Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The First Day of Christmas - When The Angels Say Hush

View of the Church of the Nativity 1883
Bethlehem - by Maxim Vorobiev

When The Angels Say: Hush!

 I know we seem busy
I know we seem rushed;
But we settle down
Christmas Eve when

 The Angels say, "Hush!
Peace in the manger
Peace amidst the straw;"
Thus entered the Holiest 
   Only Child the world ever saw. 

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved.

Written for Linda Hanel's
Christmas letter in 1993
A beloved teacher at
Shakopee Area Catholic School
Shakopee, MN

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Essense: Keeping Holiness

Mural of the Birth of Christ - Wikipedia by David Bjorgen
A painting of John the Baptist Church at the River Jordan

Sometimes I forget
 That Christmas is not
About giving love
But about 
Being Love--

Or just being.
Being present
Hold a hand;
Listen to a voice
Carrying warmth, 
Even timelessness;
Kiss a revered cheek;
Nuzzle an arthritic dog;
Lean to hug a hurting woman
As she grieves;
Cradle an all-knowing cat,
All the while 

The Baby Cache.

Honoring the sick, the elderly,
The lonely, the hurting,
The vulnerable
December 21, 2012
by Connie Nelson Ahlberg

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What I Wouldn't Give!

 My Radiant Daughter 
Name Withheld by Request

A Tribute to Daughters and Granddaughters

What I wouldn't give, Radiant Daughter,
Gifts for all of your days:
The purest air;
Warmest shelter holding
Unconditional love;
Housing a treasure chest so full:
Brilliant teachers
Cherished family and friends
Safety and health
Holding a bucket of dreams, 
Your own chosen achievements-- 
Those Lived-in heart's longing,
Embellished by Faith and 
Grace which crowns your head
And envelops your being;
Yes, held by Angels
All of your days--
All this is in my hands
To you like offerings 
And prayers,
Living in my kisses 
For your cheeks
And my love
That surrounds you 

Written by Connie Nelson Ahlberg
Inspired by the wonder of this face
And the littlest angels in Connecticut
Along with the women, Saints All,
Who protected them.
December 18, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

To Ease the Suffering

To Ease the Suffering

May God
hold the lives
just lost
within our 
outlaw country;
Why, Dear Ones,
do we defend
our guns
the way
we should
defend our peace?

I shall light candles
and ask Buddha and
the Christ
to forget us not;

Help us
exude Light
in the midst of heartache
and heartbreak;

May the goodness
in us all
that as a nation
we have so very much
to heal.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
Honoring all of Connecticut,
Honoring the Innocents
December 14, 2012 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mary, Holiness Was Born in You!

Grotto at Massabielle in Lourdes, France

Soon the babe comes
As the world waits;
Make us ready;
To walk in holiness;
To remember the fallen;
To think of the lost;
To give to the needing;
to forgive the unrepentant;
to bless the arrogant--
Seeing Christ
in a babe
in a boy
in a teen
in a man
in myself;
Our candles are lit;
we bow our heads;
holiness walks with me
Because Holiness 
was born in you.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
Inspired by Our Lady,
Advent & JCA
Dec. 12, 2012

Caressing the Earth

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library - Wikipedia

People with
A magnanimous spirit
Caress the Earth
With their feet.

1994 Connie Nelson Ahlberg 
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Norman's A Best Friend

Norman Vincent Peale's Thought Conditioners

A handwritten Bible on display in Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire England.
The Bible was written in Belgium in 1407 AD for reading aloud in a monastery.
The photograph was taken by Adrian Pingstone in 2005. 

Years ago a kind and wise woman saw I was struggling. We worked together. Betty had a real job and mine was on the lowest rung. Betty slipped a diminutive booklet under my elbow. It was Norman Vincent Peale's Thought Conditioners, 40 Biblical phrases to lift and inspire. 

In my years in a Catholic school we didn't quite do the Bible study the way many in the Protestant faiths do. Part of me feels the Church didn't want us "to trouble our minds," when they could think for us. Those were the days one heard "Holy Mother Church," often. Of course, such a title made one want to genuflect. There was a lot of kneeling in those days.

Yet when my co-worker gave me the small booklet, I didn't know what to make of it. But I started carrying the booklet around; I started relying on the words when I needed comfort. Certain phrases lifted me like "You are the refreshing," Peale's 37th scriptural verse. Peace assured.

