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Posts tagged ‘prayer’

Savor Lent, Savor Life, 2013 daily life retreat

For the next forty days I promise to do my best to post a daily meditation for the purpose of pause and ponder, meaning and significance, and becoming brave, more authentic, compassionate, and wildly human.

Fat Tuesday, 2013
I believe Lent, which means spring, is a time to deepen our inner aliveness—even in the midst of busy, demanding, productive lives. When I think back over the past twenty-five years, I remember a variety of years, times and places, what nourished me, how I needed challenge, or comfort.

I’d tossed this idea of an online retreat around in my thoughts, intended to offer something very structured, modeled after a book, Savor Lent, Savor Life, that I’ve not yet finished writing. Instead, it is Fat Tuesday, I’m home late from work, and received a Facebook private message from a special lady, a former student, asking where she could find my 2013 Lenten meditations I hinted at, online. And so, in spite of my resistance, more aptly described as asking myself with no small amount of incredulity, “are you nuts?” I say yes., I will. Do this. Small. Thing: A. Daily. Reflective. Post. For. Lent.

I dedicate these forthcoming reflections, however meaningful or meaningless, to her, and to everyone else that finds their way to this field of care and laughter. I’ll meet you here. Let’s journey together.

–Pegge, February 12, 2013, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Tip: Each daily post is located at my blog, eNewFields site. Please connect with the daily posts there.

Links
Savor Lent, Savor Life daily reflections
Ash Wednesday
Pray, Fast, Serve
Week One: “Take”
Desire for God ~ Day 6
Stillness ~ Day 7
Listen ~ Day 8
Being Present ~ Day 9
Free Will ~ Day 10
Savor ~ Day 11

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12 lessons from my hibernation years, 2009-2012

I’m celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, thinking about present time, and made a list of 12 practical life learnings–gifts–gleaned from what I’m calling my silent years, 2009-2012.

Why the list? I moved to Alaska in 2007, and with the assistance of the sturdy and wild landscape, hibernated. I am sorry for the times I was not available or present to the suffering and celebration of dear friends, former students, acquaintances, readers. Please forgive me, and my silent absence. This inner hibernation was necessary to heal and become hopeful, energized, and juiced with life once again. It is good to feast and feel quirky and alive, anew. In 2013, I anticipate mutual partnerships, service, and being available to contribute to healing and wholeness, passion and laughter in our world. Cheers!

Top 12 List

12.  “Carry many colored pens. Good ink flows smooth.”  #writer

11.  “Photo inspirations appear everywhere.”  #iPhone

10.  “Dog – An angel cloaked in fur, wielding a tail.”  #Kenai

9. 
“Wear ice cleats outdoors at 36F and below.”  #prudent #PreventFallOw

8. 
“Snow-blowing trumps vacuuming.” #chores

7. 
“Great book clubs issue EOs [Emergency Orders] to convene. No reading required.”  #SourDoes #friendship

6.
  “Our energy biofield is mysterious, practical and compelling.”  #HealingTouch #Reiki #Qigong #physics

5. 
“Ask a friend to accompany you to divorce court, for a biopsy appointment, or these such things.”  #Don’tDoItAlone

4.
  “Fish barefoot, in a suit, at dawn, dusk or dark, in a boat, on a bank, a shore, any time. When someone hands you a rod, take it.” #Alaska

3.
  “Fifty surprised me.”  #5October #TakeMySweetTime

2. 
“Romance happens at a fire.”  #sparks

1.
  “Flow like a river.”  #attitude

Bonus: “Wear your love like heaven.” #2013

I will share short posts in coming weeks to illuminate these 12, together with additional learnings from my time of hibernation. And, I’m curious, what would your list include?

May your 2013 be exceptionally brilliant and intentional. Please, be brave, believe.

Happy New Year.

Love, Pegge and Kenai (the dog)

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Super Moon, Season Change, and Silent Vows

Super moon: St Michael's Tower on Glastonbury Tor, Somerset (This photo from England conveys similiar shadow & moon contrast visible in Alaska.)

