The Power of Love, Vulture style…..and a Poem.

I have a sisterinlaw, who has a sister  I have never met.  This is not unusual, as many  families today are not in close contact or have knowledge except  for those in some immediate circles. My husband and I are not in a particular immediate circle because we don’t believe like some in our family.  We are not religious fundamentalists, hence we don’t belong.

But this  ‘unmet’ woman expresses more of what I have come to believe  what God calls us to do: attend to those who are abandoned, unfed, unclaimed, unwanted, and not socially ‘acceptable’ or with value. 

Yesterday I stepped out in some sort of faith and called this sisterinlaw.  We had not talked in two years and I didn’t know whether she would or not. My birth family is wanky like that, full of hurts, bruises and perceived insults.  Some of them finding their marks, too.  But talk we did, over the course of the day.  It was good,  it was a ‘reclaiming’ of a particular part of family, if only limited to her.

She is a fundamentalist Christian, and I am not. She is very much involved in the arguments of church and theology.  She attempts in her own way to build paths to  human hearts.  She is what I would consider a ‘good’ theologian for a fundamentalist: she doesn’t beat you over the head with such finely wrought arguments that you are left dizzy.   I believe she proceeds from love. I found, in talking to her, that I had missed our discussions, even if they are limited to her attempts to get me to her side of religious arguments.  And then she told me about her sister in Florida, Diana.

Diana is just about my age, and lives in an area where there are many homeless and abandoned animals.  She feeds probably two dozen cats, some of them hers, most of them not.  She also feeds dogs, stray dogs, ducks that come from the nearby pond, a mother racoon and her kit, and Frank.  Frank is a vulture, and Frank has been coming around for kibble for four or five years.  Sometimes, Frank brings his friends to the porch for feeding.

I am left in a state of awe, wonder and amazement.  Right now I am also left in a weakened state of tears: whether this is because it is early, and tears are a normal part of being overwhelmed by the beauty of the morning or because of what I am writing about, Frank and Diana and all her ‘the least of us’, I don’t know, but I’m not ashamed.

I have been giving a lot of thought recently about my own state of faith.  We’ve just passed a season of outward love, and I am wondering how much of that really sticks.  Churches are embroiled in theological issues, much beyond my simple understanding, or my wanting to be involved in; it seems that we have put aside, along with the Xmas tree and tinsel, our ‘good tidings’ to our fellow men, and what are we now left with?  The  forecasters of economical  ‘good tidings’ are mostly happy with the glut of merchandise and the money spent on the Xmas season but still, where is the ongoing love and message of this season?

I have a particular problem with fundamentalism: to me it is anti-creativity, not respecting the individuality of a person, demanding compliance and conformity in a particular religious dogma.  This goes for Christian, Jewish, etc. doctrine. I believe that we, those who think otherwise, should leave the churches to these fundies: give over the buildings, the candles, the properties, the altarcloths, etc.  Give them what they are fighting for, as is shown in so much of the Episcopal brouhaha right now across our country, and outward. The rest of us should drop these battles and get on with developing our own beliefs and developing a community that is inclusive, not exclusive.  I think we have a fine precedent in creation-based spirituality.  We have Hildegarde of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, and these are just a few of the Christian ‘mystics’.  People most fundamentalists never learned about. 

We also have our own modern mystic, Father Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest who is now an Episcopalian. People interested in this  movement of Creation Spirituality should read him.  It is inclusive, deep and to me, a joyful spirituality that proposes ‘original blessing’ rather than ‘0riginal sin’.  Redemption comes to us, not as a power alien to own natures but as an ‘aha’ experience that transcends.

Diana is not a rich woman. She makes sacrifices to do what she does.  I called  just to introduce myself and to find out more about Frank and the rest of her flock.  We talked and I am so deeply moved.  I am  impressed that this woman has cut through  the arguments in life and just does what she does as an article of faith.  She puts her actions where many put  just their mouths, words.  Oh, there are dangers to her and to Frank and all those she feeds and loves.  The locals are not generally happy, and have threatened her and Frank and company, but Frank thankfully is protected by laws down there.  So the taunts of shooting him would get the humans in deep trouble.  As they should.

I was told by my sisterinlaw that when it gets cold down there in Florida, and it does, Diana puts a heater outside for those abandoned to huddle against and keep warm. It does take hours to feed everyone, and the miracle here is this is a real “Peaceable Kingdom”.  Frank is eating from the same bowl that cats are eating from, and ducks are coming from the pond to join the table: It must be something to see a bunch of vultures eating quietly (??) with a bunch of cats.  I would definitely call this God’s Miracle.  I would rather sit and watch this miracle than listen to a book of sermons.

Sometimes Frank will eat from a bowl held out by Diana, and then he turns sideways and watches her.  She is not afraid of these huge birds, carrion eaters, and I believe she is a special agent of God’s love.  She has to be.

