for some, while for others they are a way of capturing their attention, to call them to a more intimate relationship with God. For others, the experiences could even be a caution about a path they are on that may not be healthy. Sometimes these experiences are just God’s way of reminding us that God is here among us.

We can enter into an intellectual debate about these experiences but if we do, we may miss out on the grace of the experience, which is to TOUCH us in our deepest places. So when any of these experiences happen, stop, and be aware. Be grateful. Take it in. Let yourself be touched by God. Listen for deeper messages—you are loved, you are remembered, you matter to God. Ultimately God desires us to come closer, to be more vulnerable.

And if you are willing to answer the call to go deeper, just ask God to visit you again…

© Janet O. Hagberg, 2010. All rights reserved.
The book mentioned in this essay is Fingerprints of God, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

Reflections on this essay
What is the battle that goes on in you between the rational and the mysterious happenings in life?

How do you respond to Coleridge’s poem?

When have you had a mysterious unexplainable experience?

If this was the presence of God in your life, what difference did it make?

How do you allow God to touch you now?

What goes through your mind when you consider asking God to visit you again?

Janet O. Hagberg, 2012. Thanks to Michael Bischoff for putting the photos together.

 

Reflections on this poem:
Do you feel you were created in the image of God?
How does that effect your sense of self?
Do you feel God loves you?
How are you aware of that love?
How can you remind yourself of God’s divine creation and love for you?

The Elk that Stayed

I watched a nature show on TV this spring about a young couple who spent a year in the wilderness of Utah tracking wolves. Sometimes they sat in the same area for days waiting for the wolves to pass through. Their waiting eventually paid off when they saw the new wolf pups close up and recorded the wolves’ protective pack behaviors.

One particular scene from the documentary stayed with me and seeped more deeply into my psyche. The scene took place when the wolf pack came across a herd of elk. Wolves are natural predators of elk so the elk went on high alert and fled. But one of the elk had been injured during rutting season and could not move quickly. It stood on the top of a rise, silhouetted against the sky.

Now, we can all foretell what will happen next. In nature, the weak and vulnerable do not survive long. We all know the phrase survival of the fittest. I know this is a law of nature but it is still painful for me to watch. In this scene the wolves were gathering closer to the elk obviously stalking it and I did not want to watch the elk being attacked by the wolves. I was just about to change the channel when the young narrator said that something was about to happen that he had never seen before in nature. That got my attention so I kept watching, knowing that my remote was ten inches away.

What happened next was astounding. Another elk, a healthy one, came up the other side of the rise and stood between the wounded elk and the wolves, putting her own life in danger. For a moment nothing happened, just a very tense pause. Then silently and mysteriously the wolf pack backed off. The young narrator mentioned that even the next morning he saw the two elk walking around together.

This story resonated in me on a personal level.  I couldn’t help asking, “Have I ever been the elk that came up the other side of the rise into a precarious or dangerous situation to stand in the gap between the wounded and its predator?” Of course, I’d like to think I would do that but it is very hard to do, since I am one who seeks my own survival instinctively. We all do. We may be able to imagine protecting children, but what about standing in the gap, being a protector of another adult? What do we do when our own safety is affected?

I make no claims of courage or selflessness, but have, on occasion been a part of a process that helped women who are in abusive relationships leave their partners. Although I did not physically stand between the two, it felt like my spirit stayed in that gap, and the wounded women found safer lives.

But then a deeper question arises. When have I been the wounded one and someone stood in the gap for me? A male therapist once came between a dangerous person and me and told me gently and clearly what would become of me if I did not walk to safety. I am forever grateful to him for those words that filled that void and saved me.

An even deeper question arises: “When have I been part of a wolf pack encircling wounded or weaker people?” Certainly I have and need to admit it.

Spiritually I think the sacred elk-like figure who is always faithful in standing between us and predators is God.  Sometimes we are asked to play a part in God’s protection, like walking away from danger or reporting behavior to someone else or accepting that we are loved and worthy of safety. But it is always God, the courageous elk, who is standing there silhouetted on the rise for all to see. I savor that image. It gives me hope even if it seems to go against human nature. But in God even human nature can be changed. Amen.

 

ÓJanet O. Hagberg, 2012. All rights reserved.

Reflections on this essay

When have you noticed a scene in nature that you can relate to, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon or a rock clinging to a ledge?

When have you been a “healthy elk” choosing to stand between a wounded elk and a predator?

How have you been the wounded one and who stood in the void for you?

How has God been a “courageous elk” for you?

 

 

“Resting in God: In a Mother’s Womb”

Psalm 139:13 (NRSV)
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Isaiah 49:1 (NRSV)
The Lord called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.

© Janet O. Hagberg, 2007

Reflecting on this contemporary icon

Icons draw us into their images and symbols and take us closer to God. See what this icon has in store for you…

How does this icon draw you in and what do you experience when looking at it?

How does it feel for you to consider that God knew you when you were in your mother’s womb?

How do you imagine yourself resting in Mother God’s womb?

How has your mother been a special presence in your life?

What challenges has your mother brought to your life?

How are you a mother/mentor/muse to other people in your life? (this includes men who also have mothering qualities)

Subscribe for Email Updates