Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Being Available to God

The first big trip I took to Guatemala we ended our week at the Mayan ruins in Tikal.  They have a huge pyramid then a couple of smaller ones.  The week had been an overwhelming one and I was tired.  While the rest of the group tromped around on the big pyramid I broke off and chose to sit by myself on the steps of one of the smaller ones.  At first, our group worried that I was sick.  Charles Tubbs came to talk to me; the first time I had ever received a house call from a doctor.  Charlie knew this was not in my personality.  

My personality was about to change ever so slightly.

Once I was alone again I lay flat on my back and did nothing. I felt something inside me tell me to just wait.  And I did. And something happened.  There was no miraculous message from above. The only thing even slightly noticeable was a butterfly that flitted around me, landing first on my knee, then my stomach, then my hand. An indescribabe feeling of being close to God settled upon me.  There are no more words to describe it and I can only tell you that it happened.

I was in a Thin Place.

I have come to understand that these places, these moments, are when the wall between the physical realm and the Spiritual one is so thin that you can almost reach the other side.

I have had many other moments like that—where I was dead certain that God was with me.  Sometimes in these moments God speaks to me.  Sometimes I can just feel God's presence without a message.

I can’t call upon God to speak to me like a trained dog. I have placed myself in ancient Celtic ruins expecting my Scottish genes to receive a message yet nothing happened.  Twice now, in our separate countries, I watched Miriam Leon wrap her arms around a tree and tell me she could feel its energy.  When I tried the same thing on the same tree nothing happened.

So I can’t claim a buddy-buddy relationship with God.  But I do know that my chances are better when I slow down and listen.

So it was last weekend when some of my soul sisters gathered at Debbie’s new house in the Hill Country.  This group started out years ago with a gathering of four women who love to share music with each other.  The church calls them the Angel Band and they are really good.  I started “booking” them in various churches and they started referring to me as their manager and offered to let me tag along.  Then Linda started dulcimer lessons and she was included in the retreats.

The fly in the ointment, so to speak, is that we are of the age to retire and that has left us split up in different cities. Out of the six, only two still go to the same church.  So these retreats get more precious and the locations more exotic.  I'm in East Texas, Shirley in the southern part of Dallas, Linda lives off the grid in Oklahoma and Debbie just bought a house in the Texas Hill Country.

So we gathered at Deb's house.

The plan was, according to Kat: "To play 'til my fingers hurt and my voice is hoarse." My own plan was to listen.  Not just listen to the angels singing.  I wanted to get still enough that God could whisper to me and I could hear it.

And we did something a lot of women cannot achieve when they gather together.  We got quiet. We spoke softer.  We moved slower.  We let silence come to the party without a need to explain. We took long walks outside and tread lightly on generations of dry live oak leaves. While I sat reading for a time Nancy showed me the book she is reading.

In the living room, Shirley might strum her guitar with a random note or two.  Then Linda would show Nancy something on the dulcimer.  There would be a slow plunk of strings: one note then the next, carefully and deliberately for several times through. Then the song would come to life in a more confident playing.  As Nancy played, Shirley would pick up her rhythm and gently escort it through the song.  Debbie would pick up the autoharp while Kat joined in on her guitar and Linda beamed with pride.



 I had another thing I wanted to do while we were in the neighborhood. One of my wishes for our time was to sit on Ann’s bench. 

Ann Tubbs was a friend to us all.  There isn’t enough room in this blog to fully describe how important she was to each of us.  When she died last year there was standing room only at her funeral.  In their retirement, she and Charlie moved to the hill country and they both became Master Naturalists and avid bird watchers.  The other Master Naturalists loved her as much as the rest of us did and donated a bench in her memory at the trail head of a bird sanctuary.  The minute I heard about it I knew I wouldn't rest until I had sat on that bench.

So when the angels gathered we took a short field trip, met up with Charlie and checked out the bench.  The angels wanted to sing her a song. And the birds Ann loved to listen to joined in with them.



The song they chose to dedicate the bench was one that Nancy had written years ago.

At the very end of the song, you can hear Charlie's chuckle of approval choking back a half-sob. Then he offered a bird hike. I asked to stay behind. I wanted to know if God had something to say to me. 

I sat down. And waited.  I lay down.  And waited.  The sun moved and shone in my eyes.  I turned my head aside and waited.

Not much happened other than a quiet time relaxing.  That really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I made myself available for God to speak if She wanted to.

I have a labyrinth in our field.  I’ve tried to walk it every day during Lent, but it's been a challenge since we had about two weeks of a constant rain. But I've come to know this walk as a time that God might share something with me. Sometimes. But not always.  And that doesn’t matter.  What matters is only that I make myself available.

We’re entering Holy Week.  The moon is waxing towards its fullness. The full moon will mark Passover, the venue for the last supper Christ celebrated on earth. Easter will follow to celebrate the resurrection. We wait for His return.  We make ourselves ready to receive what Christ offers.

I started sleeping in the tent last night.  It’s one of my favorite thin places.  In truth, the fabric walls are thin. The barrier between myself and the night air is almost imperceptible.  I wait.  I make myself available for God to speak.  I lay still and listen. There is a magic in the night. Something is there.

I wait for it.

"The angels keep their ancient places," wrote Francis Thompson. "Turn but a stone, and start a wing."

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