Stop and Notice Your Life

Stop and Notice Your Life

In our world of busyness and myriad responsibilities, we can stop and smell the roses. But do we? Sometimes the chatter in our heads or on our phones blocks out true life, becomes about everything but what it should be. Not that some of our day to day isn’t important, but when we consider the limited amount of time we have on the planet, it would be better to calm swirling thoughts and focus on one thing: life. Just plain ordinary life—the breathing in and out, the desire to love and be loved. The basic reason as to why we still get up every day, why we keep on going. Life.

Poet Mary Oliver writes:

Every day I’m still looking for God and I’m still finding him everywhere,

in the dust, in the flowerbeds. Certainly in the oceans,

in the islands that lay in the distance continents of ice, countries of sand

each with its own set of creatures and God, by whatever name.

How perfect to be aboard a ship with maybe a hundred years still in my pocket.

But it’s late, for all of us, and in truth the only ship there is

is the ship we are all on burning the world as we go.

WHY THIS POST...

I burned up my weekend with family and friends, with my garden, flower arrangements and a good book. In the next few days my husband and I will be doing something momentous for his health that requires a night in the hospital. Writing will take a backseat, living, loving will be everything. (And I have some good books to read!)

For my mother and a dear friend, I wrote a blog post entitled: Songs Can be Prayers. I picked the Beach Boys, GOD ONLY KNOWS, because surely my mother’s life meant everything in forming mine and so I wanted to sing out:

God only know where I’d be without you.

I also picked: “If God Made You” by FIVE FOR FIGHTING, because of this verse: 

I can’t say what I might believe

But if God made you he’s in love with me. (That’s true of my husband also.)

But today, it’s Mary Oliver’s poetry, though truly the lyrics above are also poetry.

Oliver writes: The man who has many answers, is often found in the theatres of information where he offers, graciously, his deep findings.While the man who has only questions, to comfort himself, makes music.

LET’S MAKE MUSIC! LET’S READ POETRY!

Yes, we all need to do that, to live our lives outloud, as Anna Quindlen has said, to make our own music. So today, in the blur and craziness of our current world-climate, stop. Ask yourself: what does life mean to me? How am I living it, cherishing it, expanding it? Am I able to sit with myself, inside my mind and contemplate the most precious gift, my life?  Call it prayer, call it meditation, call it whatever. It’s an action that needs to happen. It’s the one my husband and I have been focussing on. If one definition of prayer is a request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship, then certainly in your life today, I hope you will either see, hear or feel one.

I HAVE DECIDED  by Mary Oliver

I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains, somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the cold and the silence. It’s said that in such a place certain revelations may be discovered. That what the spirit reaches for may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m not taking a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me? 

Poems taken from A THOUSAND MORNINGS  Mary Oliver, 2012 

photo by Me. 

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How Songs Can Be Prayers (reprinted in honor of a dear friend)

In our world of busyness and myriad responsibilities, sometimes the chatter in our heads (calling a customer, sending out emails, needing to fill the tank, or remembering a grandchild’s concert), is about everything but what it should be.  Not that these things aren’t important, but when we consider the limited amount of time we have on the planet, it would be better to calm swirling thoughts and focus on one thing: life.  Just plain ordinary life—the breathing in and out, the desire to love and be loved.  The basic reason as to why we still get up every day, why we keep on going.  Life.

What does life mean to you?  How are you living it, cherishing it, expanding it?  And are you able to sit with yourself, sit inside your mind and contemplate that gift of life?  Call it prayer, call it meditation, call it whatever.  It’s an action that needs to happen.  The situation reminds me of a bride on the wedding day so consumed with details that she forgets what it happening!  Forgets to stop and say, YES, THIS IS THE DAY! THIS IS NOW.  

My daughters give me CDs of songs they want to share.  I love this, as I often don’t know the songs and I get to experience their music, to get insight into what is moving them, what they want in their heads.  The most recent CD from my one daughter revealed a pattern to me.  And this is what I want to share with you: music, songs, can fill your head, block out the to-do list and become—prayers.  They can.  If one definition of prayer is a request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship, then certainly some of this music fits that definition.

Three different men are credited with writing these lines from a Louie Armstrong song.  But please don’t just say—Yeah, I know that song.  READ THE WORDS.  Contemplate them.

