The eyes have it-vision,insight,and light

cropped-the-two-shall-become-one.jpgArtwork Vanessa Bruce

Have you heard the old saying? The eyes have it? What does this mean? Ot how about the eyes are the window of the soul? Or the evil eye?

Eyes are complex, next to the brain, one of the most complex organs of the body.

Eric R. Kandel is a neurobiologist, Professor at Columbia University, author of several books on brain science and Nobel Prize winner of 2000 in Physiology and Medicine.

He wrote a book in 2012 titled The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain. 

He delves into the well-respected artist, Gustave Klimt at the turn of the 19th century; now labeled the art of the unconscious. It was a time in Austria’s culture that Klimt left traditional art and led the way to expressing on canvas the inner working of the mind and emotions of people.  It was called the Art Succession– Secession  refers to a number of modernist artist groups that separated from the support of official academic art and its administrations in the late 19th and early 20th century.

He was followed later by Oska Kokashaka, the first Austrian expressionist who chose to strip away the beauty of Klimt’s display of the soul. Oska wanted to paint the agony and rawness of the soul, the inner workings in a new form.

Sigmund Freud work was also gaining a presence and following at this time in Austria.  The rising of awareness and exploration of the human psyche originating in Austria and catching like wildfire subsequently in Europe and America.

In Kandel’s book, he incorporates the visual way we perceive art through the literal physiology of the eye.

The eyes do have it! It begins with the cones and rods in the eyes (cause for direct vision and periphery vision). On the cellular level, the retinal ganglion cells use receptors to take in critical information and reduce the minimal information through the eyes. This is called action and inhibitor.  It is the difference in absorbing light in ways that we are able to see contours and contrasts.

The retina in the eyes transforms and encodes an image from the visual world into action potential. This is where the information is conveyed to the lateral geniculate nucleus and then finally to the brain (the thalamus) which travels to the cerebral cortex (the large part of our brains). Here it deconstructs and constructs the information and creates the representational image we call seeing.

The message is the eye goes through all the mechanisms which we have no awareness of; seeing seems so common, so expected as part of our vital senses. Vision gives us different perspectives, different insights, and lastly it lets light in and gives us definition of shapes and colors and sizes. It guides us and navigates our way in this world.

Which turns me away from the art and physiology to another subject- the use of the word light in scripture. There are so many verses with so many meanings. Christ claimed to be The Light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life (John 8:12). Or Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines a light on you (Luke 11:36).

In Isaiah 9:2 (the Old Testament) the prophet writes-The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. Genesis 1:4 says that God saw the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.  The book of Proverbs gives a definition of the human spirit-The human spirit  is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being (Proverbs 20:17).

There are more than 100 references in the Bible regarding the word light. Why? why next to the word Life, Salvation, and Spirit are there so many?

Kandel explains with great depth how the eye filters and receives light. His predecessor, the Austrian  scientist, Stephen Kuffler was the first scientist to examine vision  and how the  eyes’ retina affected visual stimuli (1959 Harvard Medical School). His successors David Hubel and Tortsen Weisel shared a Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1981 for their work on information processing in the visual system.

Great minds studying light and the eye. Kandel regarding the courageous and radical  artists that broke away from traditional art to explore the inner workings of the mind of humans. Large amounts of verses in the Bible emphasizing light as critical to the inner  spiritual man. It’s all about seeing and receiving -on the cellular level, on the visual level, and on the spiritual level.

I ponder all these things but, I especially want to go deep with the meanings of the word light. The light has so many meanings: illumination (literally and figuratively); a lamp or match or daylight; the aspect of a subject or belief, its perspective, angle of interpretation; and understanding-comprehension, insight, awareness. and the expert-the leader, the guide, authority and master.

Taking these definitions and plugging them into those 100+ verses might give us more depth of understanding and a guiding light (sorry for the play on words-couldn’t resist).We might receive insight and illumination within our mind and emotions (the heart), and we might be guided in a new way.

Rather literally, figuratively,  artistically, or spiritually, the eyes do have it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Self Preservation or Self Giving?

