The Prodigal Pain

“And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.”                          Mark 14:35

Walk toward the pain, and you will find life.  Swallow the shallow thinking that bids you turn and run.  Refute the fear that declares you are not strong enough to endure the crucible of this moment.

Walk toward the pain and let it unveil the particulars of your life so you may see with clarity and dignity the reality of this moment.  Walk toward the pain and offer it your attentive ear as it relates what you most need to hear.

Pain is merely a messenger of the Spirit of God who wishes to convey wisdom.  Pain is a child of your heart which can be held and comforted and healed under the gaze of God’s love within you.  Pain, attended to, will be transformed.  Pain bathed in grace can be an instrument to resurrect what lies putridly decaying in your soul.

So, Friend, look to the Pain of your heart, comforted and guided by the life of a suffering Christ.  Listen to the Pain of your existence; and as he comes down the long road home to you, call out to him, “Welcome!”

In compassion, run with open arms toward him and embrace him.  Bring out the finest robe of your acceptance and clothe him.  Adorn him with the splendor of surrender.  And in celebration of what he has to teach, feast at the table of Pain’s wisdom.  Once Pain has disclosed the whole sordid, aching story, how will you respond?

For you had lost him, and now he has been found.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

*photo from Makezine.com 

The Dark is Me, Too

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I don’t know when or where or how or from whom I learned not to look at the dark side of myself.  It’s not like I don’t have a dark side.  I have plenty of dark side.  And I don’t mean that I  learned to pretend that I didn’t have a dark side.  I knew I had a dark side; I simply learned not to look at it.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I managed not to look at someone who had spoken unjustly to me.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I both recognized and avoided the person I was embarrassed or ashamed to talk to.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I haven’t looked at some of the buskers near the subway stairs.  I know they are there; I hear them; I see them.  I just don’t have the time and money to spare, right now.  Nope, not right now.

And my dark side, let me clarify.  I’m not talking about illegal activities or heinous omissions of ethical behavior.  It’s pretending that I am listening when I am really forming a judgment about why you should be listening to me.  It’s believing I am calm and peaceful and forgiving while I am in an all-out brawl with anger and resentment, refusing to acknowledge their presence and throwing them out the back door of the “I’m So Good” Club hoping no one else ever saw them come into the place.  My dark side is the place where I know I could see (if I took a good hard look) the full reality of my brokenness, my humanness,  and my incompleteness.  My dark side is the part of me that is me, the part of me I wish weren’t me, that I was hoping would somehow change, disappear, or mature if only I could put enough distance between us.

And here’s what caught me, the question of attention.  Would it be okay to give my dark side a thorough gaze?  Or would this serve to fuel the darkness residing therein?  If I looked at the darkness, would I be swallowed up within it, rendering me incapable of ever leaning out toward the light again?

“But,” I sang to my Self, “attention need not be laced with shame nor approval.  Attention may be clarifying while gentle, humble yet accountable.”

May the light of my eyes, cast a luminescent glow, one encompassing net, about my dark side.  May the gift of a sacred attention irradiate what I have been unwilling to fully acknowledge.  May I learn to love my darkness, for that is me, too; and may the Light which has never been overcome by darkness be my guide.

***

What have you learned about yourself and God when you turned your attention to your darkness?

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

Old Man Winter Speaks

“Winter is the real miracle.”
                                  John Govan, S.J. 

Appearing to have buried their branches and kicked up their roots, the deciduous trees know the secret of winter is to withdraw the life force to the deeper inner parts and wait.  Flowers bid farewell to their petals and leaves and recede into the bulb and the branch and the root awaiting a day when conditions will be more favorable for tender growth.  The animal world stores fat and food, burrows down for a long rest, or flies to fairer grounds.  “Reassess your situation,” Winter warns.  “Retreat from the presumptions and assumptions which you acted upon in positions of plenty, privilege, and power.  Abandon the excess of my seasonal friends and remember your tenuous place in the universe.”

In a slightly gentler voice, Old Man Winter speaks, “Know death that encircles the life ember without snuffing out Life.  Know death that calls us to the deep mystery of our souls, far beneath the showy blossoms of our intellect or our actions.  Know death that can be the only path for another Spring.  For I, Winter, cradle Life within me.”

A thing’s appearance may belie its true nature.

~

When have you experienced the miracle of Winter?

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© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

A Girl Catching Bees

Like a hair perm gone terribly awry, frizzed, unmanageable, and impossibly unkempt, the wisteria tendrils and shoots amassed around the base of the towering black walnut tree in the side yard of Grannie’s house, that is, until sometime in late February or early March when the unruly mass of vines inconceivably transformed into a living, throbbing, buzzing island of lavender blossoms, green stems, and black-headed and yellow-headed bumble bees.  The wisteria was alive with color and sound, alive with an invisible cloud of perfume luring the bees and me to her tangled mess; the wisteria with her siren song of smell secreted pheromones like a trail of little candies leading her children home.  So summoned, so lured, so enticed, we all presented ourselves before her.  She needed us; we needed her, the bees and me.

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The black and yellow-headed bumbled bees penetrated the purple concave openings of each tiny bud sipping her nectar, brushing against her pollen, retrieving the first food of spring flowers draping trees and bushes in our small region of south Alabama.  A week or two more, and she would have been competing with the azaleas on the front side of the house.  I was not bedazzled by the flowers, by the pollen or the nectar; I was drawn by the bees.  As an eight year old, I thought I was playing with the bees; but as an adult I know, I captured and suffocated them.  In hindsight, I came to kill the bees.  I know now that the reason I went to her, following the bees, was because I was bored.  I was also powerful, and the bees were available.

With my bare hands, I caught the yellow-headed bumble bees.  I stalked the blossoms, waiting for the moment of in-between hovering when I could see for certain that the head of bee was stained with a patch of yellow.  (The black-headed bees would sting.  I didn’t catch those.)  When I snatched one in mid-air, I marveled at my ability to contain the bee’s aliveness in my young fist, to feel its beating wings and throbbing thorax in the palm of my hand and on the underside of my fingers.  I felt the power of defying my natural enemy without being stung, of glorying in the impotence of these yellow-headed bees.  I always wanted to catch more of them.  How many could I catch?  With a sharp butcher knife, I stabbed slots into the flat shiny surface of a mason jar lid.  I deposited bee after bee into the quart jar, with a balance upwards of twenty most days.  In the jar, the bees fell silent, no humming buzz, no beating wings, no vibrating body.  Disoriented and drunk for lack of freedom and air, they stumbled and fell upon one another while my marvel wilted alongside the cluster of wisteria blossoms I had picked to keep them company.

I was a little girl enamored with the chaos of a living, throbbing, buzzing island of flora and fauna.  I was a little girl unaware of the living, throbbing, buzzing island of chaos at the base of my little tree of life.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

Made You Look

“That mole on your nose makes you look like a witch.”

Eyebrows knitted, thoughtful and yet direct in his tone, my little friend continued to chew a bite of his sandwich.  He had no intention to offend.  Contemplating my face with sincerity, he articulated the obvious relationship between me and a witch.

For a stunned moment, I paused to realize how often such a thought had flitted through my own mind.  He, however, said it out loud with unbiased conviction.

I dared not laugh.  The manner of his comment implied a certain gravity of exchange.  Isn’t every witch’s face identified by at least one mole on her nose?

“Hmmm. Yes, you’re right.  I do have a mole on my nose.”

I do have a mole on my nose.
Yes, I do.
A big mole.

I said that out loud, and I didn’t cry.
I laughed.
I laughed, inside.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2012