Visiting friends on Friday night, the nearly full moon hovered in a pink tinged sky, rising over iced, frozen chunks of the Kenai River, Alaska. In contrast, Saturday night was already shadowless dark as  I waited for the Super moon to shine. I gasped when the entire horizon of Kenai Mountain peaks became a silhouette, and Super moon hugged the landscape luminous.

There are a hundred things I could write about–wanted to write about–on the eve of the Vernal Equinox. Alaska gains five to six minutes of light, every day. My mind was like a gumball machine. However, tears had blanketed my face earlier, as had laughter when I saw my true reflection in the mirror. I had no more words, and simply desired to lean into the liquid silence of the night, beauty unfolding peace in a time of fierce change, for me personally, and throughout our planet.

Super moon rose so gracefully as earth orbited in dance. The rhythm of David Whyte’s poetry from earlier that day breathed in me. Gazing through tall windows into the wintry landscape, I spontaneously slipped out of my sheepskin slippers, moving into flowing Qigong practice, facing darkness, within and without, illuminated by moonlight. My silence became a prayer of sorts.

Thank you Super moon, and thank you David Whyte–your poems evoke a fierce conversation within me. I welcome the season of Lent–Vernal Equinox–spring, and all the true vows. Amen.

ALL THE TRUE VOWS

All the true vows
are secret vows.
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made,
nor the work they have chosen,

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood,
in the shadows,
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

— David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected PoemsHouse of Belonging, and the CD of poems and music, Return

Have you experienced poetry or nature teaching and guiding you … communicating that for which you may have no words, yet?
Do you have a favorite poem or poet? A place in nature where you come home to yourself in your own skin?

Five Years Later: Remembering “One Mother’s Dream”


The night before my son died, I opened mail, standing in the kitchen. My boy sat at a round table, watching. Soup heated on the stove. I had worked all day, and needed to attend a class later that evening. He had stayed home from high school, sick with the flu. I opened a white envelope, and in it was an advance copy of Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2 containing a story I wrote, “One Mother’s Dream.” I said to Justin, “OH! Our story arrived!!!” A grin lit his face as he replied, “Let me see!” I looked at him, then asked, “Would you like me to read it out loud to you?” “Yes,” he said.

I opened the book, and began reading out loud. Occasionally I snuck a peek at him. His entire body emanated love.
I don’t have words to describe the experience–best I can find right now is as if compassion and grace pulsed between us, expanding floor to ceiling, wall to wall. When I finished, I looked at him and said, “Justin, I love you. I’m so glad you are my son.” He replied, “I  love you, Mom.”

Later, when I came home from my class, he was asleep. I looked into his bedroom, pausing. His sixteen year old boy body was buried in flannel sheets and a lumpy down comforter encased by a denim duvet cover I’d sewed for him years earlier.

The next day was a Tuesday. I had to go to my office in Denver, an hour away.

Justin asked to stay home from school, said he was sick. His head was warm. I dampened a washcloth, adding a few drops of lavender essential oil. I held my hands on his forehead, softly saying, “I’ll stay home honey.” He said, “No Mom, I’ll be okay. You go.”

I left barely in time to make an 11:30 lunch meeting. I’d put the telephone near him, already dialed his Dad’s office so all he had to do was press redial if he needed anything. I told him I wouldn’t call, in case he was asleep. I asked him to call me when he woke up.

By 2:30 when I hadn’t heard from Justin, and he wasn’t answering the telephone, an eerie, icy coldness gripped me. I couldn’t explain it–a slight panic grew in me. I called my husband, Jim, asking if he’d heard from Justin. He said, “no.” I asked him to go home and check on him. I insisted. He was at work too–but he was only twenty minutes away from home. I knew if he couldn’t, I would drive home from Denver to Fort Collins. “It’s really important, please,” I said. Jim promised he would. I hung up the phone, wrapped a few things up, and left the office to cross West 32nd Avenue to get a double espresso before a few more hours of meetings.