I haven’t done a lot of preserving of food in my life. In fact the last time I did preserve  was peaches  only a week before my youngest daughter’s birth (yes lots of energy and nesting).

jar-peach-jam-fresh-fruits-homemade-rustic-wooden-table-selective-focus-77007386

Preserving vegetables or fruit is a way to keep the food for a long period in order to have it in the future, to protect it from rotting or going bad.

How do we self-preserve? As humans at the primal level we are wired to preserve ourselves- fight or flight, a moment when we either need to physically protect ourselves or/and when we are protecting our emotions which may be fear-based emotions.

I would say for those of living in first world (as opposed to the third world filled many times with life-threatening situations), we are not trying to preserve our life from wild animals or starvation. But constantly we are preserving our emotional situations from being attacked or wounded.

Self-giving is an act of love and compassion for ourselves. It is a loving act of recognizing we are human with needs that are important to us thriving. It’s not a narcissistic motivation or a self-absorption. That falls in the category of self-preservation.  Self-giving might have a motivation of protection- removing oneself from a toxic environment. If someone is yelling at my child, I will immediately remove them from the presence of this person to protect my child. As adults however, if we were not given care, we may subject ourselves to toxic or unsafe situations or people.

Does giving then grow out of self-care? It can and cannot. Sometimes giving is the gateway to caring for oneself.

Giving has different motivations and forms. But usually giving stems from a concern or a love for the person or cause. We just celebrated Mother’s Day this past Sunday. Have you ever wondered why it is always on a Sunday? I think it’s because it is a Biblical based observing of rest. And we know Mothers need rest!

Most Mothers live a life of giving-their love, their devotion to the cause of parenting, and willing to sacrifice their own personal needs for that of her offspring. And they may not do a lot of self-caring in Mother mode, but their hearts grow and their understanding usually grow as a result of caring for others. But is really important for Mothers to take the time for self-care.

If you look at the spiritual leaders through time, they all spent time in self-care, meditation, praying and setting time apart to find rest and refreshment for their souls.

Jesus pulled away from the crowds desiring self-care, to be still and hear God’s voice and direction, to be filled with the glory of God. And in his final hour as a human, he sought God out to ensure crucifixion was necessary. Perhaps this is when self-preservation kicked in for Jesus. And yet, he was willing, more willing than dying a horrible death, to listen to the real reason and truth of what his death would yield, the impact it would make on the world.

It says in John 17 that Jesus prayed for himself first and then for the disciples.  He also left the crowds pulling on him to heal. Many times he would leave one crowd to go to another village because God spoke to him to minister to others. A hard thing to do if  the present crowd still has needs. John 17, Mark 1:35, Matthew 5

God is love. Self-giving is giving God to ourselves; it is seeking the spiritual restoration of our hearts. And this form of self-giving is a way for us to give freely from a place of love and not from a place of preservation. If the time of reflecting or praying or meditating does not result in Love pouring into our hearts and outward to others, then self-preservation is hiding somewhere and keeping you from trusting the source.

These are just my thoughts, my impressions of my own spiritual walk and journey in life. You may have a different view point- which is a great platform for discussion and contemplation.

After I preserved my peach marmalade, I kept some for for my family and me to enjoy. And the rest I gave away to friends- a gesture of my love and appreciation. So could you also call preservation of food a form of self-caring and caring for other?. I don’t think so! But self-caring and caring are results of preserving the good of God in ourselves and others.

My prayer for myself and for you is that you are flooded with the love of God and self-caring will naturally follow!

Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul. Love yourself as you love your neighbors.

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Sweet Death

They died today, a slow death.

Blossoms extended fully, their last breath,

Sweet and intoxicating.

 

You appeared last Friday evening, with two dozen of them wrapped in cellophane.

A surprise! Heart leaping in my chest, I took them from you with a kiss.

 

These were not those kind of roses, a de rigueur’ of red,

which I disdain except in Winter.

Glorious colors of joyful orange, shades of soft peach and tangerine

tipped in brilliant pink.

