The Holy Net of Grace


trapese artists


A recurring image in my life has made another appearance in my consciousness lately.  I am a trapeze artist in the circus that is my life, thinking that I have one simple goal:  to get to the other side.  Accomplishing that goal necessitates leaving the bar behind, even though I may, and often do, fall into the space between.  Over the years I’ve learned that the space is not such a formidable place.  The goal is to release the bar and make a home in the space between.


We stand on life’s platform
like trapeze artists
poised to spring:

hands sweaty
brows clammy
hearts hammering

peering into the space
between the bars.

An illusory Siren,
Safety lures us to the other side
with sweet songs of comfort and security
while the holy net of grace
waits for the free fall
into possibility.

© rita h kowats 2014






photo credit: <a href=””>dirkjanranzijn</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Memorial Day 2014

Vietnam War Memorial  MemDay2014

Isaiah 2:4 

… they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.





Photo:  My 1984 visit to the Vietnam War Memorial, Washington D.C.  The shadows of these young men cast on the wall and the pain etched on the face of the aging veteran, have haunted me since.

Just for Fun: Spiritual Ecstacy

Spiritual Ecstasy Buttercup and  Raymond 2



[in Just-]
by E.E. Cummings

in Just-
spring              when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistle s      far     and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far     and     wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan     whistles

Spiritual Ecstasy


A friend posted this picture today from, and it delighted me so much I was prompted to share it with you.  Edgar’s Mission is a farm animal rescue in Australia.  Treat yourself and look at the pictures of all their animals, noticing the apt names they have bestowed upon them.

Buttercup and Raymond remind me of King David dancing with abandon before the Ark of the Covenant.  The bounding lambs also recall a time when I walked with a loved one in spring rain and just had to stomp in the mud puddle and splash it all over him.  It was so “mud-luscious” I couldn’t resist.

When we throw off the things of adults and put on the heart of a child we enter into spiritual ecstasy.  We stand outside of ourselves, outside of mundane ego concerns, leaving us free to relish that spirit space where God lives.

May we all have at least twenty minutes today when we can be creative and throw ego-decorum to the wind!


Laying It To Rest II

Laying It To Rest II

If you have experienced suffering in the context of instituional religion perhaps you will relate to my poem.  I offer it as a catharsis  to create an opening to healing.


I   Venomous Voices

Specks of stray spittle launched on spurious words
in hallowed halls of religion
fifty, thirty, sixteen years past:

“I’m the one asking the questions here.  You just answer them.”
(Yes, Daddy…or was that Father?)

“How long has she been chasing you?”

“I won’t hire her.  She’s angry.”
(Scared shitless)

“She discusses WITCHES with her students.”
(One of THOSE feminists)

II  Healing Voices

Hope is an April shower pinging
off tender green shoots
promising possibility:

“…I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction….Now choose life.”

“Rather than focus on what’s threatening to strangle you, why not focus on what’s struggling to be born?”
(Let go)

“Trust your intuition.”
(Be the Spirit Whisperer)

Passing showers lift
this withering flower
by the bootstraps of her integrity
and stand her up straight and strong.

III  Metamorphosis

The landscape has changed.
Fissures of venom have burned
new pathways in my heart.

No longer Bride of Christ
No longer Battered Wife

I am a seasoned colleague
In the business of Gospel Living.

© rita h kowats 2014


Photo Credits:  My dear friend ministers as a psychiatrist to veterans.  I took the original picture of this sunflower in the community garden which her team and the vets established as a sanctuary of peace and sustenance.


“What a Wonderful World”

Pretty in Pink


“What A Wonderful World”

I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces,
Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying,
“I love you”.I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Oh yeah.

Louie Armstrong
Louie has been in my head for a week.  Every day I wake up singing it.  I go to bed singing it.  It’s a sign to me that I should make you sing it too.

On Patience


On Patience WP


A Poem:  “Waiting for the traffic light to change the Patient squints against the midday sun….”

On Patience Poem

 © rita h kowats 2014

photo creditgsgeorge via”>photopin ccaltered border

photo credit Duncan Brown (Cradlehall) via photopin cc altered bird overlay

Mothers’ Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Julia Ward Howe

Mothers’ Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Mother’s Day was originally started after the Civil War, as a protest to the carnage of that   war, by women who had lost their sons.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice.”

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of

Julia Ward Howe
Boston 1870


Photo Credit:

Midwives of Freedom

royal tern hooked


Gracious Goodness
by Marge Piercy

On the beach where we had been idly
telling the shell coins
cat’s paw, cross-barred Venus, china cockle,
we both saw at once the sea bird fall to the sand
and flap grotesquely.
He had taken a great barbed hook
out through the cheek and fixed
in the big wing.
He was pinned to himself to die,
a royal tern with a black crest blown back
as if he flew in his own private wind.
He felt good in my hands, not fragile
but muscular and glossy and strong,
the beak that could have split my hand
opening only to cry
as we yanked on the barbs.
We borrowed a clippers, cut and drew out the hook.
Then the royal tern took off, wavering,
lurched twice,
then acrobat returned to his element, dipped,
zoomed, and sailed out to dive for a fish.
Virtue:  what a sunrise in the belly.
Why is there nothing
I have ever done with anybody
that seems to me so obviously right?



