Monday, May 25, 2015

the memorial day parade

The Memorial Day Parade
By Troy Cady


Here
we
are
lined
up
single
file
along
State
Street,
downtown
Chicago.

There is     plenty     of     room    to    stand     on     the     sidewalk.
Shoppers
scurry
and
glance
at a few ROT
                C (see)
divisions,
marching to barks
of left and right
as drumlines rap
in crisp candence,
honoring the deceased.

The
file
(and
rank)
of
spectators
applaud in tepid claps,
as they listen to the standard
fighting songs played,
save Taps.

There is     plenty     of     room     on     the     sidewalk
but maybe not enough for all the wounded ghosts.

Have so many fatalities
deadened our senses?
How have we become deaf to their cries?





Thursday, May 21, 2015

tea flowers

Tea Flowers
by Troy Cady


It’s a puzzle
how each one unfolds
like a Spirit flame—
unpredictable
how each one becomes
(always Becoming!)
more open,
more beautiful
like a sunset
baptized,
risen from the flood.

That which we suppose dead
is alive.

Remember, flowers,
new days begin at dusk.
Precious flowers, wild-
sprung from earth,
give thanks and be glad
for the transparency
that magnifies the blooming.

Each flower unique,
a manifest of
the holy cloud of unknowing.
How will each unfold?
These flowers will surprise.

I wonder…
how is it that we hear
the flower’s voice by silence?

Dearly beloved, listen to these flowers,
flourishing quietly, slowly in the living water.

Dearly beloved, listen to these flowers—
their voice goes out to all the earth.

Amen and amen.







for the Gladness and Hunger PlayGroup
May 21, 2015










Thursday, May 14, 2015

butterfly

What would happen
if I stopped clutching
butterflies,
colorful and fluttering,
as hopeful as they are fragile?

Would I change?
Would I learn to rest in freedom?
Would my eyes see the light
in this brief flight
of life?
Would my heart open like
wings?




butterfly
by troy cady
















Friday, April 24, 2015

the visitor

If she were here—

she whose words
plucked worms
from the ground of Being,
quick and sure—

and if I could but marvel
at how so delicate a life
could be so strong,
a life whose spirit
cuts and rides the wind
cold as metal,
a life alit on the edge
of hard earth and luminous sky
whose mouth opens
to soften Nature’s lips with a kiss—

if she were here
and I could marvel,
I would like to be the branch
poised, ready,
glad of her rest
on my cracked skin,
however fleeting the moment flies.

If I had a voice,
I would call to her.
Now she comes
as I stand in silence.
Hold still, soul,
for beauty’s brief visitation.




The Visitor
by Troy Cady







Sunday, April 5, 2015

early on the first day of the week

Last night’s rain left a faint scent in the morning air as we made our way slowly to the gravesite. The week’s dust had settled, silenced by the sky’s tears. Yesterday was no day of rest. Evening prayers were bitter. Something told me we were bidding farewell to Sabbath for longer than a week. Faith would never be the same.

We took his body from the cross just before sunset on Sabbath eve. Now, early on the first day of the week, the smell of oil and spices were still fixed in mind, as if we were laying our Rest to rest all over again. We wanted to remember, even if it hurt.

That I could be a cloth, clinging to his body. His death was my death. Where would we go? What would we do?

Somehow, the thought of him still drew me to his side. I felt called, compelled. Where else could I go?

Here I am, walking. The gravesite is in view. I am ready to pay my respects, to offer my devotion to the One who saved my life. I am ready to die. Maybe on the other side he will show me love and hope again. My life can never be the same.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Parker Palmer on The Mystery of Depression



I have friends who suffer from depression. This morning, I read these words by Parker Palmer in his wonderful book Let Your Life Speak. In chapter 4, Parker Palmer shares his own struggle with depression. In the midst of his story, he tells of a friend who suffered from depression and he gleans some valuable insight from the experience. I hope this passage provides a glimmer of hope and reveals a pathway to compassionate understanding.  –Troy