My favorite choice; how did you know?

 

Cutting the ends of their long legs, dipping them in water,

they were crowded together in the crystal,

each sticking their head out and smiling up at me.

 

One week later, I took them out of their water vessel.

Plucking the petals off each head,

it felt cruel when all they had given me was joy.

How do I preserve the memory of them?

How do I hold onto to essence of each one?

 

I did it the wrong way.

You’re supposed to hang them together tied by a string, upside down.

Like Peter, the apostle of Christ who felt it unworthy to be hung like him,

I wonder if all the colors would be drained like Peter’s blood?

All the life, all the joy?

 

I gathered the soft petals and lay them gently, down upon the covers of my bed.

Spread them out while the overhead fan hushed them with a breeze.

 

Hours later, I checked.

They dried properly,

Their death only intensified the colors,

curling up , looking as if I had spilled a large bag of mixed tarot chips.

 

Piled in a bowl now, sitting where they stood before, tall and vibrant.

Now only a memorial to you.

 

Victoria Yeary

Friday evening, May 12th

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The Invitation By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I have a book of poetry. I rarely pick it up, but today I sifted through looking for inspiration. This is Oraiah Mountain Dreamer. Her poem epitomizes so much of what is real and important for all of us. I hope you enjoy!

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

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Mickey Mouse, French Fries and Ethiopian Hamburgers

It was my first visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I had just spent three and a half weeks in Nairobi, Kenya with my work. I was tired and ready to return stateside.

Having arrived into Addis on an early Friday evening, my driver, Brook (His American name) had arranged a whole day of sightseeing for Saturday.  We traveled to the museum that housed Lucy the first  and earliest woman recorded to date.

We went up to the hills outside Addis and saw ancient churches. . And then in the evening, we went Ethiopian shoulder dancing. Yes, I participated in this unusual dancing ritual but I’m saving that for another blog story!

Sunday, I decided to stay close to the hotel and just rest. I had another full week of work in the office.
Around four o’clock, I was really hungry and decided to venture out on my own. I walked down a long boulevard near my hotel and found a place called ROOMIE BURGERS.

There were people outside in the cool air enjoying food with big English letters spilled across a red painted sign proclaiming good hamburgers and good service. Fair enough I thought. Looks like a good place to stop.

Upon entering the establishment I was greeted by a very exuberant, costumed fellow- Mickey Mouse, complete with large four fingered gloves, fuzzy gloves and a bit dirty on the ends of the fingertips. Enthusiastically greeting me, he inquired quickly where I was from. I said Amercia. Mickey became even more excited and taking the mouth of the costume, with his big fuzzy white gloves, he pried the mouth of Mickey wide and stuck out his face.

“I have been trying for twenty years to go to America!” he said.  So eager was he, I felt bad that he had been unsuccessful. Mickey seated me and quickly a young guy speaking Amharic and really, hardly a smidgen of English, presented a plasticized coved menu.

Hamburgers listed with all kinds of toppings. I prefer a classic burger and fries. I found the burger listed but not the fries. The waiter turned the menu over and pointed to the fries. Okay, I thought- a la carte.

Mickey scooted over why the waiter took my order- a side of fries and a burger. He wanted to ensure the woman from America was taken care of.

Only a few minutes later, a large plate of thickly cut fries arrived at my table, along with a mustard bottle and a serving plate. The waiter began to squeeze the yellow dispenser onto the plate. “No!” I said. I did not want mustard. I asked him to bring the ketchup- the red bottle! He looked confused.

Mickey came over again, and poking his face out of the mouth of Mickey, asked me what I needed. “Ketchup please- the red bottle.” I pointed to another table where a bottle was sitting. Mickey grabbed a red bottle and began to remove the yellow one.

“No, please leave that. I want it for my hamburger.”

Now Mickey and the waiter looked confused. They left me in peace to eat my fries. As I squeezed the red bottle, ketchup appeared. I tasted before squirting over my fries. Oh boy! This is not your Heinz 57! it tasted as if someone in the kitchen was familiar with what ketchup looked like but not how it tasted. I put the red bottle back.

