Rise Up

My mother taught me a love for the woods. Living in Harrison Hot springs for the first 10 years of my life, I soaked in the forest, the mountain and the lake. They became part of my inner landscape. Mom prepared incredible flower arrangements for the front of the church on Saturdays to be ready for Sunday mornings by going and gathering the beauty of those woods – with ferns, moss, pussy willows and other greenery. I discovered later in life how much I loved the woods too. They became my safe place, a second home. I walked and walked and walked in these woods, captivated by the endless beauty surrounding me. Every day, there was something new to notice. Even, and perhaps especially, when life seemed out of control, I would find wisdom, solace and comfort in the deep of the woods. I found that all of life was represented in this place…and it was all beautiful. The woods were my sanctuary.

It was this place that I came to one day when I was in a great deal of distress. I was dealing with a long-term situation that was painful to me and I was trying my best to manage, but at times, I didn’t know how. I couldn’t talk freely about this situation and so often felt alone with my pain. At times, it simply felt too much to bear.

And so one difficult day I found myself curled up at the base of a tree in a hidden spot in the woods. I wept there. Overwhelmed, in pain and burdened. I nestled in the sticks and leaves, feeling the nurture of the forest around me. And there I could weep and be broken.

Out of the corner of my eye, through my tears, I saw a very large stick. It was about 9 feet tall. I felt that stick call to me to pick it up. And so I dragged myself up out of my fetal position and went and picked it up. I began to walk with this stick.

Pound.

Step.

Pound.

Step.

Up a hill we began, surrounded by ferns, moss and majestic trees.

Pound.

Step.

Pound.

Step.

We began a rhythm, my stick and I.

It was strong and powerful and majestic.

And then these words began to flow around me and through me, “Rise up, woman, rise up’. With tears now flowing in a fresh and healing stream down my face, I began to join in this song I heard to rise.

‘Rise up, Cathy, rise up!’

I knew that in that moment I had a choice of how to live. I could see myself as a victim, or I could rise into the life that Divine Love was inviting me into. I could still choose LIFE. That day, I chose LIFE…and received the grace that LIFE also chose me and wanted me to live.

It was several years later that I heard a woman speak who soon after became my close friend. She spoke on the story from the gospels of Jesus healing a bent over woman. She explained how radical it was for Jesus to invite this woman into the forbidden circle of men. How it was against the law for a man to look at a woman, talk to a woman, touch a woman. But in this story, Jesus demonstrates the passion of Divine Love for us all, even those of us who have felt on the outer edges of belonging by the way he calls to her, the way he sees her, the way he touches her and speaks to her. The very interesting part of the story to me is that the woman has to respond to this invitation to come into the circle. She has to DARE to believe the invitation and DARE to take her new place in the community. She has to DARE to believe and receive the grace being offered.

I realized as I heard Elsie share, that this bent over woman was me. That day, Elsie became a new friend in my life and I realized that the song that had begun in the woods was a story song yet to be fully realized. The song of the bent over woman. The song of rising again. My song.

This song has become a song I have shared over and over again. I have sung it with a big choir blasting away behind me and alone on a tree stump before an audience of 10 in the deep woods of Squamish. I have sung it to myself in a bathroom stall when I again found myself bending over in a difficult conversation and I ran to the bathroom to pray. I have sung it at retreats, concerts, recovery houses and in homes….and have been so moved with how this song has become other people’s song as well.

Through singing this song in my own life, I have come to learn there isn’t a one-time rising. It is a lifetime of saying YES to the grace of invitation. The invitation to RISE and fully BECOME is ever present before me. My fears, my anxieties hold me back at times from the fullness of how The Beautiful Presence sees me. The Beautiful Presence is inviting us over and over to live, and to live fully. To RISE. To blossom. To BE the full expression of what we are created to be. No matter what our story. This is the gift of being human! And this is the glory of LOVE.

 

Rise Up

When my heart was troubled, I went to the woods to pray

When my heart was troubled, I went to the woods to pray

In my darkness you sang to me

Woman, I have set you free

      

Take off your chains of sorrow

Remove your veil of fear

Find your courage

Find your strength

Lift your voice, and stand up straight and rise – I’m calling you to rise…..

 

Rise up woman, rise up

Rise up woman, rise, I’m calling you…

Rise up woman, rise up

Rise up woman rise

 

My heart was bent over when I went to the woods to pray

My heart was bent over when I went to the woods to pray

Suddenly down in my bones

My spirit heard you say

No more bending over,

No more guilt and shame…

 

Rise up woman, rise up

Rise up woman, rise, I’m calling you…

Rise up woman, rise up

Rise up woman rise

 

Throw off darkness

Throw off shame

Throw off words of cruel blame

Listen to the whisper of the One who calls your name

 

Rise up woman, rise up

Rise up woman, rise, I’m calling you…

Rise up woman, rise up

Rise up woman rise

Rise up, woman!

Rise!

© 2008 Cathy AJ Hardy As recorded on the album Love Shines

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