I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself what a wonderful world. 

I see skies of blue and clouds of white

The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

And I think to myself what a wonderful world. 

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces of people going by

I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do

They’re really saying I love you.  

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Now if you were driving or sitting at home and you had the music too, what a prayer you could have in your mind.

Here is another, unlikely example:

I may not always love you,

But long as there are stars above you

You never need to doubt it

I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you. 

That’s the BEACH BOYS, “God Only Knows.” And the more I listened to it, the more I began to think of my mother—of all the sacrifices she has made for me over the years.  How her life was dedicated to raising me and my brothers.  God only know what I’d be without her.  If prayer moves a person, there were tears on my face when this realization hit me.  And my daughter and I talked about it.  She thinks of her three children when she hears those words: what would she be without them?  We can all think along similar lines.

One more: “If God Made You” by FIVE FOR FIGHTING

Hey Kid…Do wishes count at all

Can you give me a sign…give me anything I won’t tell a soul you told

Hey Kid…Will you hold me when I sleep

Will you find me when the tide decides that I got to leave 

Something inside me is breaking

Something inside says there’s somewhere better than this… 

Sunset sailing on April skies

Bloodshot fire clouds in her eyes

I can’t say what I might believe

But if God made you he’s in love with me

It’s a prayer about dying, about leaving on the tide to a place better than this, but realizing that God loves this dying person because he made you—the you probably being a child, but it certainly could be a lover.

These are the examples I found on one CD of 17 songs.  Symphonic, classical music without lyrics often takes me to God—lifts me beyond the trappings of this world, becomes a virtual meditation.

Did someone once say music is the work of the divine?  Stop and consider: songs can be prayers and help you truly look at your life.

Thank you to Cameron Booth’s Photo Stream

How Can Prayer Help a Cancer Patient?

How Can Prayer Help a Cancer Patient?

Homebird sing, fly me high on an angel’s wings.

My pastor, Father Jim, was a cancer patient.  From the pulpit he encouraged all cancer patients to pray for God’s help.  Though for a time his prayers and his treatment kept Father Jim with us, he died, almost two years ago.  But his insight stays with me and his answers to the question, how can prayer help cancer patients, might surprise you. Father Jim stated:

  • Of course ask God for support; don’t be afraid to ask him for anything you need to fight and deal with your situation;
  • Then be silent; surrender yourself to God; listen for God’s answers.
  • Doctors listen to your heart and lungs, use fingers and hands to palpate and percuss, more listening.
  • If doctors do all that, surely God is listening to our prayers when we need Him.
  • If we are willing to listen to God’s answers and accept them, prayer can help us through our treatment and recovery, through whatever stage of cancer we are experiencing.

Powerful words.  And I believe that Father Jim listened and when he discovered God’s answer, he allowed the flow to occur, his movement from life into death.

We live in a culture of instant gratification.  We are eager for things to happen: fix it now, Doc; get me better sooner than later, God.

Father Jim knew that cancer patients often have to step back and wait.  The answer to their prayers might be a new plateau of health, not perfect, but still purposeful living.

Often cancer patients renew their intent to praise life, ever thankful for each day, hopeful for more time.  Maybe this therapy will work.  Maybe I will achieve a new normal.

Prayer can become an intimate part of a cancer patient’s life—if, as Father Jim said, you can let your prayer go up to God and then patiently live, waiting and listening for God’s answer.  It’s a skill that can serve us well in our physical and spiritual lives.

Whenever I hear the song by Foy Vance, HOME BIRD, I think of Father Jim, certain that he is at peace in his new life.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Jimmy could not wait to get home

Homebird sing
fly me high on an angel’s wing
Homebird sing
leave out nothing tell me everything

Everywhere we went just looked the same to me
the skys were blue and the grass was green
I wonder how different I might see them now
yet I see them somehow

through the fallen memories when that angel baby sings
Oh the little magic that his solo brings
making up songs and words and singin from the soul
oh the stories told
none but him and Jimmy could know

Homebird sing
fly me high on an angel’s wing
Homebird sing
leave out nothing tell me everything

So pray and pray a lot.  Ask others to pray for you.  Prayer works and guides and often gives one peace.

Thanks to Google Images