As we go into this season of Silence, Stillness, Scarcity and bone-numbing cold, I see the hope of life and love that is real in Diana’s actions.  To some, foolhearty, dangerous, a ‘waste of time’, but to me, Diana expresses exactly what we are called upon to do: to set aside our own comfort and extend ourselves to others, even those who have no ‘value’ to most. Diana is a real example of God’s love, and what we are called upon this earth to do.  We can froth at the mouth about all the theological arguments we want, but this is all about the head and a too-worldy ego.  What Diana does cuts through to the real message we are called to embrace. 

She cuts through to the heart of the matter, and that is good.

Lady Nyo

Ode to a Coopers Hawk

Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul to weigh down,

No soft plumage to feel the course

Of wind through glossy feathers

No hunting call to herald my presence.

Still my soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory

Transcend a sullen earth,

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

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31 Responses to “The Power of Love, Vulture style…..and a Poem.”

  1. Fred Says:

    We get so wrapped up in our dad to day dilemma that we lose sight of those less fortunate than ourselves. Be it human or animal, we distance ourselves and think “someone else will take care of it”. If you find yourselves down on your luck wouldn’t you want the help of some selfless individual to help you out with no questions asked?
    The thing most everyone forgets is ” God’s gift to you is life, what you do with is your gift to Him” Get involved and your life will be so much better for it.

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Fred.

    For those who don’t know Fred, he is my husband of now 27 years. I have never met a finer man. He is without blatant theology, and he lives his life exactly as he has written above: he is charitable to all he meets, and has been since the day I met him, so many years ago.

    Diana and Fred have the same behavior: they give selflessly to ‘the others’. To me, these make Godly people, not the ones who rant and rave theology, regardless their ‘brand’ of theology, be it Christian, Jew or Muslim.

    These two are are the ones who put their faith in action on Earth.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  3. katiewritesagain Says:

    Jane
    My heart opens to your relative and the animals she feeds. You’re right-it is silly, selfish and stupid to care nothing for other living creatures-human or animal.
    I hear people say “well, you can’t help everybody,” etc. No, but you can help one. Or two. or however many you can help. That’s all you have to do to be a decent person.
    Whether it’s an animal or a human, help one. Just one.
    Thank you for the posting.

    Like

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Katie!
    Well, so much of that you quote was from Fred…..LOL!

    I have been listening to Matthew fox, the former Dominican priest, on Youtube for the last two days. He talks about Creation Spirituality and the need for a new reformation in Christianity, etc.

    I think his message is exactly this: we are not apart from the other species, but what we do here destroys not only our lives and the Earth, but the survival of all other species.

    Some of the easiest things to do is this: carry a bin of dog food, cat food in your car, and when you see a stray animal, pull over and put any amount on the ground for them to come back to and eat. This to me is the clear Light of God in us.

    Thank you, Katie! I know you are a practitioner of all this.

    I am so in awe of “Frank” the vulture…..what wonderful trust his has shown to us demented humans.

    Jane

    Like

  5. brian Says:

    great message in teh write and the example of your relative…feeding vultures…wow…but it also makes great metaphor of helping those that many find unsavory….i like the write as well…i wanna fly and soar…

    Like

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian. I hadn’t thought about that aspect: feeding the vulture was akin to attending to those rather unsavory characters.

    That poem had an added stanza I took out….but I think I should put back in: it was about not needed ‘white bearded prophets, gospel songs, hard benches, etc.”

    It was anti-fundamentalism….which I believe, like Matthew Fox, the Episcopal priest….where the greatest sins come from. And that fundamentalism incorporates a decidedly anti-creativity in it’s being.

    Thank you, Brian, always…for reading and your comments.

    Hugs,
    Jane

    Like

  7. Nick Says:

    As an atheist, I don’t believe that god has anything to do with it. It seems to me that Diana is simply one of those rare people who is rich in compassion for her fellow creatures, even a carrion-eating vulture. There is a difference between people who merely talk and lecture about compassion and those who actually live it. Clearly, Diana is one of the latter.

    Like

  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Nick!
    I agree about Diana…she is a woman who does without thought….and carries that message which is more spiritual than religious into her daily world. She doesn’t sit around and say that “if you feed them, they will never go away”. LOL! And that seems to be very much the prevalent view and action of many of us.

    If you believe in God, you must understand what God calls us to do: to a compassionate nature and succoring to all creatures.

    Further, Fundamentalism is about power: the power of property, church (hence the outrageous struggle between the fundamentalists that have left the Epis. church because their anti-homosexual positions, and the Episcopal Church itself: I say: a pox on all of them, Church and Fundamentalists. Give them the damn property and vestments, altarcloths, etc..and let us, the rest of us who are trying to understand what God (call Him anything you want here: other cultures do) is calling us to do on Earth.