……………………………………………

“Twice in my forties I spent endless months in the snake pit of the soul. Hour by hour, day by day, I wrestled with the desire to die, sometimes so feeble in my resistance that I ‘practiced’ ways of doing myself in. I could feel nothing except the burden of my own life and the exhaustion, the apparent futility, of trying to sustain it.
                “I understand why some depressed people kill themselves: they need the rest. But I do not understand why others are able to find new life in the midst of a living death, though I am one of them. I can tell you what I did to survive and, eventually, to thrive—but I cannot tell you why I was able to do those things before it was too late.
                “Because of my not knowing, perhaps I have learned something about the relation of depression to faith, as this story may illustrate. I once met a woman who had wrestled with depression for much of her adult life. Toward the end of a long and searching conversation, during which we talked about our shared Christian beliefs, she asked, in a voice full of misery, ‘Why do some people kill themselves yet others get well?’
                “I knew that her question came from her own struggle to stay alive, so I wanted to answer with care. But I could come up with only one response.
                “’I have no idea. I really have no idea.’
                “After she left, I was haunted by regret. Couldn’t I have found something more hopeful to say, even if it were not true?
                “A few days later, she sent me a letter saying that of all the things we had talked about, the words that stayed with her were ‘I have no idea.’ My response had given her an alternative to the cruel ‘Christian explanations’ common in the church to which she belonged—that people who take their lives lack faith or good works or some other redeeming virtue that might move God to rescue them. My not knowing had freed her to stop judging herself for being depressed and to stop believing that God was judging her. As a result, her depression had lifted a bit.
                “I take two lessons from that experience. First, it is important to speak one’s truth to a depressed person. Had I offered wishful thinking, it would not have touched my visitor. In depression, the built-in bunk detector that we all possess is not only turned on but is set on high.
                “Second, depression demands that we reject simplistic answers, both ‘religious’ and ‘scientific,’ and learn to embrace mystery, something our culture resists. Mystery surrounds every deep experience of the human heart: the deeper we go into the heart’s darkness or its light, the closer we get to the ultimate mystery of God. But our culture wants to turn mysteries into puzzles to be explained or problems to be solved, because maintaining the illusion that we can ‘straighten things out’ makes us feel powerful. Yet mysteries never yield to solutions or fixes—and when we pretend that they do, life becomes not only more banal but also more hopeless, because the fixes never work.
                “Embracing the mystery of depression does not mean passivity or resignation. It means moving into a field of forces that seems alien but is in fact one’s deepest self. It means waiting, watching, listening, suffering, and gathering whatever self-knowledge one can—and then making choices based on that knowledge, no matter how difficult. One begins the slow walk back to health by choosing each day things that enliven one’s selfhood and resisting things that do not.”







Monday, March 2, 2015

play as my new prayer

Roughly every two years, while we were living overseas, we’d take a summer furlough in the States. The summer of 2009 we knew it was our last furlough because we were already making plans to transition from our life in Spain the following summer. Yes, we planned that far in advance.

By the time our last furlough rolled around, I had put in motion a process to hand off leadership of the church we’d started to a gifted group of people. Basically, I had asked a handful of folks to think about serving in such a way that they would consider themselves to be the group who would keep the church going should anything happen to me and my family. It sounds like a grim way to explain what we were asking, but I wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting themselves into.

“Let’s say I don’t come back from our summer in the States,” I said to each of them. “If you take on this key leadership role, you and the others would keep the church going,” I said. “Think about this during the summer and we’ll talk more in the fall to see whether you’d like to serve in this way.”

So, that summer I was scared out of my boots. What if none of them wanted to take on leadership in that capacity? What if they decided it would be easier to just close up the church when we moved? My heart sank as I thought about the real possibility of this, so…I began to pray.

I was desperate and there was nothing else I could really do. I suspect that’s what most of us do; we don’t start praying, really praying, until we’re desperate.

That’s okay. God knows what it takes and…that’s okay.

That summer, I found that every time I read even the smallest bit of Scripture—even just a phrase or one verse—a prayer would form in my heart. Sometimes the prayer was simply a rephrasing of a Scripture nugget.

I’d read, “God did not send his Son to condemn the world” and out would come “Thank you, God, for acceptance.” Each sentence, each phrase, seemed to call out some kind of childlike reply.