This morning all the quotes seem to take me to a deeper level. Life is such a mystery; you never know when you'll feel a preverbial poke in your ribs or the Buddhist's shout, the Buddhist slap: Wake up! Wake up your life! 

I've started to see quotes on Facebook for those who are going through hard times during the holidays. The phrase I read repeatedly, "for those who are hurting." I feel many are more than hurting. 

Family health news keeps no calendar. Stunning news comes any time, wreath or no. I just embraced someone I've come to love in my condo building. She is bereft with grief. No one has just died but unless mircles ride my rosary, in a few months, her brother in-law will. 

"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Who doesn't labor and seek rest? This is Peale's Thought Condition 4.

It's a different view where I live now verses my home just behind me and over a hill. More shiny walkers over here, cranberry, shiny royal blue, ones to carry parcels or the driver herself. You ought to see how deft women are wielding these carts around! 

Someone needs these verses. Someone needs the little booklet. Maybe it's you, maybe it's me.

As I hugged my neighbor I said something which startled a revered member of Clouds in Water Zen Center, my words: Sometimes I truly wish we could get out of here alive! 

A little humor, the sun is shining. And I just bought 5 lbs of seeded grapes. I bow to your  innate goodness; never worry, if I know you, then you're on my beads--. I have a tendency to scoop people up in prayer. How else should we live?

Speak the language of Compassion; everyone understands.

Link to Thought Conditioners: http://www.drcolvard.com/thtcond.pdf

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tokyo in December

Tokyo Tower - Wikipedia

With a suddenness that still leaves me gasping, I'm booked for my long-awaited trip to Japan. It's a trip I've put off. Procrastination overtook my mind after hearing and learning of long flights over water, drop-dead jet lag, and concern about my weight and being forced to see Tokyo by foot. I saw myself panting behind my 18 month-old grandson.

I know I'm not in shape to climb steps to endless shrines, even though I should be. Do I fast until I get there? I was seeking a lean day yesterday, but then ended up eating too much Vigo red beans and rice (with cheap cheese from Costco).

A niece in Madison has a "Fit Pick" and is as fit as her pick. Yesterday I purchased the Weight Watcher tool that tracks your activity: I thought it would be a great motivator--or cattle prod! (Call it a motion detector for my _ _ _.)

My son said, "Mom, our apartment is just behind the tall building to the left of Tokyo Tower." 

And there they've lived: dad, mom, and two blond offspring, leaning into Asian life as the Buddhists advise. 

Kind residents have bowed to my 6'5" fair-framed son and my equally fair granddaughter. The tall and much shorter ex-pat have purchased French croissants at a bakery, and then sat on a bench. Passersby heard a little voice say: "On Wisconsin!" 

I've howled upon seeing slender Japanese women kneel to get a shot of granddaughter Kjerstin like paparazzi encircling Madonna. My son explained to me that my granddaughter was seen as a pale, blond doll to her admirers. (Now that she's four, the paparazzi have dissipated.)

I've followed my son and daughter in-law's blog and seen what looks like a small octopus-like appetizer move onto a restaurant table when you put hot sauce on it. I've read signs and t-shirts with awkward phrasing since some shop owners want English on signs or shirts but aren't quite sure of their meaning. But since I know virtually no Japanese, they lead me linguistically.

I've admire how my son's family have studied the Japanese language, gone to festivals, and been invited to weddings. It's a morning ritual to hear my son call a cab in Japanese.  I hear "hai," but know it's not hi as we know it. More yes, okay, or hm. My daughter in-law discovered, too, that addresses on buildings don't relate to how we number buildings in the West, which left her in utter frustration. 

I may be calmer today, but it is too early to say. I'm hopeful. After all, a poet in Tokyo can't be all bad.

With loving kindness my son informs me he's taking the first week off to be with me after I arrive. I tell him I'm a tuning fork. He counters with: I can help. 

Easy Japanesey he says. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gift of the Day: God as Artist

Bald eagle with fish from Kodiak, Alaska by Yathin S Krishnappa

I thought I was alone. I was driving along Hwy 61 in northeast Minnesota, following the road along Lake Superior's shore north of Silver Bay. 

My eyes kept looking out across the lake because there was a lovely light, not so much spectacular, as soft and compelling near the horizon. It lifted the day after northeasters had moved out. 

I had only to turn to the left to enjoy the view: the lake, the trees, stark as they were, like God's brooms stuck on end.

Suddenly my eyes were drawn upward in a tree. I saw an immense nest. In the nest was a ever-watchful, majestic eagle, taller than one would imagine. His brilliant, white head held all splendor with the unmistakable beak like a profile posing.