Then out of curiosity, I squeezed the yellow bottle onto the plate. Ketchup again! No wonder they were confused as to why I wanted two ketchup bottles.

I sat there growing hungry and wondering why it was taking so long. I was trying hard not to plow into the fries.

I saw two young men come in thirty minutes later and be seated (by Mickey). Which by the way, Minnie was there too, sitting on a chair inside the restaurant, shaking her little Minnie black heels and looking totally bored!

Soon after the men were seated, they were chowing down on their burgers. Something is amiss I said to myself.

I left my table, went into the interior of the restaurant and found Mickey hanging out near the kitchen.

” I have not received my burger yet. Why?”

Mickey called the waiter. He came quickly. Mickey asked him something in Amharic. He answered as well in his native tongue. Mickey turned to me, and again thrusting his head through the mouth of the costume (I’ll never forget that sight!),  he said, “He thought you did not want a hamburger.”

“Why? I asked>

” Because you ordered a large plate of fries.”

The logic (if there was any) failed me. “Why wouldn’t he also put my order in for a burger?”

Mickey replied, ” Because fries come with the burger! Why would you want two orders of fries?”

I was a bit thrown off with the reply and my blood sugar was not particularly stable at this point. “The menu did not say the burger comes with fries. It is why I ordered them separately.”

“Oh no Miss! In Ethiopia fries always come with hamburgers.”

Now I have to stop here and say, if this cardinal rule of the absolute pairing of burger and fries is known, it was not in the tourist book I had with me!

Mickey did what any good Ethiopian would do. What? get me a burger ordered right away with great apologies?  Noooo! He wanted me to make good with the waiter.

By now, Mickey was doing his best to show his face, talk and with one somewhat worn glove place it on the waiter’s chest. “You are not upset with him? Please make good. Please make good.”

I quickly got it. The last thing they wanted was a conflict. Ethiopians are very proud but also very much about being polite and saving face. Mickey wanted me to not be upset or show any disapproval of the waiter. This was most important- over my burger.

I wasn’t angry as much as confused and hungry! Mickey kept repeating himself.

I finally gave up, asked for my ticket, paid and returned to the hotel hungry.

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When I arrived at the office the next day (still hungry), I relayed my story. Everyone had a good laugh!

The week flew by and on Friday, my coworker, Asegid took me during lunch hour to a place where I could buy a half a suitcase full of bonafide Ethiopian coffee for cheap!

Afterwards, he asked if I wanted to grab lunch?

“Sure, I replied.”

He sheepishly asked me, “Do you want to go eat a burger and fries?”

I laughed and said yes.

He drove to a place that was a small alley of eating establishments lined along the road and facing each other.

Some of the burger joints were, Smash burger, In and Out, Mediterranean Burgers, Mc Donald burgers. I had hit the jackpot for burgers.

Real American eating burger joints? No!! Just take the name of these large franchises and slap it on the front of your place!

I laughed inwardly and Asegid led me to “In and Out Burger.”

We sat in a booth outside. The inside of the restaurant looked very dim.  The waiter brought us menus. Pictures this time on the plasticized menu! There it was, the cardinal Ethiopian practice, a photo of a burger with a side of fries nestled right next to the bun. Yeah! I could have both.

The waiter came back with our ordered drinks. I smiled and said, “I’ll have the burger and fries.”

He popped back at me, “Sorry. You can have the burger, but the electricity is out. No fries!”

Asegid and I burst out laughing! And we ordered the burgers sans fries.

I guess I have one more thing to add to my bucket list now- travel to Ethiopia and have American burger and fries!

 

 

 

 

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Living in the Present-A Light Unto My Path

Living in the Present is a term we use today to express living in the moment and not in the past or future. It is a training of our minds, hearts and steps. How do we do this when we are preoccupied or anxious due to life stressors or our internal beliefs?

I was in the check out line yesterday and having a light conversation with Brent the guy checking me out- By the way, I believe part of Trader Joe’s hiring criteria is hiring outgoing, upbeat people.