In the middle of the street, my cell phone rang. Answering quickly, I listened to my husband carefully speak five words: “Justin has taken his life.”

I stumbled toward the sidewalk, beginning to moan, “No, no, no.” I needed to stop time. Questions erupted in me: Why? How? What if…? If only…? Suddenly I stopped. A very deep part of me began to ask, What am I going to do with this?

I didn’t want this, wouldn’t choose it, but from a faraway place, I knew I would have a choice to make. Blessed shock began to flood my veins, numbing me to full comprehension of the nightmare beginning to unfold. My life had already borne witness to God’s transformative grace in difficult circumstances. I could only hope that this would be no exception.

Five years have passed. It is 2011. I now live in Alaska, with my two dogs. The anniversary is 24 January. But my body remembers a Tuesday. And then that Wednesday, and days following. Memories return more frequently now–from days and years prior to 2006. I smile and laugh often, even as grieving roars through me, taking me by surprise. I’m not sure how a forty-eight year old woman can cry and moan in agony, knees to gut. It is a wave I ride. It comes less often now, and resembles a shorebreak wave. Harsh and powerful. However, I’ve learned to stay with the current, the flow. I’m not afraid I will drown. I’m grateful for salty tears, and my son’s life.

I suspect that if he could, Justin would rock me now–like I did him when he was a boy. In truth, he often does–through dreams, signs, jokes, nature, my writing, and in conversations with people who share stories. Death is a part of life, and life is part of death. Perhaps life is a sacred circle, and the circumference is love. I’m grateful for God, for family, for friends, and for strangers. Most of all, I’m grateful for my son. I’d chose him again, again, and again.

This is a link to the story, “One Mother’s Dream.” It’s my story of becoming a foster adoptive mother, Justin’s mother.  It’s also Justin’s story of a forever family.

I love you my son. I’ll be okay. I know you can hear me, too.

“One Mother’s Dream” … A Foster Adoptive Forever Family Story

“One Mother’s Dream”
–Pegge Bernecker (c)

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of holding a baby. When I was a child she was an infant sized doll. If I could sit still, I was allowed to hold my baby sister, then three years later, my brother. In summer, I rocked a large zucchini with button eyes from Grandma’s garden. When the neighborhood gang played house in our backyard, I was always Mom—and a bit bossy! Acting as Mother Mary in the annual La Posada at church, I felt honored to be carrying baby Jesus.

As I grew older, with each romance I dreamed of the day when I would hold a baby, and birth a family. I wept barren tears in my mid-twenties during years of discerning a celibate religious vocation, and later while in a relationship with a man who didn’t want to marry. I held babies I loved deeply … first a goddaughter, then a nephew, all the while smiling with joy, wondering when my time would come. I continued to dream and started to pray.

At thirty-one the dream began in earnest. Together with Jim, my new husband—literally the man next door—I imagined the day we would hold our child, fantasizing perfect names and even beginning to purchase necessary baby gear. Month after month after month, tears and blood flowed like clockwork. I held another nephew, then niece, then a second goddaughter. Well-intentioned friends said things such as: “Just relax.” “Get away for a romantic weekend.” “If you adopt you’ll get pregnant for sure.” “Fall on your knees and pray more.” As if I hadn’t already prayed, and tried everything I could think of! I was angry and sad. In prayer, I let God know it. After all, I was working in church ministry serving the Lord. I deserved my dream. I began to wonder if I was paying a price for past sins.

But the God I encountered in prayer was suffering with me, not condemning me. Barrenness has a powerful precedent in scripture. Stories of Sarah, Rachel and Elizabeth brought me renewed hope. I just knew a baby and family was God’s good and creative dream in me. How could it be denied? I heard God’s word in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” Yet, year after year my healthy, strong, vibrant body betrayed me.

Jim and I spent considerable time contemplating fertility treatments, sperm donors, domestic and international infant adoption, and our limited finances. When a notice in our church bulletin listed a phone number with a request for foster adoptive parents, we just wanted to eliminate a choice we didn’t think was a fit for us. Thus, one hot July evening, we sat on our porch with a caseworker from the local foster adoption agency. The three of us sat on our deck, overlooking a Colorado lake with a little rowboat moored on the shore where Jim spent most leisure time fishing.