I couldn't believe it. I'm not an Albrecht Durer, yet there it was: God as artist. 
The eagle seemed to be musing and not in the hunt at the moment: the outline of this treasured aves looking south, the direction I was going.

I wonder if the link between man and the eagle, between woman and eagle, is that each of us has a four-chambered heart. 

Along with beauty and wonder, the eagle carries courage and transcendence. I take grace from the splendor in the nest. And I shall keep it near - as near as Great Spirit soars in nature.

O magnificent bird, help me carry courage, and embolden me with your four-champered in fearless flight through all my days and nights.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

To Be A Light

                                                           Karl Bodmer - Maximilian, Prince of Wied's Travels

                                                                in the Interior of North America - Wikipedia

                                            To Be A Light

To be a light!
To be a beacon bright!
What is the Gospel
According to you?

Beauteous psalmic verses
From courage we sought
And drew

As we walk 
In our day:
Do we leave others wondering:
What is the Gospel
According to you?

It isn't enough to read it;
Say prayers memory feeds it;
Then meditate
On cushion or kneeler when you're blue;

It's the belief in honoring
Each other: 
Living the scripture--
Becomes the Gospel
According to you;

Position, fame, wealth, appearance,
Don't really matter,
If Grace isn't left
After all we do;

It's a humbling walk I grant you;
What tears and knees have wrought too, 
Whether Allah, David, 
  Christ or Buddha
In our dwelling we view;

 It's how we treat each other--
That's our book and cover:
 That scripture
The Gospel
   That follows you.

Written Nov 8, 2012
After serving on a committee

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pool Sanctuary

Pool Sanctuary

I awoke this morning with a start. The phone off the hall in the bath woke me. I had been up at 4 A.M. and had gone back to bed. The sound was glaring.

Eleven o'clock is my buddy-swim time. At age 65 I am swimming for my health with another condo resident. It's too early to talk I said to myself. I can't move. I didn't want to talk at all, having called Minneapolis residents for the Presidential race just the night before.

Still, Janice, my swimming buddy, age 80.5, could be down at the condominium pool, hoping I'd join her. At 11:30 I made my way down the hall. No walker in the hallway, meant no Janice in the pool. 

I was sinning anyway. I'd made a strong pot of coffee in clear violation of the
NO FOOD OR DRINKS sign on the wall. I had my brew hidden under my towel. Rules were made...

I set everything down on one of the tables. The pool water barely moved...only a little--like a human breathing. I had entered my sanctuary, my pool sanctuary. Sometimes a boxelder bug makes it's way inside and decides to take a dip. But no little insect legs were skimming the top. I was alone. It was delicious. 

As I descended the stairs into the water, the feel of the water felt cool, cooler than normal. Janice wouldn't have liked it. To keep the vigil, I didn't turn the lights on.

I let my body make it's own ripples, loving the sound. The woods outside the windows is the backdrop I love. Now fewer leaves against a gray sky. 

Thinking of recent horrific events on the East coast, I think of the craziness of metropolitan living, our manic use of cell phones, our demand for services.

I think of the one poem of mine my son said he likes. Inspired by the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu I wrote:

Desiring everything
You have nothing;
Desiring nothing,
You have everything;

Ride the train and you lose the landscape;
Walk the path and become
Part of the flowers;

Swim fiercely
And the waves are choppy;
Float and the water 
Caresses your limbs;

Truth is the root
Of a very large tree:
Sit in it's branches
And embrace--the shade.

I say the words in water.

It's easier to pray when you're alone. So the Catholic litany begins, mostly the familiar Act of Contrition, then the St. Francis Prayer, but whatever comes. I pray for those fighting cancer, a friend I haven't heard of in a long time, my brother, my brother in-law and those grieving his passing. I don't want to leave anyone out, but invariably I do. I'm comforted, happy, when each name needing prayers comes to me. 

I do my backstroke praying from end to end. God swims with me, maybe Buddha, too. (Dear Thich Nhat Hanh says: If you ask Buddha to come, he comes right away.) Come Healing Buddha.

As Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda said: God is everything.