Someone called me and though I answered the call, I asked if I could call back because I was checking out. The caller said sure, and I returned to the task of the transaction. I apologized to Brent for the interruption of a call. He was surprised. He was just happy that I acknowledged him, that I didn’t treat him like a robot as some customers.

BEING PRESENT is not a new thing. Being conscious is not a new way to be at peace. If we follow the teachings of Jesus; the psalms of David; the words of Isaiah the prophet, we find that constantly they were admonishing others to walk presently, to ask for guidance, to trust.

I have trouble being really present in my life and in the moment of now. Who isn’t? How we process fear and anxiousness in our life interferes or is an obstacle to being present. And when matters of the heart show up, I have a lot of fear.

I am what they have categorized as a separation sensitive in the attachment theory research of how our childhood attachment is carried throughout our lives. Separation sensitives have a need to be close to others, especially in their romantic life. It gives us a feeling of security. If we don’t experience this feeling of closeness, our insecurity rises up in the form of anxiousness. We tend to feel lonelier than other types.

Which means, when we don’t have this, we tend to have trouble not figuring out what is down the road and are fearful of being rejected or abandoned. We want more than anything to protect ourself by knowing before it’s time to know what the outcome is.

There are two other types of attachment-Safety -Sensitive and Secure.  Safety’s are just the opposite of Sensitive’s. They feel smothered by intimacy and pull away. They are dismissive of love.  Secure’s are neither types. They are more balanced in the range of the other two- think in the middle of the scale.

In the past month, I experienced a lot of anxiousness around relationship. And I have had to calm myself but in a different way than my past practices. I have returned to my faith. Sought it out intentionally, so that I could find trust again in myself and God. Surrender  has become a place of comfort and peace. Reading words such that describe God’s light and its guidance has helped me find a way to help with anxiousness.  2 Corinthians 4:6 Let the light shine out of darkness-the light of the knowledge of God’s glory. or Psalm 119:105 My word is a lamp to your feet and a light for your path. 

I am constantly feeding my soul with words, music and prayers in order to calm myself and to hear the truth of the present. Only then can I gain perspective and not fall into the patterns of the past.

The study reports that children who do not find a parent or main caretaker calming them when they experience fear usually have the hardest time and will act out or demand attention in another way. The have such a hard time calming themselves and even others can’t calm the child except that parent. An example is when a child is dropped off in the nursery or day care and cries constantly for the parent. They just want to feel the arms of their father or mother around them-the world is safe again.

But our only true safety is anchored in a hope beyond our human frame. There are four levels of hope. Ron Johnson of Restoration Community Church spoke of these four levels:

Level 1: Wishful Thinking: that daydreaming or throwing out there a thought of what might be or what you desire.

Level 2: Blind Optimism: So optimistic that you ignore the warning signs or not able to deal with the true nature of what is going on within and without you.

Level 3: Goals and Dreams: Diligent plans and aspirations. At this level many people believe they have hope-security. But life can change the direction of your life very quickly.

Level 4: Promises of God’s hope and Love: This can be the deepest level of hope-the anchor that holds you in the fiercest storms of life.

Emmet Fox lived in the late 1980’s through the early 1900’s. He wrote a very small book (6 pages) about the golden key. He believed that  when a person would have a difficulty or had trouble with thoughts or anxiousness, if instead of dwelling on the problem, he would say statements such as God is for me; God is love; God loves me; etc. a person could change the thoughts and change the course of their lives. This was the golden key.

Emmet Fox began the new thought school of how to change a person’s life. It was called the science of prayer. Many traditional Christians may not like this idea- but let’s strip away definitions and look at what he is saying: He is using scripture and refuting negative thoughts with them. And it is effective. Whole schools of thought have risen up in the last few years trying to help people improve and create a more powerful life. Only these schools of thought have removed God and scripture.

It’s not about empty affirmations- it’s about believing that if you replace negative or troublesome thoughts with God affirming thoughts, you will be changed- more grateful, more aware of God’s goodness and love. It is about living in the present.