    That is why Creation Spirituality is so remarkable today. It cuts throw this bullshit with religion.

    Creation Spirituality unleashes vitality, creativity and compassion. It is generous, affirming of diversity and non-competitive. Unlike fall-redemption spirituality, it does not set up competitive dualism. It is egalitarian and pluralistic, rejoicing in that interconnection of a rich cosmic community.

    Fundamentalism demands conformity, compliance and is ultimately anti-creative.

    Creation Spirituality is truly as old as creation. It is found in all the great mystical traditions of Hasidic Judaism, Sufism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. And many more ‘native’ religions. It calls for inclusion, not exclusion.

    Perhaps many of us are atheists because we see the turmoil and division that fundamentalism brings…not only Christian, but Orthodox Judaism, Islamic, etc. These religions are about control and power, not compassion.

    At least to my way of thinking.

    Thanks, Nick, for your reading and response.

    Jane

    Like

  9. Shawna Says:

    Love this line, Jane: “Ride the invisible thermals”

    Like

  10. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Shawna…for taking the time to read this poem.

    Jane

    Like

  11. Katie Says:

    Jane
    I don’t believe in a God who sits in judgement of those of us here. I don’t think we’re that important. Our lives are no different from the other creatures who share this planet. So many of us have distanced ourselves from the world of plants and animals and dirt and weather that we think everything here is simply a big buffet for us to grow fat on-and someone else will clean it up.
    I’m looking forward to starting my Trail trip. Every week I feel more and more detached from people and concrete, TV and bright lights, malls and money. I need the solitude I can’t seem to get anywhere but the woods.
    Katie

    Like

  12. ladynyo Says:

    I understand, Katie.

    And I wish you the absolute best on your trail trip this spring. I understand why you are going. Had I not all these animals here that I am responsible for, I would join you in a heartbeat, sister.

    This line of thought of the fundamentalists, that the Earth is just made for their domination is what is destroying the environment…a large part. No God of mine would tolerate this, but these people are all about power and control. We know the drill.

    Thank you, Katie.

    Love,
    Jane

    Like

  13. brian miller Says:

    ooo i would def put the stanza back in…sounds intriguing for sure…

    Like

  14. Ostensible Truth (OT) Says:

    how wonderfully descriptive this piece is – it has a majestic feel as with the subject – “Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

    Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

    Nestle in my arms

    And bring the curve of the horizon

    Embraced in your outstretched wings” – nicely done! nice seeing it up at dVerse!

    Like

  15. tashtoo Says:

    I loved this word journey with you today, Lady. A good human being is a good human being…no matter the flag they fly, and our world is in desperate need of more! When hearts are true and open, religion can’t get in the way. The purpose of God…in whatever religion, is to bring us together to look out for our fellowman. It’s a sin (no pun intended) that with all our discussions on faith, religion, organized or not…that many of us have forgotten that. Blessings to you for sharing such a personal part of you and engaging all our minds to ponder 🙂

    Like

  16. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Natasha,
    Your words moved me greatly. You have gotten to the essence of the matter. We must care for each other, not shun. I have heard so many in the religious world parse their compassion and sympathy because someone didn’t agree with them. Have it in my own family and it always hurts. No doubt about it.

    Thank you, Natasha for reading this simple piece and your lovely, absorbing comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  17. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, OT!

    I wrote it in great anger! LOL!! It was a religious/philosophical argument and I didn’t stop to think of the ‘hurtin” on the other side.

    I find my strongest moments of ‘faith’ in the outside world. I am 64 as of yesterday, and I never get over my awe at Nature. That is what propels my poetry and my life I think.

    I am a tree=hugger, indeed. LOL!

    Meister Eckhart, from the 14th century said: “To be grateful is enough”. I am profoundly grateful for the beauty and lessons of life!

    Thank you for reading and your comment. Much appreciated.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  18. claudia Says:

    what a magical flight you take us on jane…playing bumper car with an Eagle sounds like lots of fun…and oh the soaring..the feeling the wind through glossy feathers…makes me homesick for the sky…

    Like

  19. ladynyo Says:

    I did, Brian…just for you. I should never have taken it out.

    “I need no white bearded prophets….etc”.

    LOL! Thank you, Brian, for turning my mind to this stanza here.

    Jane

    Like

  20. ladynyo Says:

    Claudia! I can see you as an eagle!! Playing bumper cars with hawks….LOL!

    Thank you for reading, dearheart!

    Jane

    Like

  21. hedgewitch Says:

    Beautiful ode to the hawk, full of light and the love and knowledge of its nature. Fine writing, Jane, and I seem to remember it from earlier postings? Anyway I enjoyed it. I will leave the God discussion to those who find it fruitful.