As our conversation progressed, the caseworker asked, “Are you certain you want to adopt an infant?”
I replied “yes.”
A little later in the conversation, the same question. My answer remained “yes.”
Finally, again: “Are you certain you want an infant?”
I looked into her eyes “What are you thinking? That’s the third time you’ve asked me the same question.”
“Well,” she answered, “if you were to adopt an older child you could continue working.” I just stared at her. “And,” she continued, “I know a seven year old boy in town that loves to fish, and desperately needs a strong father and forever family.”

I didn’t move. The next thing I knew my six-foot-five husband was towering over us, practically shouting, “That’s the right age for me!”

I sat stunned. Birds chirped in the trees. I listened to my heart beat wildly.

So be it.

One month later, just in time for third grade, our son-to-be spent his first night in our home.

Nothing prepared me for parenting a little boy who had lived in nine foster homes. The warm fuzzies I had anticipated were nonexistent. Somewhere along the way I neglected to comprehend that foster children like Justin already had birth parents, a family and past experiences that shaped their lives. Bonding and attachment might not happen, maybe couldn’t. I discovered my own worst behaviors were not unlike Justin’s: anger at not being listened to, not having my needs met. Odd that as an adult I had the same feelings as the child in my home.

I slowly learned to understand the gift of being a lifesaver for a young boy—and he becoming a lifesaver of sorts for me too, as I grew into fuller maturity, discovering within myself reservoirs of patience and wisdom. My prayer was simple: love him as Jesus.

Together we learned the safety of boundaries. We talked about feelings, listened to one other. Justin began to grow with our focused, consistent attention, meals, and bedtimes. Learning about Jesus, he discovered he could be loved no matter what. I felt happiness that he felt safe enough to throw a temper tantrum. He explored personal interests, caught fish, and gained confidence. I learned to love him as if I had birthed him myself. God softened my heart and taught me generosity.

One afternoon after an emotional meltdown, Justin asked if he could sit on my lap. Though his legs and arms were a bit long, I snuggled him closely against me. Looking beyond my shoulder, he cautiously asked: “If you had been my birth Mom, what would you have done?”

Realizing he wanted to hear a different version of his own tumultuous childhood, I said softly: “I would have held you every day, rocking you just like this, and told you stories: real and imaginary. You would have known you were safe and loved, no matter what.” I stopped talking, feeling the weight of his body against mine, then continued, “And you know what; we can still do that, even though your elbow is poking my side!”

We chuckled together, and after a minute of rocking, the air hushed. He turned, looking me straight in the eyes and asked, “Could you tell me a story now?”

My blinking eyelids pushed back tears. Smiling at him, I began: “A long, long time ago, a little girl dreamed of being a mom and holding a little boy on her lap….” His hand gripped mine tightly. Breathing slow and steady, he listened intently, never taking his eyes from mine.

In the coming months Justin often asked to sit on my lap, and we discovered how much we both needed each other. Later that year after his legal adoption, I received an unexpected valentine: “Dear Mom, Thank you so much for taking care of me over all these years and making sure that I have food to eat and that I have a roof over my head. I also love having a very loving and caring person such as you.”

Not words I ever expected I’d receive from a child. But, still more powerful to me than an actual: “I love you Mommy,” which I suspect I’ll never hear.

Justin is now in his teens and an only child. I have learned the fierce love that I am certain Mary shared with her son two thousand years ago. Jesus has taught me to welcome and love the orphan. Just last week, at five-foot-nine, Justin gave me a hug, and looking down at me, asked, “Do you remember when I was small enough to fit in your lap?”

I smiled a “yes” into his eyes, and offered a silent prayer of gratitude to be living a mother’s dream.

Reprinted by permission of Pegge Bernecker.
“One Mother’s Dream” is published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2,  (p. 72-76) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christian Kids, Our 101 Best Stories (p. 276-279).

