Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We are an Easter People

Have you ever received an Easter card proclaiming “We are an Easter People?”

In an article in the April 11-24, 2014 edition of The National Catholic Reporter, Peg Ekerdt wrote of having received such a card from “a mother of 13, grandmother of more, who was living with an advanced stage of breast cancer . . . Barb wanted all whom she loved to know that the power of faith transforms even death.” These words say more the traditional Happy Easter messages that do little save to remind us to dye the eggs, buy the chocolate bunnies, and perhaps . . . maybe . . . attend church to celebrate faith.

Who are these Easter people? Easter people probably don’t think of themselves as such. They might or might not be Christians. For that matter, they might not even believe in God. But Easter people surround us. They reveal themselves by the way they care for and love one another, the way they live with honor and honesty and work to make their bit of the earth a better place to live. They are the ones who share what they have with those needier than themselves, who celebrate the good that surrounds them, they are the ones who greet adversity with courage and yet continue to hope. Keep your eyes open for these “Easter People,” you might discover that you are one of them.

Peace and every good blessing,
Beryl

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Kindle Version of The Scent of God FREE today and tomorrow


I’m thrilled to announce that, after months of effort, the Kindle Version of The Scent of God now appears live on http://tinyurl.com/mexhv9v . I have made it FREE for download on Kindle today, April 12 and tomorrow, April 13. Click the above link and download it for free.

If you don’t have a Kindle but would like to read The Scent of God online, you can download an app at http://tinyurl.com/k59zxqe .

If you read The Scent of God several years ago, you might want to reread it again. I know that while preparing the manuscript for the Kindle Version I had to reread and edit it and actually found myself saying “This is a REALLY good book.”  I hope you will feel the same way after reading it.

Blessings and thanks,

Beryl

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Small things and gratitude

January 13.2014
On this beautiful day—a day of golden sun and gentle breezes with the sky cloudless and the ocean tranquil—I think of you, my friends. So often, I’ve wanted to start this letter and just as often I’ve put it off. But today’s exultation makes it necessary to write to share this joy with you. Oh sure, you might be thinking. You’re down there in Florida and we’re locked here in icy, sub-zero temperatures; of course you’re happy. This morning, I came across the following words written by Chiara Lubich (1920-2008) which might explain why I write to tell you about something as simple as a beautiful day and why it reminds me to reach out to connect with you.

“Your neighbor is another you . . . When neighbors cry, you must cry with them, and when they laugh, laugh with them . . . Love whoever appears to you in the present moment of your life. You will discover within yourself an energy and strength you didn’t know you had.”

These words struck me because you’ve appeared to me in this present moment, and with this letter, I’ve breached distance and joined you. Perhaps in reading my greeting, your heart will lift like mine does when I hear from you. When we experience something wonderful, our immediate impulse is to share it. You wake your husband in the middle of the night to witness the northern lights. You call your friend in Colorado to tell them about Ann Patchett’s newest book. You invite a neighbor to the symphony because they are fans of the classic guitar and Pepe Romero is performing in concert. We share these moments hoping that person will experience something wonderful as well.

Besides this beautiful day, I want to tell you that my precious husband has been granted a new lease on life because of advances in cardiac care, which tops my list of things to be grateful for.  I celebrate the small condo in Florida where we can escape the bitter cold and I retain the use of my hands. I’m thrilled that my agent’s talented assistant, Daniel, helped me obtain a reversion of electronic publishing rights to The Scent of God. These rights will enable me to make The Scent of God available in e-book version. Meanwhile, primarily because of your belief and support, I continue to work on the sequel to The Scent of God. Scent took ten years to write and, at the snail-like but steady pace I’m working, the sequel might take just as long. I hope you will hang in there with me and spread the word when The Scent of God makes it onto Kindle and all the other e-book platforms out there. I will certainly let you know when both milestones (the e-book and the publication of the sequel )are accomplished.

Thank you for the joy I get when I think of you. Thank you for your letters, your e-mails, and all the ways you share  your lives with me. Thank you for the encouragement and strength with which you surround me. May your lives be similarly blessed.