So the verse regarding a lamp unto my feet are the words of God-living words to correct and guide us, and keep us trusting and in the present. For me? an effective way to love myself and those around me. Jesus calls us to be present, to seek guidance and direction and from the spiritual walk comes the walk in this present life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thy Will Be Done

It is 4:00 am in the morning. My heart is restless. It is in the deep folds of the early AM that I can listen and hear the messages I need to hear.

Thy Will Be Done is a line in the Lord’s Prayer. It is the prayer Jesus uttered in the garden late in the night, before his judgement, before his betrayal by Judas, before his judgement before Pontius Pilot (Matthew 26: Verses 39 &42). He asked for the cup to pass over him-his final act of humaness-the crucifixion.  It is the prayer we utter as Christians. It is an act of surrender when we have stopped working the problem or realizing we have no control over the situation.

But so many times it is the first prayer after our own struggles and angst. At least for me it is. I feel as I’ve given up some sort of fight, some sort of solution. I have thrown my hands up in surrender.

I don’t think that is what They Will Be Done means. It doesn’t mean I have done all the figuring out, all the questions and now, I am no further along, so I give up and give in!

So what is it? Surrender is another way to look at it. And the word surrender feels like I really have given up. But nothing is done in the physical world that is worthy unless it is done in the spiritual first.

Spiritual means all sorts of things to many people. I was speaking with a new friend yesterday. He had gone skiing the day before in the middle of the week. Practically alone on a mountain and having the privilege of viewing a vast panorama of the snow covered mountains, he said he felt something beyond himself-tremendous gratefulness and love. I named it God, but he was stuck on this label. And many people are because they think that Thy Will Be Done is a prison sentence, something that affects their free will. I asked him if we could agree that God is Love, and so we could just say he was experiencing Love on the mountaintop. And he was! He was experiencing Love- the Creator’s Love.

Does Thy Will Be Done mean I don’t have a choice? Like Christ asking twice if the cup of sacrifice could be passed over him? I don’t think so. I think it means we don’t know many times what is going on in our lives. We don’t know the answers. Or we can’t change someone or a situation. Surrendering has different meanings. I looked it up! There is cease resistance to an enemy or authority; give or hand over; in sports it means lose a point or advantage; and then my favorite is abandon oneself entirely to a powerful  emotion or influence. 

What if surrender and the words They Will Be Done really means getting lost in God’s Love? Yielding to a powerful emotion of rest and peace and knowing? Even if you don’t like what you see or experiencing?

I have many situations in my life where I want to figure it out- especially in relationships. I want to know so I can control my feelings, so I can make wise decisions and not be overwhelmed by my own emotions. Emotions can cause us hurt, be vulnerable to an outcome we are not sure of. And what is more vulnerable than surrendering? Jesus was very vulnerable in the garden asking God to pass the cup. He had a mission, a job to do, but when it came down to the last act, he wanted to avoid the pain. He knew what the last note of his life would look like, even though he also knew the hope of a resurrection.

Why is it so hard to trust? And please, platitudes we Christians throw around as if we are really doing this are empty and full of pretending.  But what if we didn’t see this as giving up our choices, our free will,  but seeing and feeling it as being in the throes of heavenly Love that brings a sweet surrender? I want that kind of surrender-trusting beyond what I can see or figure out.

I’d like to share a poem I wrote ten years ago. I was working at a church as a youth administrator while going back to school for my graduate degree. I really liked working at a church. We had a beautiful chapel and there stood on a large wood stand a very large, hammered bronze bowl used for the baptismal. It shone and gleamed. And one day during our weekly chapel for staff, I saw the bowl as something else. This poem came. It is about surrender:

The Bowl of Tears 

You have fed them with the bread of tears;

You have made them drink tears by the bowlful.

The Bible, Psalm 80, Verse 5 

 

The bowl was passed in front of me,

Its burnished bronze shone in the light.

I gazed upon the bearer’s hands,

Though scarred a thousand times,

They bore a simple strength

I’d never seen with other men.

