Everyday I try to stop and recognize something beautiful. Sometimes it just hits me between the eyes, an incredible sunset, the vibrant yellows and flaming reds of autumnal trees, or even a quiet cup of coffee and the hum of my comfortable home. A smile from  a daughter, the laughter of a son, and my beaker of blessings can runneth over.

Other days, well let’s just say, I’m reaching.  My heart can be broken in a million different ways.  Perhaps one of my children is behaving in a way that doesn’t reflect their best self  and I wonder if the higher values I tried to instill didn’t “take.” I start to project that maybe I’m not such a great mother as I believe myself to be, and before I know it I’ve got that child and myself in some pretty dark places in my mind. (All of this within a matter of seconds).  I start to believe that God can’t find me here.  I am alone and even if God is really here, I am not comforted by any sense of presence.

That happened to me yesterday.  When the morning light hit my face this morning, I was tempted to just put the pillow over my head.  But my ingrained spiritual practices serve me well. Even though I felt disheartened and my spirit ached, I got out of bed and prayed to keep my words few today and to remember to be the bearer of joy, believing that sooner or later that which I give will be the gateway of joy for me as well.

And then I came across the Hebrew Bible story of Jacob. How he ended up running away from home because he had tricked his twin brother out of his rightful inheritance, and then his brother had become enraged, and now his very life was in danger. Sleeping on a rock as his only pillow in the middle of the desert, Jacob dreams of a ladder set up on the earth, with the top reaching all the way to heaven.  Angels ascend and descend luminously.  God was there too, promising to be with him and to bring him to safety. Jacob awoke changed.

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, An Altar in the World, re-interpreted this story for me so they it fed and re-inspired me today. Her words reminded me that the divine can be made manifest in any minute and amongst the most dysfuntional of families:

“Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.  Jacob’s nowhere, about which he know nothing, turned out to be the House of God.  Even though his family had imploded, even though he had made his brother angry enough to kill him, even though he was a scoundrel from the word go–God decided to visit Jacob right where he was, though Jacob had not been right about anything so far and never would be.  God gave Jacob vision, so Jacob could see the angels going up and down from earth to heaven, going about their business in the one and only world there is.  The vision showed Jacob something he did not know.  He slept in the House of God.  He woke at the gate of heaven.  None of this was his doing.  The only thing he did right was to see where he was and say so.  Then he turned his pillow into an altar before he set off, praising the God who had come to him where he was.”   

Thank you and Amen.


4 thoughts on “JACOB’S LADDER

  1. Dear Katherine,

    Well, well, well! You have been productive on the blogosphere, which is always good news to me.

    I think your posting today is chocolate and caramel and cream for the soul.

    I do agree Taylor’s take on altars of God being strewn around this saintly earth (I am becoming fond of this term) like angel dusts. The altars reverberate with constant remembrance of God’s attributes, from the smallest slice of the atom, right to the biggest bully Sun of a distant solar system.

    And they do this, without us being aware. But for you, me and all of us, to join in the remembrance – we would find ourselves one, one with the very molecules of our body, one with the moons, one with the stars. This is not knowledge, but a feeling, an act of the heart drinking from the Fountain of Joy Constant.

    I have a foul temper, you know… And a self-destructive impulse which can sweep into my being in a milisecond. So, I understand how you felt waking up that way, and i bet the other 6 billion people living on spaceship earth also would empathise with you! Hehehe.

    People sometimes underestimate the importance of ritual practises but they are important. THe words, the number of repetitions – they are not insignificant… simply because inner reflection will alter your perspective of the world, thereby changing reality and the world itself – to a better, calmer and more beautiful place than it was before.

    Oh well.., I shouldn’t be yakking away like this – hehehe. Its your blog anyway, but I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes, something needs to be said or written there and then!

    Pax Taufiqa.

    • Hi Taufiq, Thank you for you kind wishes for a merry Christmas. I was so grateful to have all three of my children home with me; what a joy. I haven’t been writing in my blog as I have been allowing grief to have its way with me. A personal crisis has had me a bit dazed and confused, but God is good, and I feel myself returning to the light, little by little. Once I’ve allowed some time for a little perspective, it will be time to write about it. Your blog just keeps getting better and better, the poems, book reviews, drawings, and irreverent reverence always leave me a little better than before I visited. Thank you being you, Katherine

  2. Hullo Kat!

    Finally the silence is broken in Sherwood Forest by Nun Tuck. Welcome back!

    May your pen, which has been silent, find its words again, and may your heart, which has tasted grief, find solace and healing with God the Good.

    There is no hurry to heal, all in good time, my dear friend. Saints and sinners alike, we all get lost and confused sometimes (and oh, boy am I a master at getting lost!), but as one famous Sufi once said… If you are not lost, how will you be guided?

    Ah… but you know the deal. There is nothing for me to teach you. Indeed, in many ways, you are my teacher!

    I am glad you had a joyous christmas. Alhamdulillah.

    Pax Taufiqa.

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