After-note: On January 24, 2006, Justin died, unexpectedly. An advance copy of the book containing this story arrived in the mail on January 23, 2006. That night, I read the story out loud to him. After I finished, I looked at him and said, “I love you Justin. I’m so glad you are my son.” He looked straight at me, eyes full of love, and said, “I love you too Mom.”
Link: Five Years Later: “One Mothers Dream”

The line between good and evil is in …

Today amazon.com sent me “The Gulag Archipelago” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He’s the man who wrote,

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.”

I believe this is true. Nearly twenty years ago I first pondered Solzhenitsyn’s insight. Again and again I need to revisit how I live, what I believe, how I speak.


The instigation for reading “The Gulag Archipelago” comes from the recent shooting in Arizona. I am aware that this is a lie: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Words–and names–do hurt, or heal. Words console, uplift, and inspire. Words instigate condemnation, contempt,  and violence. Physical violence always begins with words, first. So I ask:

  • What words do you choose to use?
  • How do your actions amplify your thoughts?
  • You are powerful–how can your personal power be life-giving?
  • Where is the line between good and evil drawn in your heart?

These are questions worth pondering. Please join me in asking them. Seek healing and wholeness, dignity and integrity. Right now, today.

Please offer a prayer for all victims of violence in our world–and all perpetrators. “May there be peace on earth, and may it begin with me.”

What’s Your Natural Habitat?


I sit facing my computer screen, inches from a large window. My heart thunks. Outside a shadow moves. A moose peers at me. Vividly tall, she is furry, sturdy, six feet away, eyes glued in stillness. Her nose twitches. I catch my breath, meet her gaze. Seconds pass. Does she comprehend glass? Does it matter? When her shoulder muscles flick, she turns away, hooves crunching tracks through the snow crust. I remain, untangled. My breath is slow and deep.

How can we cultivate compassion when the world we inhabit may be hostile, stressful, aggressive, and painful? It is simple, but not easy, and requires our ongoing commitment. Compassion is not reliant upon ease of circumstance. Some of the most trustworthy, compassionate people I know have suffered profoundly. Paula D’Arcy writes, “How you approach something determines what you will see.” Roshi Joan Halifax tells us, “The world is so tangled, and I need to be somewhat untangled to meet it.” These are good insights. We cannot give what we do not have. What we cultivate is shared with others.

To cultivate compassion we must first show up and be available to place, time, and our embodied self. This prepares us to meet someone or something with integrity and presence. We each live a sacred story with particularities and peculiarities unique to our personality, life experiences, and our decisions of yes, no, and maybe.

Three moose wander in my yard—it is their natural habitat. The two twins were birthed when sun shone for twenty hours a day. Lush green ferns and foliage sheltered their tentative beginnings. Months later, I now sit in silence. Two feet of snow arrived, and neighbors help one another in time of need. I do not live in a wildlife preserve or zoo. Bear tracks across my driveway startle me from complacency. While outdoors, I am calmly alert, with a choice to engage the realness of time and place. I am interwoven in this landscape, a part of it. How will I forge connection and compassion in this climate?

Do you understand my question? Perhaps it needs translation: Where do you live—what is your natural habitat? Who do you encounter with your everyday activity? What causes you to stop in awe and wonder? Where do you rub up against fear and disconnect? These are essential questions in the marketplace or monastery, the inner city, suburbia, or wilderness. Thomas Merton said, “The deepest level of communication is not communication but communion. It is wordless.”

What can your natural habitat teach you? A spiritual director can accompany you when you share your stories of desire, surprise, fear, hope, and despair. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp reminds us, “The teaching of compassion, the exercise of the soul, will open the heart. And then nothing will be impossible.”

How do you cultivate compassion through the concrete specifics of your life?

–Pegge Bernecker, editor

Excerpt from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, Vol. 5.1, “Cultivating Compassion” by Pegge Bernecker, (Spiritual Directors International (c) 2011). Used with the permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a FREE subscription to Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction call 1-425-455-1565 or go to www.sdiworld.org.