Monday, October 29, 2012

As True as God

A lamb's first steps by Peter Shanks from Lithgow, Australia Wikipedia

As True as God

I wish you peace
As true as God;
Joy to match
A young child's giggles
Of magical delight;
Friendship that endures past
Endings in time like
Ageless siblings at play
Or the vision of how innocence was;
You live in my memory
Until I see you again
And then
All of heaven 
Will be a luminous joy!
I knew you as
A gentle boy
Seeking truth;
I hold you
As one would hold
A star.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
Written October 28, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vote Builders

Vote Builders - Eagan, Minnesota

Old Woman Dozing by Nicolaes Maes

I messed up today. I was scheduled to phone Democratic voters from 1-5 at the Obama campaign office in Eagan, MN. I thought I was on last week's schedule of 4-7 P.M.  

If you're tired of the election, tired of the ads, and feeling a tad cynical, I have a remedy for you. Talk to the elderly voter, those in their 80's or 90's. I nearly choke up when I hang up. 

You hear a frail voice and explain why you're calling. They sound tentative. You know if you're lucky, someday you might be 80 or 90 years-old. You ask if they have a way to the polls and explain why you're calling. You thank them for being a good citizen.

You can't be jaded talking with the elderly. You know they've paid their dues and time may be limited. It feels like an honor to talk to them. Of course, it's an honor to talk to anyone.

A campaign office has a buzz this late in the election season. With so many on the phones, so many loud voices, it was even more than a buzz this evening. You pray you can hear the person dialed. Not using headphones, I plugged my ear. Someone just across the table from you is calling from the database as well. You think she's too loud, but you're probably too loud. It feels like the whole room is shouting. 

The food table changes: blueberry muffins, energy bars, water, Pepsi cans beginning to perspire, and bags of Doritos. A heavy-set woman comes in with sandwiches from Subway. She's all smiles. Mostly it's women who notice her come in, men being fewer in number.

I find out later at the end of my time, that we're 150 calls behind Minneapolis. We were calling into St. Paul. 

I tried to say Mike Obermueller without tripping over the syllables. I seemed to need my crib sheet.

The local campaign co-ordinator looks exhausted in her blue jeans. Her name is Hilary; she's always there. She said her parents ask her if she's taking care of herself.

"Now I just laugh," she said.  

"I'm trying to watch Frontline on both the President and former Gov. Romney. But I'm so tired when I leave here." 

"Romney is running for his father," Hilary told me, "to finish his father's goal; he isn't really running for himself. It's very interesting," her voice trailed off. 

The Democrats dialed by Vote Builder are upbeat. They're happy if you're happy. You're happy if they're happy. It's infectious.

I'm "with the program," one said. 

Tomorrow I'll go call again from the Eagan campaign office in Minnesota. If I'm lucky, they  will all be in their 90's. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prayer of the Dog

Dog Nose By Elucidate - Wikipedia

Prayer of the Dog

Everyone forgets
I have two Masters!
They call me soulful,
And give me all the credit;
Yet, I know I am part
Of your mission;
A good dog can lead
Many to heaven;
I make no mistakes
(Or when I do I hide;)
I fetch; I sigh;
I romp; I play;
At my masters feet
Is how I pray;
Give me my final home--
Eternal love and a lasting bone.

1997 Connie Nelson Ahlberg

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ever I Place My Trust—in You

Level Two Multiverse
By Silver Spoon - Wikipedia

Ever I Place my trust—in You
A Prayer to the God of All Creation

You are Unknowable, Impenetrable Splendor
That throws me to my knees
In awe-filled ecstasy;
Though I grieve Earth’s harshness…
I’m more than humbled by your multiverse,
A sky behind skies, beyond stars, beyond blackness
To You, All Light;

Forgive my lamentations!
Accept my gratitude!
While I am less than a speck,
Keep me part of Your Breath;
                   As ever I place my trust--in You.               

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
Oct 11, 2011
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Friend, I Will Not Judge Thee

My friend, I will not judge thee, only love thee until we are old and need a cane.
You are a flower with your own lyre in a garden I see;
My words, my words, flow humbly flow to thee:

O friend, I will not judge thee, as I wish to be free from judgement.
I am patience, your devoted friend, as I have felt the sting--of impatience.
I offer thee beginner's mind, the mind of a devoted monk, abandoning any backpack carried for years. I am light; I am free. I am here for thee.

I know the peace of trust; thus, I offer it to you. Feel my arm 'round your shoulders.
I've dissolved in pools of acceptance - so I offer you an eddy of reflection in which I accept your entire being.
Holding resentment is like a poison, letting go I free unencumbered like gentle leaves
rocked in the trees. Forgiveness extends, extends to thee.
Seeking to be better than you takes me to competition, so I abandon striving at your expense.
Working ably and well sounds it's own trumpet. In non-striving, we both are free.
Dear friend, if I am your friend, I accept you--utterly.
In faith, love, and hope - stay with me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Seeing Through Eyes Darkly - The Illness Box

Lavender Field, Vaucluse, France, near Valreas

May my thoughts and information on mental health benefit all beings.

