Friday, November 17, 2017

A Thanksgiving Threshold . . .

 Like Spring secretly at work within the heart of Winter,
below the surface of our lives
huge changes are in fermentation.
We never suspect a thing.

Then when the grip of some
long-enduring winter mentality
begins to loosen,
we find ourselves vulnerable
to a flourish of possibility
and we are suddenly negotiating
the challenges
of a threshold…

At any time you can ask yourself:
At which threshold am I now standing?
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?

A threshold is not a simple boundary;
it is a frontier
that divides two different territories,
rhythms, and atmospheres.

Indeed, it is a lovely testimony
to the fullness and integrity
of an experience or a stage of life
that it intensifies toward the end
into a real frontier
that cannot be crossed
without the heart being passionately
engaged and
woken up.

At this threshold
a great complexity of emotion
comes alive:
confusion, fear,
excitement, sadness,

This is one of the reasons
such vital crossings
were always clothed in ritual.

It is wise in your own life
to be able to recognize and acknowledge
the key thresholds;
to take your time;
to feel all the varieties of presence
that accrue there;
to listen inward
with complete attention
until you hear
the inner voice
calling you

The time has come
to cross.

John O’Donohue
From: To Bless the Space Between Us

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Blessing . . .

While you have been
making your way here
this blessing has been
gathering itself
making ready
biding its time

This blessing has been
polishing the door
oiling the hinges
sweeping the steps
lighting candles
in the windows.

This blessing has been
setting the table
as it hums a tune
from an old song
it knows,
something about
a spiraling road
and bread
and grace.

All this time
it has kept an eye
on the horizon,
keeping vigil,
hardly aware of how
it was leaning itself
in your direction.

And now that
you are here
this blessing
can hardly believe
its good fortune
that you have finally arrived,
that it can drop everything
at last
to fling its arms wide
to you, crying
Jan Richardson 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

God comes to us disguised as our lives!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.  (Melodie Beattie)

Story: Sometime ago, I was sharing with someone who at one time had been homeless.  He told me of how often he would long for a sandwich.  So he would hang out at fast food restaurants to collect the discarded ketchup packets.  Then (if he was lucky that day) he would find a slice of bread and squeeze out the remaining ketchup from the assorted packets to make a ketchup sandwich.  He went on to tell me of the day that a gentleman noticed him and offered to take him to a near-by restaurant and buy him a hamburger.  He told me that it was one of the hardest decisions he ever had to make.  He said this is how it went down with his ordering: Did I want a white or whole wheat bun? Did I want a single burger or the deluxe double burger?  Did I want cheese on my burger?  Did I want my burger somewhat rare, medium, or well done?  Did I want onions on the burger?  Raw or fried?  Did I want lettuce, tomato, and mayo on the burger? Finally, did I want to have fries? Oops – what size order of fries?  Small, medium or large? Then it was the decision of what to drink.  As a result of all this burger decisioning, it took him at least 15 minutes to place his order.


Another Story: Another experience I had was with that of a person who had survived the genocide of Rwanda. The Rwandan genocide was the 1994 mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people in the East African state of Rwanda. In my inquiry as to how she and her family escaped and survived she said: “We only had each other and that gave us courage.  We prayed at first to find a cup for drinking.  But eventually we turned our prayer into a request for a cooking pot.  Then all of us could eat, drink, and share.”

A story tells of a man who went to the office every day in his expensive car, and made important decisions and signed big contracts.  Often, the important man would enjoy business lunches with his clients, and would try to distract the attention of his influential guests away from the unsavory spectacle of the beggars on the streets of his city.