 

I hid my eyes from this dark bowl.

For I’d heard tales about its woes.

How life would bring this bowl to each

In different times by unknown foes.

 

Some tasted in their first new years, while others

Midst between. They say if you were lucky,

You passed the bowl so many times

until it gave you up. Or so until death itself,

would come to make its claim.

 

But now his hands hold the bowl so patiently

waiting for me to drink.

I press my hands together tightly

And tighter still my lips.

 

Must I drink this bitter juice?

Must I take my place?

Among the Mothers’ crying hearts?

Among life’s broken gates?

 

As I recall the tales I know,

A stream of rivers run

With lives who drank this bowl;

took the forms of spectacle that

played so sadly in their homes,

altering their human pith.

 

This tale’s been told a thousand times,

of yester year’s forward march to wars

and soldiers’ triumphant stands;

Of gleaming swords and upraised shields.

To victory, I heard the sounds.

 

Young men went with burning hope, to taste

the blood of putting right, but found fear buried near,

in deaths of enemies and friends,

Remains of dust, remains of skin, stretched tightly

‘cross both broken drums, bones, and limbs.

While mothers cried into the bowl

for lives that wouldn’t walk again.

 

Must I drink this bitter juice?

Must I take my place?

Among the Mothers’ crying hearts?

Among life’s broken gates?

 

I’ve also heard the tales of hope within a young girl’s heart,

Who found instead of love and hearth,

She’s traded for a piece of land,

To gain the favor of a man.

So her life now’s been laid aside, buried deep within.

To please her man, to please his itch. The faintest trace of

What she wished when she was a just a lamb.

 

And so she asks, and I do too,

Must I drink this bitter juice?

Must I take my place?

Among the Mothers’ crying hearts?

Among life’s broken gates?

 

The bowl is filling up. It never seems to empty.

The liquid swirls and pools into a darkened, flattened space.

In it is my reflection.

It draws me in to see;

Like a prophetic vision, unfolded edge by edge,

I see a scene of sadness and with my heart I begged.

 

Must I drink this bitter juice?

Must I take my place?

Among the Mothers’ crying hearts?

Among life’s broken gates?

 

I see the scarred hands up close.

They seem too tender for such woes.

They know more than common hands.

The scars bear something yet untold;

Of mysteries, of love gone wild, of solid strength

That traveled miles, to carry forth a sacred task.

And standing with this bowl for me, there is no call for a reprieve.

 

The bearer tells me, “Drink the tears.

That never shall run dry.

I’ll hold the cup and comfort you.

Though life in this place seems so hard,

It won’t last that long.”

 

The liquid shimmered red within,

A cup formed from brass and flame.

And as he held his hands round mine,

I dipped my head to drink,

and found the contents of its pain.

It trickled down my mouth and throat

The taste of death, yet sweetness too.

A bitterness I’d soon forget.

 

For me, it does not matter; my tale is told.

The trouble I’ve encountered is stretched across the grain

Of lives upon a planet besmirched with blood-soaked stains.

My soul and spirit have been lifted from the blackened sin of doubt which

weighs me down, polluted from within.

 

Within this space I entered in,

a calmness courses through my frame.

A love greater than a mother’s own

Reached deep and covered all my sin.

I did not move; I breathed in deep.

This sacredness, this warming drink had

Brought me to the deepest pain and

through the darkest valley known.

But streaks of dawn now crossed my face

And dried my tears and hollow fears.

 

I looked up to this shining source,

To see the gentle smile he wore

and eyes of love that shone on me.

But from his eyes, the tears did fall.

To me this was a puzzlement.

That love so great could hold this bowl

And have the strength to live again.

I understood my loss of pain.

For as his tears ran down his cheeks,

past his loving smile,

It filled the burnished bowl, held in his nail-scarred hands,

comforting all who drank within,

By Him we are forgiven and by His victory stand.

 

Victoria Yeary, 2005

I hope my struggle with Thy Will Be Done helps others in some way. I hope you struggle as well with being overwhelmed by Love!

 

 

 

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