    Like

  22. Pat Hatt Says:

    Certainly flew upon high with this verse/tale, like the message of we should look around once and a while too, coming up for a view of what goes on around us, instead of just sticking our head in the sand.

    Like

  23. marousia Says:

    I enjoyed sharing your journey today – the dream of providing refuges for the hurt, lonely and angry is something all good hearted people share 🙂

    Like

  24. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Marousia!

    I agree!! It is only the pompous religious jackasses who are driven by power and to control others who parse their compassion.

    Thank you, Sweetie, for reading and your comment. So true!!

    Hugs!
    Jane

    Like

  25. ladynyo Says:

    Pat…you’re right. Diana has sided with the least of the least and she is the greater person for it.

    Thank you, Pat for reading this and your comment.

    Hugs!
    Jane

    Like

  26. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Hedge!

    LOL~! Yeah, I’m not theologian! and proud of it! I have an excuse!!

    I felt driven to write this stuff because I have been pushed against the wall with religion lately, and have found the freedom in not conforming to power and control issues.

    Yes, I posted this this summer, in a rage! LOL~! Seems that I use my poetry as weapons….arrows???

    LOL!

    Thank you, Hedge for reading and your comment.

    Hugs,
    Jane

    Like

  27. charlesmashburn Says:

    I read your entire post with interest, and just want to say that I know what you’re going through–to some extent. We all go through our own trials. And that is my point; we all must relate to God as we understand Him. He doesn’t care what church we belong to or even if we go to church. It’s between you/me and Him; that’s it. I write a daily encouragement based loosely on that principle. Take a look at it if you think it might interest you. That’s all it’s meant to do–encourage.
    I write poetry and short stories too. This is one I posted today; it’s kind of encouraging, too–I think.
    http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/the-sun-came-up-again-4/

    Like

  28. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Charles. I deeply appreciate your understanding about this issue.

    I think our relationship to God is a fragile thing: perhaps it’s not fragile to us, but it can be rocked or put into doubt by the hard handling of others. That issue of fundamentalism seems hard of heart to me…and from my own experience, it seems to be mostly about power and control.

    When we are finding our path, it is not a challenging issue to be confronted by those who just want you to ‘think like them’…it’s rather more than annoying…It can be confusing and off putting. Fundamentalists come in various sizes, but there are some who are just plain Nazi in mentality: conform or be damned to Hell.

    We need to encourage and support each other, not try to waylay someone with the power of our own conviction. Perhaps that is the ‘sin’ of fundamentalism? It leaves no room for breath.

    Thank you for sending your site and for reading mine and taking the time for a comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  29. Joanne Elliott (@soulsprite) Says:

    What a beautiful poem….soaring really.

    Though I don’t consider myself Christian I enjoy the wisdom teachings of Jesus, Meister Eckhert, Hildegarde de Bingen as well as those of Eastern wisdom traditions and the ancients such as the Egyptians. I call myself Pagan, but I’m really open to all traditions. I also love Matthew Fox. He was one of my first eye openers when I started my spiritual journey.

    Thank you for sharing this poem and the story.

    Like

  30. ladynyo Says:

    Joanne, my heart leap in my breast when I read your comment. I think you and I have so much here in common. You are the first commenter who mentioned Hildegarde and Eckhart and Fox. LOL!

    I am on the same path as you: however, I have tried to ‘fight’ the fundies in my family with bringing the above to them: they don’t bite. LOL!

    It really is their loss, as you well know. What beauty in Hildegarde’s music and writing…and even more with Eckhart! I think fundamentalists are so narrow and stoppered up with their brand of Chistianity they are missing a great thing with these mystics…probably think mysticism is new age and that is the problem. LOL!

    I have been reading Evelyn Underhill’s “Mysticism” …a couple of times I have tried, and I guess now it’s ‘sticking’…I can take it in little bits because it is sooooo dense. Wonderful stuff, though.

    Matthew Fox and Creation Spirituality has been a harbor for me these last few days as I feel ‘rocked’ by these outside forces. Of course, this is because I try to interface with them, but only because they are ‘family’. Funny, though, they only surface when they want to discuss their brand of religion, and are not really interested in much else…

    As I was telling Brian Miller…I wrote that poem in a great rage..but it has helped me spread my own wings…I guess that is good for poetry! LOL~!

    Thank you, Joanne, for reading and your comment and a bit about your own road. One thing I have found about fundamentalists: they are intolerant and not a bit interested in other’s paths….but don’t we learn so much from the walk of other people? We don’t have all the answers, and when we think we do, we fall to dogma.

    Blessings on you head, too! LOL!

    Jane..Joanne…if you read this…know I tried to post a comment about “Crows” on your blog….Marvelous Poem!!! but they blog wouldn’t let me. I am so sorry because it was an excellent write!

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