World Suicide Awareness Day

On the very day I've called behavior health (formerly called mental health) within my health care provider, I see on Twitter that this is Suicide Awareness Day.

In recent weeks, I've felt I should do a public service announcement on my blog on the illness of depression. While one day can trivialize a profound illness effecting many people, I wish to share some reflections and tools which have helped me fight my near life-long illness.

Years ago there was a big announcement based on the study of the Amish over ten-years time. The proclamation: depression runs in families.

Really? I said to myself, hand raised. You could have saved yourself a raft of research had you just asked me. 

My father told me that his maternal grandfather with little feet--cried all the time. His daughter, my beloved grandmother, Phoebe Josephine, had her ups and downs--once so bereft with grief that she went to the rocky edge of Minnesota's Lake Superior after her daughter Dorothy was accidentally shot in the head by a Lutsen Resort guest on the North Shore of Minnesota. Grandmother Phoebe was brought back from the danger she was in on that day. Her daughter lived.

In the family, this predisposition more than "trickled down" through the generations.  Two of Phoebe's sons were diagnosed as bi-polar, a third son struggled with alcohol and may have also battled depression according to my father and cousin.

Many descendants of my grandmother, my father, and uncles have been effected by this predisposition. (Years ago I read that the father passes this imbalance within the x chromosome which is why so many more women than men battle this disease. Now the research is so in depth, it's over my head. The National Institute of Mental Health has the latest research on their website.)

Because bi-polar disorder is in my family, while visiting mental health, I'd pick up brochures from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on bi-polar disorder and depression.  The list of symptoms became in my mind The Illness Box (as it was frequently shown with a border on the literature). 

Here is the link which ran on Twitter today for World Suicide Awareness Day. 

But for depression awareness here is the link. It is to better caught early to reduce suffering.  

One of my tools when looking at the literature, is that it helps me realize I've slipped into the "illness box." This assists me in accepting my symptoms as illness and to detach with kindness.

People can lose sight that depression can be fatal. Prevention means we deal with awareness and seek help when we, or someone we love--is hurting.

I've been asked in recent months, how have you survived, how have you coped with depression? 

My answer is and was: I ride it out - like waves on water. I try to connect with loved ones, enjoy the outdoors, exercise, work with my doctors on all aspects of healthy living and prevention. I also work on gratitude. I pray. I meditate and try to return to my own breath. 

Unlike my great-grandfather's day, there is now much help and hope for those who suffer from mental health disorders. For the purpose of this entry, I've used some labels. But
it's important we see beyond labels, seeing each person as an individual. Labels themselves can categorize people, dismissing each by placing them in a group.

I hope this entry is of benefit.

May YOU be well. May your loved ones be well.  May we live life in fullness - with smiles, aware of our many gifts.

Friday, July 20, 2012

O Faith and Feathers

Dove, the Bird of Peace
by WheelPlantUser1 Wikipedia

Dear Bird of Grace,
I come with faith
to your feathers
to bury my face against your
beating heart;
as you, with Our Infinite Creator,
hold me with your warmth;
remind me holiness is real,
profoundly able to 
lift and heal darkness;
O Faith and Feathers,
catch my tears.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
Honoring Angels lost this day

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In Honor of the Olympics - Prayer of the Risk Taker

Woman performing a "swallow dive", 1937

Prayer of the Risk Taker

I believe as surely
as I dive
into the waters below,
You, O Lord,
Will grant me
The buoyancy
to emerge
from the depths
to dive again!
My body
shimmering, wet,
Thy risk taker
in mid air
You're there!

©1995 Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Today God Cups Your Face

 Italian depiction of the parable of the Good Samaritan - Wikipedia
La parabola del Buon Samaritano Messina Chiesa della Medaglia Miracolosa Casa di Ospitalita Collereale

Today God Cups Your Face

Today God
Cups your face
With caring and knows
What you've given
And to whom;
The room in your heart
And who you give it to;
He sees small kindnesses
And courageous effort
On ordinary days that
Are lifted, lifted to God's plane
As He cups your face with caring.

2000 Connie Nelson Ahlberg - All Rights Reserved.