Grief and Loss: “I don’t know what to say.”

Last week I spoke at a church in town. They asked me to talk about grief and loss, for ten to fifteen minutes—make it personal. An icy, snowy night, by 7:00 p.m. it had been dark three hours. My stamina was in the single digits, and I was cold. A dark chocolate woven rabbit fur scarf wrapped my neck and shoulders.

Standing in the dim lit church, behind the podium, I fingered the scarf tails, felt warm breath flood my chest, whispered a prayer to God, and then surprised myself by speaking, “My name is Pegge. I don’t know what to say.”

My eyes traveled around the wood church pews. Men, women, and a few young people had gathered. They spaced themselves, some sitting together, others alone. I took another breath, and again spoke, my voice amplifying through silent attentiveness:

“I don’t know what to say. And this is the experience of grief.”

More words came, “We don’t know what to say, or how to act. We may be fatigued, not think clearly, forgetful, and have very little energy. Memories surge, catch us off-guard. Some full of sorrow, others with laughter. The ache—numb, raw, and stabbing comes and goes with no predictable time-frame. So we show up as best we can, take ourselves lightheartedly, give ourselves permission to rest, say no, and feel what we feel.”

I think words tumbled from me about how grief makes tracks through the chill of loss, of believing that we are not alone, being willing to receive from others, and ask for help. I know I said, “I trust God. I am not alone.” After ten minutes, I concluded, and breathed into the stillness of listening hearts. I walked back to the first pew, sat down, silent, remembering. A card laid in my open bible, a bookmark for the passage I’d planned to read. Two words: Only connect… . A cello played, candles flamed for loved ones who died.

Tonight, what chimes for me again, is that whether we are the one grieving, or the one who accompanies a friend or loved one, there will be times when words do not, should not, and will not suffice. Dense bone weariness grows. Or, memories of play and joy surface with vivid intensity. At times like these, I pray we may give ourselves permission to be still. Breathe. Simply be present to ourselves, and one another, with gentleness, compassion, kindness.

–Pegge, December 16, 2010

Giving Thanks–to CNN, to Life

I thought I was thankful, especially Saturday night with a heavy plate of Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, nestled into a visit with my parents. Then I watched the CNN Heroes show. Tweets earlier in the week alerted me to it. I didn’t know I’d be crimped, ripped, and left wondering what mystery wants to birth in me.

Driving home, fresh snow brightened the two lane road. Tears bubbled and blurred me for twelve miles. Starry pinpoints lit the pitch night sky. I imagine the crimps and cramps that assist in open heart surgery. Compassion and unnameable longing wrench me open.

I can’t–don’t want to–let go of the stories, the people. Men and women who saw a need and said, Oh, no. Then birthed, I can, I must, I will. All the CNN Heroes stories pinch me, a few in particular:

The stories are not new. Nor is the need. Yet, I am grabbed in a way that is simultaneously unfamiliar and life-giving.  These men and women simply–though I’m sure it wasn’t always simple–responded yes. Tonight, I wonder–ask myself: “Who am I at this crossroads in my life?  What can I do–where does my compassion intersect with humanity?” I will let this question gnaw in me, germinate.

What unknown light is mine to shine? What light might be yours? I give thanks–for you, for CNN Heroes, for everyone who won’t let go of humanity, community, hope.

Be Still, Go Fishing

Today I went fishing, unexpectedly.

Hustling aboard a boat, no time to reload coffee & creme into an almost empty mug, my skin prickled a shiver, even beneath three layers and a wool cap. I hadn’t intended to fish, and was merely loading boats–helping out in a fishing derby. Instead, a seat and invitation opened; I jumped in.

After a hello to our fishing guide and two girlfriends,  I turned, lifting my gaze, upstream.

The river caught my pulse.

A  forgotten prayer pattern erupted within me–my old friend, psalm 46:10a:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Be still and know that I am.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Today, an unexpected fishing pulse catches me, still. Life is prayer. Simply, be.

I’m hooked.

ps: guess what’s for dinner?

What hooks your attention?
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