© Beryl Singleton Bissell 2014

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Camarillo Fire births Phoenix

Camarillo Phoenix photo by Terry deWolfe


Several days after the recent devastating Camarillo Fire, a friend spotted this miraculous flower. As you can see, the land surrounding this plant is totally scorched. Despite the annihilation, from somewhere within the earth this lovely flower emerged and gives testimony to the miracle of transformation and rebirth tucked within every death.

We witness such miracles all the time yet so often they arrive unnoticed and unheralded. This flower reminds me to open myself to such witnesses of hope.

"If you can just appreciate each thing, one by one, then you will have pure gratitude. Even though you observe just one flower, that one flower includes everything." -- Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Reflection on Kenosis

A number of my readers have asked for further elucidation on the spiritual term "Kenosis. To assist, I have received permission from  the director of the Episcopal House of Prayer to republish his reflections on the event. -- Beryl


 A reflection from the Kenosis retreat, 2013 from Ward Bauman

 "True knowledge of God is that which is known by unknowing."  (Cloud of Unknowing)
  
  One of the primary practices of all spiritual work is detachment,  the learned behavior of "letting go" and not clinging. This is  primarily true of wisdom, that is, spiritual knowledge.

 The great paradox is that we cannot find it by grasping it. In other  words, going to another conference, reading another book, or  hearing another teaching will not ultimately be the knowledge that  we seek and need.

 
This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons of the spiritual life. We in the West do not get it. It is so antithetical to everything we've learned. But this is core to coming to spiritual truth. It also points to the heart of our spiritual malady, pride. True wisdom comes only through true humility. Here the crack in our armory creates an entrance for the divine light.

 
Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is the beginning and foundation to all spiritual work.

 
The Chinese philosopher, Chuang-tzu said:
Consider a window; it is just
a hole in the wall, but because of it
the whole room is filled with light.
Thus, when the mind is open
and free of its own thoughts,
life unfolds effortlessly,
and the whole world is filled with light.
(The Second Book of the Tao, Stephen Mitchell)
 

When our hearts are open and free of constructs, we become channels for spiritual light. When we are unburdened with cumbersome and restricting ideas, something new can emerge. When we are emptied of self-focus, we can begin to see the bigger picture. This, then, becomes the practice of prayer; in self-emptying we become free and receptive for "true knowledge." 


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The House of Prayer and a Kenosis Retreat

”Pilgrims are persons in motion – passing through territories not their own – seeking something we might call completion (or perhaps the word “clarity’ will do as well), a goal to which only the spirit’s compass points the way.” -- Richard Niebuhr

I've just returned from a territory not my own:. A Kenosis (or self-emptying) retreat at the Episcopal House of Prayer on St. John’s University campus in Collegeville, MN. The House of Prayer is an exquisite retreat house of wood and stone, with Gothic windows, quiet spaces, an oratory with a soaring tiered scallop of panels reaching toward the light. There were twelve retreatants and a retreat master--the Director of the House of Prayer:  gentle, erudite, and compassionate Reverend Ward Bauman, who with his brother Lynn Bauman and Cynthia Bourgeault worked to translate The Luminous Gospels: Thomas, Mary Magdalene, and Philip. Bauman is also the author of Sacred Food for Soulful Living, a cookbook of recipes from the House of Prayer kitchen who, besides guiding us and leading all the meditation sessions, also prepared our every meal which was the most delicious vegetarian food I've ever eaten.

House of Prayer Dormitory section
I entered the retreat, determined that I was going to “make it” this time. I’d empty myself and travel into the fullness of God’s presence. So intent was I on making this retreat the “retreat of all retreats” that I got caught up in trying to force self-emptying even though I knew that all meditation requires is the willingness to participate. . . that the action is God’s. Confronted with myself as full of myself, I was miserable.  Perhaps I wasn't meant to achieve divine union, I thought, but if this was so, why the more than 50 years of yearning and search for this grace? Why the desire if God did not mean than I take this journey?

There’s nothing quite like smashing into oneself. It’s a humbling and grace-filled encounter with darkness which brought me to the point where all I could do was accept where I was at and be grateful I was anywhere at all. It wasn't until the final two days of this intense silent retreat that I found myself willing to be where I was, as I was, and in that acceptance I fell into God. For a time, at least. As Niebuhr says, Pilgrims are persons in motion, seeking a completion to which only the spirit’s compass points the way. The spirit is always at work even when we’re off track, leading us gently back to where we belong.