One evening, after a hard day making money, he packed his briefcase to go home, where supper would be waiting for him.  As he was locking his desk for the night, he caught sight of a stale sandwich lying abandoned at the back of the drawer.  Without much thought he crammed it in his coat pocket.  No need for it to go moldy and mess up his desk.  And on the way out to the car park he saw a street beggar on the steps, huddled in an old blanket.  ‘Here, my friend’ he said to the beggar. ‘Here is something for your supper.’ And he gave him the stale sandwich

That night, the man dreamed that he was away on a business trip.  After the day’s meeting, he was taken with his fellow directors to the town’s most luxurious restaurant.  Everyone gave their orders, and settled down with their drinks before the meal to look forward to a convivial evening.
The orders arrived. Pâté de foie gras.  Medallions of venison.  Lamb cutlets with rosemary and garlic.  The dishes being brought to the table brought gasps of delight from all the company. Then his own order appeared.  A waitress set in front of him one small plate, on which was served a stale sandwich.

‘What kind of service is this?’ the man demanded, enraged.  ‘This isn’t what I ordered! I thought this was the best restaurant in town!’
‘Oh sir,’ the waitress told him, ‘you’ve been misinformed.  This isn’t a restaurant at all.  This is heaven.  We are only able to serve you what you have sent on ahead while you were alive.  I’m very sorry, sir, but when we looked under your name, the best we could find to serve to you was this little sandwich.’ (Retelling of a Jewish folk story)


How would you describe gratitude? For what are you most grateful?
How do the stories make you feel?
What is disturbing for you in the stories?
What is true for you in the stories?
How have you been a person of generosity in your life?
Have you ever been a recipient of someone’s generosity?
Where in your life have you encountered trauma or tragedy and came through it with a few scars but with great wisdom?

Thanksgiving in many forms . . .

Litany of Gratitude
For being in our world. For making a difference. For your wisdom. Thank you.
For being so thoughtful. For being there. For caring. Thank you.
For sharing your thoughts. For listening. For your inspiration. Thank you.
For your faith. For your talent. For your wonderful work.  Thank you.
For your leadership. For your character. For your spirit.  Thank you.
For your principles. For showing the way. For your warmth.  Thank you.
For your kindness.  For your encouragement. For your honesty.  Thank you.
For your helping hand.  For reaching out. For your touch.  Thank you.
For your support. For hanging in there. For staying in touch. Thank you.
For giving. For your example. For spreading joy. For your big heart.
Thank you.
For all you’ve done. For the memories. For being you.  Thank you.                                                       (Adapted from Gratitude compiled by Dan Zadra)

 Morgan Weistling Thankful Heart
A Gratitude Story:
A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"
"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say, " the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

Monday, November 13, 2017

A prayer during hard times and mean days . . .

Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most—Peace.

prayer - maya angelou

A Thanksgiving Reflection . . .

In her poem, When Death Comes, Mary Oliver writes:
“When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

We gather to remember, to celebrate and to be grateful for the many ways
in which we have been blessed over this past year.  This prayer, this season of Thanksgiving and the Gospels are inviting us to live as gratitude people. For to live as gratitude people life calls us to do more than just visit here. 

Gratitude is an attitude we can freely choose in order to create a better life for ourselves, others and for earth. It is a quality that deepens and enriches our lives and the lives of others. It can be a personal act of self- expression or a spiritual practice. It is a wholehearted response to the bounties of life. 

Gratitude is a vital dimension of our lives that celebrates the ties that bind us to others. Every occasion for gratefulness is in some way a recognition that we belong to the world and to our fellow human beings and that we exist in community together. 

It is said that to take away the daily experience and expression of gratitude, then life becomes quickly diminished.  Like a weakened immune system, the spirit is left vulnerable to the diseases of cynicism, anger, low-grade depression, or with an edgy sense of dissatisfaction. When we are gratitude-deprived, then we suffer a relentless loss of vitality and delight.

The Gospels call us to live as BEattitude people.  The Beatitudes are inviting us to be surprised by the blessings in our lives. If we truthfully hear the “good news” of these Scriptures we then have to turn upside down all our notions of blessedness. So when we find ourselves spiritually poor and we have nowhere else to turn but to God - then in our poverty we discover who God truly is and who we really are. 

When we find ourselves small or mourning or starving for the justice that has eluded us, and we have nowhere else to turn but to God - then in this helplessness we learn to long for God to comfort and satisfy us.

