Monday, April 29, 2013

Turning Points

Turning Points

Time turns/ taking us where we would not choose to go. / Suddenly we pass a point/ we will never pass again. / Turning points interrupt us . . . / there must be some mistake! / Looking back we see them/for what they are: / bittersweet raw reality/ breakthrough to beatitude/ bedrock that gives us courage/ to give ourselves away. / The less we struggle with turning points/ the greater the strength/ to return/and turn again. (Author Unknown)
This weekend I listened to NPR and the speaker was discussing that there has been certain changes in words over the last century and particularly, their meanings. He spoke of how a variety of words today mean something totally different from the past – for example: “cookie” and "cookie" – (past and present) and when these two words bump up against each other’s meanings, there is a “semantic collision.”  I would share with you some of his words but I prefer to remain on neutral ground. I did some research myself and thought of a number of words that mean something totally different today from what  they would have meant 5, 10, or 20 years ago, simply because of the Internet!  Here are a few of my words: boot, virus, firewall, Java, desktop, mouse, worm, and spam . . . Are you following me???  Like the reading on Turning Points, “suddenly we pass a point we will never pass again.”  The Internet has turned our lives upside down and inside out. 

For most of us, no doubt, there are many turning points in our lives.  Some may be considered cataclysmic collisions- knocking us off balance in our philosophy, theology, ideology, accompanied with tremors and aftershocks that make us wobbly within causing us to reassess our spirituality, our emotional life, our physical and psychological well-being.  

The month of April has certainly provided cataclysmic collisions that have become major turning points for us as a people sharing this planet. We all have been affected by the bombings, the earthquakes, fires, the 8-story building collapse in Bangladesh, the flooding the world over, the on-going revolutions, wars, poverty, hunger, and  the bittersweet raw realities these have  become -  inviting us to breakthrough, and to a courage to give ourselves away – much like the first responders in the West Texas fertilizer warehouse fire, or the Boston Marathon bombings, or like the people searching for the survivors in the factory collapse. 

How do our spirits get grounded?  How do we find our true center amidst this chaos?  I share with you a reading that found me this week: “The Jewish and Christian creation stories are therefore true, but they’re true about us, not about Adam and Eve. What those stories tell us about ourselves and our world is that everything in creation exists in a balance with something else.  . . . This balance is vital for life, peace, harmony, understanding, and the survival of the earth. It provides the setting for all our understanding about God. In fact, being out of this balance is clearly the cause of pain, suffering, killing, poverty and death.” (A New Look at Prayer by Bill Huebsch)

• So what is the Good News for us this week? 
• Let us be aware of the turning points in our day or week?
• Let us be willing to ponder them and ask for the grace and courage to gently hold them as they invite us into transformation so to give ourselves away.
• Let us be willing to ponder the “collisions” in our daily lives, our government, our church, and in creation that summon us to make new choices and decisions that will upright our spirits so as to bring hope, understanding, harmony, peace, and balance to life within us and around us as we share this planet-home together!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Don't die with your music still inside you!

Author, Wayne Dyer, in his book, “10 Secrets to Inner Peace,” writes that one secret to this inner peace is this: “Don’t die with your music still inside you.” As we know today technology keeps us all from becoming complacent. Especially in the area of entertainment, we find that an entire music collection can be downloaded on an audio digital device slightly thicker than the width of a credit card. We now are living someplace between the 5th and 7th generation of iPods. These portable media players have high capacities for memory, are handheld, resilient to shock if dropped, can withstand vigorous movement, and can hold 20,000 songs, (or more depending on GB capacity) - which means that at 4 minutes per song, one can listen for eight weeks straight without hearing a repeat. I also discovered that the iPod Classic comes in a single monstrous size of 160GB. This iPod has the capacity to hold a whopping 40,000 songs. This should hold your music library for quite some time without you ever having to worry about it getting full. 

God, too, has downloaded our own song of purpose within each of our hearts.  It takes a journey of a lifetime – no matter how long or short that lifetime is – for each of us to discover “our song” and share its melody with all whom we encounter. We, too, 
have a high capacity for memory, 
are handheld by our God, 
can endure vigorous internal and external movements that shake us up so as to not get settled into complacency, 
and we are programmed to be resilient to shock through supportive prayer, compassionate friends, purposeful pondering and times of quieting.  

So today, we remember and celebrate our being Easter People and that the God of Easter has sung a song of Alleluia Peace for us. Because of an empty tomb, everything is different, everything has changed. Death has no power over the God of life. God’s divine and intimate love is stronger than death. Death is not the end.  

We all are liberated from death.  Death does not get the last word.  Our survival is guaranteed.  We have nothing to fear.  What the resurrection of Jesus promises is that things can always be new again.  It’s never too late to start over.  Nothing is irrevocable.  No betrayal is final.  No sin is unforgivable.  Every form of death can be overcome. There isn’t any loss that can’t be redeemed; every day is fresh and new.”

In the resurrection we are assured that there are no doors that are eternally closed. Every time we close a door or one is closed on us, God opens another for us.The resurrection assures us that God never gives up on us, even if we give up on ourselves.

So let us as Easter People put in our spiritual earbuds and tune into our personal iPods. May we, like those who have gone before us, listen with the ears of our hearts to the song of purpose that God has downloaded within us. May our lives create harmony, love, laughter, healing, forgiveness, and music of peace for our world.  May we remember today those who need our prayers of support as they struggle with life’s challenges. And may we celebrate all those who have gone before us because they lived their song and did not die with their music still inside them.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day ~ Another Mother's Day!

Web of Life by Chief Seattle
Teach your children what we have taught our children - that the Earth is our Mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know. The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life; We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the Web, We do to ourselves.

We do not exist outside of nature or above nature or independent of nature — we are simply its most vulnerable part.— Joan Chittister

Treat the earth well.  We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
-- Native American Proverb

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.
-- From The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy

Sunset. Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy... But anywhere is the center of the world. -- Black Elk 3

Friday, April 19, 2013

What does it mean to mourn?

Image from Jesuit Retreat Center, Oshkosh, WI
“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it.  He came to fill it with his presence." – Paul Claudel
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“Suffering arises from the simple circumstances of life itself. Sometimes human suffering is dramatic and horrifying. More often it is ordinary, humble, and quiet. But neither way is it ‘God’s Will.’ The divine presence doesn’t intend us to suffer, but is instead WITH us in all the experiences of life, in both suffering and joy.  And that presence is always inviting us toward greater freedom and love.” (From The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May)
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“Great suffering opens us to transformation in a different way. Here, things usually happen against our will – which is precisely what makes it suffering! . . . The situation is what it is, although we will invariably go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, resignation, and (hopefully) on to acceptance. The suffering might feel wrong, terminal, absurd, unjust, impossible, physically painful, or just outside of our comfort zone. We must eventually learn a proper attitude toward suffering, because many things every day leave us out of control or outside of our comfort zone. Always remember: if we do not transform our pain we will surely transmit it." (From The Naked Now by Richard Rohr, ofm)
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Grief and loss and suffering, even depression and spiritual crisis--the dark nights of the soul--only worsen when we try to ignore or deny or avoid them. The healing journey begins when we face them and learn how to work with them. When we stop fighting against our difficulties and find the strength to meet our demons and difficulties head on, we often find that we emerge stronger and more humble and grounded than we were before we experienced them. To survive our difficulties is to become initiated into the fraternity of wisdom. The real tragedy is when we refuse to acknowledge and respect our own suffering, and instead spread it unconsciously to others. As the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has written, “Suffering confers neither privileges nor rights. It all depends on how one uses it. If you use it to increase the anguish of others or yourself, you are degrading, even betraying it. And yet the day will come when we shall understand that suffering can elevate human beings. God help us to bear our suffering well.” (From: A Lamp in the Darkness by Jack Kornfield)
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What does it mean to mourn? I asked those who were sorrowing. An old man stepped forward.  To mourn, he said, is to be given a second heart. It is to care so deeply that you show your ache in person. To mourn is to be unashamed of tears. It is to be healed and broken all in the same moment.

Blessed are you if you are so full of compassion you see the need before it’s spoken. Blessed are you if you can offer to others a heart that feels their sorrow, a heart that can wait quietly beside them, a heart that doesn't try to hurry the healing.

To mourn is to forget yourself for a moment and get lost in someone else’s pain and then, to find yourself in the very act of getting lost. To mourn is to be an expert in the miracle of being careful with another’s pain. It is to stand in solidarity with the poor and persecuted of the world. It is to stand in solidarity with those who cannot help themselves. To mourn is to join the song of the dying and to be healed by the song and the death. (From Seasons of Your Heart by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Shepherds!

I recall a movie (from the past century -1984), Star Man, starring Jeff Bridges as an “alien” – in human form.  All through the movie, he was pursued by the FBI and one particular agent. Upon finally meeting up with each other face to face, there is a scene in which the FBI agent asks the “alien” –“While you have been here, what did you learn about us?”  The "alien" responds, “I learned that when things become at their worst, you become at your best.”  

The above paragraph was part of my reflections 10.2012 - when Super Storm Sandy hit the east coast of the U.S. Here we are again when things seem to be at their worst. In the last 2 days the media has played the tapes of the explosions at the Boston Marathon again and again, and during a one minute news update, they can be shown at least 4 times. I was thinking that I may need to “fast” from watching the news. I feel like I’m in a “visual/virtual PTSD” overload. I do not want to be insensitive to this tragic and senseless happening, but I know that it disrupts my own energy each time I view this - and it has disrupted the energy flow within the universe as well.  I also know that in cities, towns, and villages across the world, people deal with bombs like this as a part of their everyday lives. So how do I hold this trauma and pray this happening?

This Sunday is named Good Shepherd Sunday in the liturgical calendar. According to some writers, Jesus, having called himself a “Good Shepherd” is an oxymoron. At the time of Jesus, shepherds were regarded as thieves. They were mean and dirty and were forbidden by Jewish law from being witnesses in a trial because they were such notorious liars.  So why did he choose to name himself this? 

 It is known that in the Middle East, shepherds walk in front of their sheep and lead them because of the dangerous terrain, whereas in Europe and in the U.S., the sheep are driven from behind. Shepherds provide nourishment, guidance, and safety for the sheep, and have a close relationship with their sheep. When sheep were penned in for the night, the shepherd would often lie across the opening of the sheepfold, becoming the door. The sheepfold was a place of safety where several flocks of sheep were kept for the night and guarded. In the next morning when the shepherd arrived to gather his flock, he entered the sheepfold and would call out to his own sheep. The sheep would recognize his voice and they would follow him onto the hillside to begin their day. Guess the shepherd had some great qualities that didn't get “much press.”

Now leaning back into the Boston experience, I suppose the runners of the marathon looked like sheep – all running after the lead runners. But with the tragedy, they all became shepherds – they immediately sensed that they had to care for the injured, comfort the mourners, give nourishment to those huddled against the walls and seeking safety; some even tore their clothes to make tourniquets to prevent the excessive bleeding of the injured.  Truly, when things became at their worst, these runners, first responders, police, health care workers, bystanders, anyone and everyone, became their best!  

Let us pray:
Compassionate God, you are ever mindful of your children and hear our prayers when we cry out to you. We are faced with a disaster, a disaster that rattles our bones and sets our nerves on edge. We truly have nowhere to turn but to your loving and provident arms. Listen to our prayers for ___who are in desperate need for assurance of your presence in their lives at this moment. Inspired by your mercy, may we reach out through acts of kindness and compassion. We ask this in Jesus’ name. (Sisters of St. Francis/Philadelphia)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jesus' Breakfast Club!

At one time when I was completing a retreat with 5 others, we gathered together to share our retreat experience. The director/guide gave us a “talking stick as our aid in sharing. The process that was used was that we were to be guided by her three questions, and the stick was given to the person in the group who was to speak in response to the question, share his/her retreat while the others listened and prayed for the speaker as the stick was passed around the circle. So the guide asked her first question: “How did you experience God on this retreat?” We all took our turns holding the stick while we responded - as it moved quite quickly around the circle. She then asked the second question: “How did you experience God on this retreat?” Surprised, we again responded with each one holding the “talking stick” while sharing the details of our retreat, but this time passing it a little slower than the first time around. Besides, our responses were different, deeper and more intimate. Then the third question was asked: (yes, you’re right!!) The question was: “How did you experience God on this retreat?”  This time the “talking stick” barely moved as it was passed around the circle. Our responses were very deep – poignant – intimate – sacred secrets were shared – gentle tears were glistening on our cheeks – This was the most powerful of the sharings.  I remember this as if it happened yesterday!

Today, we have Jesus having a tailgate gathering for the guys who coped with his loss and the trauma of Jerusalem by heading off to do with what they felt comfortable, secure, and successful in doing – fishing!!! You see, over the months, they have felt like “fish out of water”!  Now Jesus invites them to come back – break bread – eat – and remember – celebrate – and believe!

Peter is all set up to be forgiven – he desires to be reconciled. However, it has already been done – he’s already forgiven. So Jesus offers him the talking stick – Do you love me? First time around. Do you really love me? Second time around. Will you let me love you? Third time around – deeper-intimate-sacred sharing with gentle tears glistening on their cheeks!! Now go to offer the “talking stick” of healing, truthing, and faithing beyond your boat! Beyond these shores!

Let us pray this week to be open to the graces of these powerful post-resurrection stories. What questions is God asking you as you are offered the “talking stick”?  What are you aware of in your responses?  Are you willing to share at the deep level of the sacred?  

“Jesus’ unusual questions can lead us closer to his transforming spirit and can transform us, free us, and heal us. The questions may seem strange, dated, or even irrelevant at first, but returning to them, they come alive, melt our hearts, open our spirits, and enlighten our minds. They do not harangue; rather they invite. They do not challenge; rather, they summon. They do not condemn; rather, they welcome us to the truth. If we sit with his questions, and don’t rush to assert our own answers, we will receive the gift of wisdom.” (From: The Questions of Jesus by John Dear, sj)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Healing Touch ~ Believing Touch!

News came today that former prime minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, has died. She has quite a story of a life that was lived with an abundance of joyful and sorrowful mysteries!  It is said that “she put the GREAT in Great Britain.”  She was the first woman ever to serve as prime minister of Great Britain. One item that caught my interest was that she had twins – Carol and Mark- who have interesting unfolding stories as well.  

This item touched me because I am a twin. I know there are fraternal and identical – and some other combinations too.  But I don’t claim to know much more genetically than that since I just live it out and not study this part of my life.  I do know that my sister and I have “intuitions” about each other. Sometimes we call each other at the same time because we “sensed” something and that there seemed to be a “disturbance in the force” between us and that maybe one of us was feeling sick or dealing with a particular event!  One time we met and brought each other surprise gifts. I opened my gifts first – she brought me gourmet coffee, a couple of great candles of my favorite scent, and some homemade dish cloths. When she opened my surprise bag she found a bag of her favorite gourmet coffee, a couple of her favorite candles, and some hand towels!!  What can I say?

This past Sunday the Gospel reading was from John 20:19-34, the story of Thomas who seemed to be missing at the first appearance of Jesus in the upper room. Thomas is known as “Doubting Thomas” but it is also stated that he is called the Twin.  I wondered if he had a twin sister like me? Some commentaries I have read over the years have said that possibly he was called “twin” because he was similar in looks to Jesus.  Other reflections stated that WE are the TWIN!  We, like Thomas, have times in which we ask for a sign, need more evidence before we believe something, or walk around with doubts – Jesus was so attentive to the way in which Thomas needed to move into a deepening of his faith.  “Then he focused his attention on Thomas.  ‘Take your finger and examine my hands.  Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving.  Believe.'”

As I pondered in my prayer today – I wondered -  what if Jesus were standing in front of me and he tenderly and compassionately desired to place his fingers in my wounds?  Where are those unseen, secret and sacred places within me that only God knows that are awaiting a healing touch?  What wounding am I aware of in myself that are the sorrowful mysteries of my own life? How would I come to forgiveness of myself, of others, and of creation?  How would I come to a deepening of my own faith, love, and hope? 

Where do we need to invite Jesus to touch the wounds of humanity? Let us together ask Jesus to touch with healing, mercy, and peace those areas where there are conflicts, abuse, hunger, poverty, injustice, suffering for those who are marginalized in our governments, church, or systems?   I know there is a litany with much more that I could name. 

So let us pray: Holy Darkness, God of Mystery that creates in and through us, help us not to resist the darkness. Help us to trust in you precisely in those moments when we are confused or uncertain or do not understand.  Heal us of our trepidation in the face of the unknown, and help us to yield to the creative process that at this very moment is at work in the inner darkness, in the unseen, secret places that only you know.  Like dark energy, may your Spirit expand my being so that I become more of who you desire me to be – free, capable of loving and being loved.  Amen. (From Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Season of Mystery!

When dawn stands still with wonder, when birds jubilate in the trees, when buds hurry into blossoms and grass starts wearing green – I always know that Easter wants to come again.
But deeper yet and richer still when Jesus, imprisoned in me, asks me to roll away the stone that locks him in, then Easter wants to come again.

So, let it come. It’s one dawn past rising time and Resurrection is the wildest news that’s ever touched this crazy mixed-up world. It says, yes! When everything else says, no! It says, up! When everything else says, down! It says, live! When everything else says, die!

Easter’s standing at your door again, so don’t you see that stone has got to go? That stone of fear, of selfishness and pride, of greed and blindness and all the other stones we use to keep Jesus in the tomb.

So here’s to rolling stones away, to give our Lord the chance He needs to rise and touch a troubled, lonely world.

Some call it Resurrection. It’s wild with wonder. It’s beautiful and real, intent on throwing life around – it touches and it heals!

Yes, Easter, you can come – an angel of life I’ll be.  I’ll roll the stone away and set you free.
(from Seasons of Your Heart by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Let us pray:

O God, help me to feel Your presence everywhere I go today.
To see You in everyone I meet today.
To sense You in all I hear today.
To reflect You in all I do today.
To pray to and trust You in all I experience today.
To struggle to be like You in all I am today.
To speak of and for You in all I say today.
To thank You for everything every day. Amen.
-Marian Wright Edelman, Guide My Feet, 1995, p. 54

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why Are You Weeping?

“Where have they taken him? Your story of the empty grave was dismissed as rambling – distraught woman – nonsense.  But you returned to the empty space and stayed there – unable to leave the ground made precious by the brush of his skin.  It was there, in that deep and empty space, that he whispered your name, Mary, leaping you into another world – hurtling you from reality into the Realm of God – spinning in a miracle, love saturated, as Jesus, Son of God all risen up, breathed your name – claiming you as treasured and chosen."
From: “Soul Sisters” by Edwina Gateley