I found myself thinking of these simple prayers throughout the day and they came to me in a “flowing” kind of fashion.

I began to write them down and, after a month of this, I discovered I had filled many hand-written pages in a notebook. As I glanced at them I thought, “Maybe these could help others, too.”

So, I began sharing them on Facebook and Twitter, one per day as a kind of meditative focus. If you’re reading this, you’ve maybe been annoyed by them.  I do apologize if that was the case.

But, for those who actually liked them, I want to say: the time has come for me to call that little prayer project to a close.

It’s hard for me to write that. That one-per-day rhythm has sustained me for about 5 and a half years now. It’s hard to let go of it.

What won’t change is the fact that I will keep praying every day just like that. What will change is that I am no longer making it a habit to share it publicly on Facebook and Twitter.  To be sure, sharing it publicly was a way to keep myself accountable to doing it.  As I shared it publicly, however, I found that people would reach out to say how much they needed that prayer or to ask to talk further. In some strange way, God was able to embrace someone in love through the prayer. So, I kept sharing.

But now I sense God’s Spirit prompting me to “just keep it secret.” So, that is what I am going to practice. I think of it as good soul work.

………………………..

I cannot explain all the reasons why it is good to “keep it secret.” I only know that is what will be good for an indeterminate time now.

I can say that play is becoming prayer for me. An analogy:

When I was in college I had the chance to practice the craft of acting in a rather intense way. That experience transformed me. It buoyed up my spirit on an ocean-depth of God’s creativity, grace, freedom and joy. I never felt closer to God than when I had the chance to get into a part and collaborate with an ensemble.

Doing the best I could at creating a role felt worshipful to me. Acting was prayer. I know that sounds idolatrous to some, but I suspect musicians, poets, and novelists have the same testimony about the relation of their creative process to rich spiritual nourishment.

At any rate, I am convinced that to do something well is to do it as if you are doing it for God.

Anything.

Take cooking: do it as if you are doing it for God and you can’t help but do it well. Not because you have to, but because God is a God of desire, joy, freedom and delight. It is an invitation not a demand, an irresistible invitation in which we get “caught up” in the pleasure of it all.

God claps and stomps a foot in rhythm and everyone gets caught up in the dance, laughing, taken away.

That’s what acting was like for me. Art was prayer. I feel like it’s becoming that again.

……………………..

I’ve had the privilege of leading a small group of people since early November in a course called “The Creative Call”, based on a book of the same name by Janice Elsheimer.

We’re all a group of creative wannabe’s. None of us make a living at art-making, but maybe a couple of us wouldn’t mind that. Regardless, we’re basically a group of folks who have been learning why it’s important to nurture our creative self and how to do that.

A few weeks ago, I got really practical with the group and had them do a short exercise I use when I lead team building retreats. It’s called the “stop, start, keep” exercise. It’s simple but powerful. It goes like this:

“To nurture your creative self, pick one thing you’d like to (or need to) stop doing. Next, pick one thing you’d like to (or need to) start doing. Finally, pick one thing you’d like to (or need to) keep doing.”

One member of the group wrote:

“Stop: The amount of time spent on social media. Start: Doing art with someone else. Keep: reflecting and incorporating my journey into what I create.”

Beautiful! Perfect. Powerful.

I got to thinking: what do I need to stop, start and keep?

…………………………………

The older I get the more I realize that maturity grows in proportion to the wisdom one exercises when choosing between two goods.

As we grow more mature, our soul expands. We can take on more mess because grace has become thicker, stronger.

As grace strengthens, so does our ability to see goodness everywhere and in everything. Even shadows become good.

As I contemplated what I needed to “stop, start and keep doing” I hope you can understand how “prayer” could be in the “stop” category. While I’m not stopping prayer per se, I am stopping the public part of it. Still, choosing to stop prayer was like choosing to stop something good. When I told my wife I was going to do this, she said: "Oh, but don't do that! Your prayers are so good and people like them!"

Well, it's hard to choose this but I know it is good and I am grateful for the experience of it. 

So, now, play will be my prayer. I think it will be that way for a long, long time so I hope my new prayer does not bother you.