When we find that our heart has known God’s mercy for our failings and we have been cleansed by all the pain and wounds we have received, then we can offer forgiveness and mercy to others - for then we become peacemakers.  And subsequently a special blessedness will overtake us and mercy will remain in our hearts and we will become people of God who can see our God face to face in the last, the least and the lost.

And when our trust in God earns us the ridicule of the world and our standing on the side of the poor and marginalized leads to rejection by the world, then we can really “rejoice and be glad” for we have been wrapped in the Reign of God.  Then we will, beyond any doubt, know that we are not just visiting here.  For at that moment we will totally and intensely understand that the purpose of life is not to be happy, but that the purpose of life is to matter, to have it make a difference that we have lived at all.

And so  we gather to remember, to give thanks, and to commit ourselves once again to move into these days ahead with courage and hope – for these are the days which dare us and challenge us to not just visit here, but to truly live as gratitude people and BEattitude people because God continues to surprise us with blessings.

So let pray:  May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer so we will reach out our hands to comfort them and change their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done. Amen.  Amen.

From 2006 and varied resources.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Forever November Story of a Forever Tree!


The Forever Tree

Once, a long, long time ago, a little tree was growing in the forest. As the little tree grew taller and stronger, she began to notice the wide expanse of sky stretching far above her head. She noticed the white clouds scudding across the sky, as if on some great journey.  She watched the birds wheeling overhead. The skies, the clouds, the birds in flight – they all seemed to speak of a land of forever.  The more she grew, the more she noticed these forever things, and the more she longed to live forever herself.  

One day, the forester happened to pass close by the little tree. He was a kindly old man, and he sensed that the little tree was not entirely happy. ‘What’s the matter, little tree?’ he asked. ‘What troubles your soul?’ The little tree hesitated, and then told the forester about the deep desire in the core of her being: ‘I would so much like to live forever.’ ‘Perhaps you shall,’ replied the forester. ‘Perhaps you shall.’

Some time passed, and once again the forester passed close by the little tree, now grown tall and strong.  ‘Do you still want to live forever?’ he asked the tree. ‘Oh, I do, I do,’ the tree replied fervently. ‘I think I can help, but first you must give me your permission to cut you down.’ The tree was aghast: ‘I wanted to live forever.  And now you say you are going to kill me?’ ‘I know,’ said the forester. ‘It sounds crazy.  But if you can trust me, I promise you that your deepest desire will be fulfilled.’

After much hard thought, the tree gave her consent. The forester came with his sharp-bladed axe.  The tree was felled. The sap of life streamed away and was lost in the forest floor. The tender wood was sliced into strips. The strips were planed and shaped and smothered in a suffocating layer of varnish. The tree screamed silently in her anguish, but there was no way back.  She surrendered herself to the hands of the violin-maker, all dreams of foreverness vanished in a haze of pain.

For many years, the violin lay idle. Sometimes, she remembered better days, when she was growing in the woods. What a bad bargain it had been, surrendering herself to the forester’s axe.  How could she have been so naive as to believe that this would enable her to live forever?
But the day came – the right and perfect moment – when the violin was gently lifted from her case and caressed once more by loving hands.  She held her breath in disbelief.  She quivered, as the bow tenderly crossed her breast. And the quivering turned into a pure sound that reminded her of how the wind had once rustled through her leaves, how the clouds had once scudded by on their way to forever, how the birds had wheeled overhead, shaping circled of eternity in the blue sky.

A pure sound.  Pure notes. The music of Forever. ‘My wood has turned into music!’ the tree gasped, deep inside herself. ‘The forester spoke the truth.’

And the music resounded, from listening heart to listening heart, down through all the ages until at last, when all the listening hearts had made their own journey home, it rolled through the gates of eternity, where the little tree became a Forever Tree.
Story by Margaret Silf    
What are the desires deep down in the core of your being?
How does the story make you feel?
What is disturbing for you in the story?
What is true for you in the story?
(questions adapted from Megan McKenna)
Previously posted November 2012