Every so often I have to get my Marge Piercy fix, and today was the day.  I can only read her poetry sporadically, because she throws truth like a dagger, piercing its target with razor-sharp precision.  When I read this poem today I became the royal tern and dissolved in tears commingled with memories in a sacred eucharist of life.

Perched as I am on the precipice of my seventieth year of this life, the view ahead is very different from the view at forty or fifty, much less before thirty-eight.  That time in my life can be deftly described by Marge Piercy in another of her poems entitled in true Piercy aplomb, “The Song of the Fucked Duck.”:

“In using there are always two.
The manipulator dances with a partner who cons herself.
There are lies that glow so brightly we consent
to give a finger and then an arm
to let them burn.”

I was like a young chimpanzee swinging from bar to tree, limb to rope, playing to a crowd of voyeurs and secretly shrieking, “Look at me, love me, look at me.”  Pieces of my integrity were lobbed off with every exhibition, leaving my young soul besotted with false hope and utterly alone.  I was willing to be conned by needy manipulators for whatever morsels of pseudo-love they threw my way.  For a time after my awakening I was ashamed of the vulnerable little girl who still occasionally clamored to be heard.  Eventually, the spiritual practices I was developing brought me into healing and new life.  One day while praying I realized that I had to embrace the child to set her free.  As if taken by the hand by the Spirit of God, I lay myself down in fetal position before the altar I had created.  Holding my body together with my arms, I held that little girl and loved her-all of her.  It was a physical enactment of a spiritual call to unconditional love of self.

As with Marge Piercy’s royal tern, I have been blessed with companions along my journey who have “unpinned” me.  The tears I shed while reading the poem witness to my gratitude for these loved ones who have loved me and showed me to myself.  In honor of them I try to stay aware of situations which could pin me. In my ministry as a spiritual guide I try to be a midwife of freedom for others.  “Why is there nothing I have ever done with anybody that seems to me so obviously right?”




Photo Credits:  Florida Department of Transportation;
flying tern: photo credit: <a href=””>Erick Houli</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Un-Masque The Basilisk

Basilisk Unmasqued

The only one way to kill it:  hold a mirror before its eyes.  When the snake sees its own reflection it will die of fright. 


How I loved the scene from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” when Harry’s spell casts Dudley head first into the snake’s den, freeing the snake.  The snake slithers out, fixes an intense gaze on Harry and says, “Sssssthanks.” Harry replies, “Any time.”  The snake in this scene bears no resemblance to the evil basilisk in later Harry Potter adventures. The Yin and Yang of life seems to be ever-present.  “You can’t have one without the other.” The legend of the Basilisk, the King of Serpents relates only one way to kill it:  hold a mirror before its eyes.  When the snake sees its own reflection it will die of fright.  So perhaps the best spiritual practice is not so much to focus on eradicating evil, as much as to focus on revealing it for what it is. Unmasking the evil which nips at our heels is a process of self-realization.  That is where our energy is more profoundly effective, for in bringing our potential as human beings to realization, we also release the hold that evil can have on us.  To be fully human is to be a spark of the divine, Meister Eckhart tells us.  The most positive symbology of snakes is that of regeneration.    The sloughing off of dead skin becomes a kind of resurrection for the snake.  Changing our focus to self-realization promises a more vibrant spiritual life for us. Guardians of sacred spaces is a common symbol for snakes throughout the world.  Countless sculptures of the Buddha have him sitting on the coils of a snake, while the snake’s head rises above the Buddha with hood flared.


File:Buddha shielded by Naga.jpg

Wikipedia Commons

In dream symbology snakes can be interpreted as guardians as well, but as guardians of the underground, the unconscious guardians of our consciousness.  For profound and interesting treatment of animal symbols in dreams, including snakes visit my friends at and  Our unconscious is indeed a sacred space which we need to guard and nourish.  It holds the key to un-masquing the basilisk.    Pay attention.


Opening Vision

Guest Post
Marcia McLaughlin




Sometimes we have so much difficulty seeing clearly what is ahead of us.  Recently I was at Holden Village, a retreat center in the mountains.  The top photo was taken out my bedroom window, which was covered with snow.  The colors were beautiful, but I couldn’t tell at all what was beyond my window, other than the snow.  Less than 48 hours later, because of melting snow, I was able to see the trees and buildings beyond my window.  Life can be like this—we struggle and struggle to make sense out of life, not seeing our way out of a difficult situation.

Then something happens that changes our vision and brings sudden clarity.  The confusion and struggle melt away as the snow did, opening up to an answer.  The snow melts when the temperatures get warm enough.  One can wait for that to happen or use a shovel to dig your way through the snow.  When our vision of a situation is blocked by something, we may have to wait or perhaps there is something we can do to bring clarity.  What or who helps you when you are in the midst of confusion and struggle and need clarity?  Since my blocked window was on the 2nd floor, I wasn’t capable of removing the snow.  I had to wait.  Are you able to wait when nothing you can do removes the block, when struggling is futile?  How is God a part of finding clarity? How is God a part of stopping the struggle and waiting?


1 Corinthians 13: 12-13.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Marcia Mclaughlin is my colleague in spiritual direction ministry.  She ministers as spiritual director, pastoral care counselor, and retreat leader at Richmond Beach UCC.  I am delighted to share her wisdom with you.

Link to Marcia’s Linkedin Profile: