Friday, February 28, 2014

Pre-Lenten Poem Ponderings . . .

Gather Me to Be with You

O God, gather me now to be with you as you are with me.
Soothe my tiredness; quiet my fretfulness; curb my aimlessness;
Relieve my compulsiveness; let me be easy for a moment.

 + + +  
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
Forgive me for claiming so much for myself that I leave
no room for gratitude; for confusing exercises in self-importance
with acceptance of self-worth;
+ + +
For complaining so much of my burdens that I become a burden;
For competing against others so insidiously that I stifle celebrating
them and receiving your blessing through their gifts.
+ + +
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
Keep me in touch with myself, with my needs,
my anxieties, my angers, my pains, my corruptions,
that I may claim them as my own rather than
blame them on someone else.
+ + +
O God, deepen my wounds into wisdom; shape my weaknesses
into compassion; gentle my envy into enjoyment,
my fear into trust, my guilt into honesty,
my accusing fingers into tickling ones.
+ + +
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
(From: Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lenten Links!

Mardi Gras Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.
Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.
Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.
As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.
We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord.  (Creighton University) net/mardigras/story.htm

Friday, February 21, 2014

Too Muching . . .!

Sometimes It Just Seems to be Too Much

Sometimes, God, it just seems to be too much:
too much violence, too much fear; too much of demands and problems;
too much of broken dreams and broken lives; too much of war and slums and dying;
too much of greed and squishy fatness and the sounds of people
devouring each other and the earth; too much of stale routines and quarrels,
unpaid bills and dead ends; too much of words lobbed in to explode
and leaving shredded hearts and lacerated souls; too much of turned-away backs
and yellow silence, red rage and bitter taste of ashes in my mouth.

Sometimes the very air seems scorched by threats and rejection and decay
until there is nothing but to inhale pain and exhale confusion.
Too much of darkness, God,
Too much of cruelty and selfishness and indifference. . .
Too much, God,
Too much, too bloody, bruising, brain-washing much.

Or is it too little,
too little of compassion,
too little of courage, of daring, of persistence, of sacrifice;
too little of music and laughter and celebration?

O God,
Make of me some nourishment
For these starved times,
Some food for my sisters and brothers, who are hungry for gladness and hope,
That, being bread for them, I may also be fed and be full.
(From Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)

February Cabin Fever

Somehow I think it is time that we (in the Northern Hemisphere) admit that Cabin Fever has set in quite seriously!  (In case you are wondering…Cabin Fever is…a state characterized by anxiety, restlessness, and boredom, arising from a prolonged stay in a remote or confined place.

We endured a couple of polar vortexes, ice shoves, frost quakes, and 17 wind chill advisories this season (two is the norm for the winter).  However, I think those 10,000 Sturgeon fisher-persons out on the nearby lake truly enjoyed this weather. They actually build a little cabin known as an ice shanty, and drill a large hole in the lake and stare into the hole hoping to spear a prehistoric looking fish – competing to get the “big one.”  No Cabin Fever for them – maybe Fish-Fever!

But I find myself looking at my calendar counting the days ‘til spring and hoping that the folks in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying their summer.  We know in the posture of the spiritual life, it is always the invitation to stay in the present and to be present to the Presence.  However, I sometimes get hooked with the “Hallmark” syndrome and get pulled into the next season way before its time.

 So in my next postings, I share a few Cabin Fever musings on what some may be pondering as we feverishly try to stay present to the Presence.


An Ice Shove at Lake Winnebago

 For Courage

When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,
Steady yourself and see
That it is your own thinking
That darkens your world,

Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,
Know that you are not alone
And that this darkness has purpose;
Gradually it will school your eyes
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.

That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you toward higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

(From To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Looking for purpose ~ An Olympic Feat!

Super combined downhill, giant slalom, moguls, slope style, aerials, half pipe ski cross, and Super G.  These are just a few of the ski events of the 2014 Olympics that start at the top – of a mountain or hill or ski jump – and it is once a person sets out through the gate at the beginning of the race – it’s all downhill from there! We know that accomplishing a near perfect performance takes years of practice learning the mechanics, maneuvers, skills, and techniques of the sport to become a champion!! 

Each competitor desires to be a champion, and oftentimes, past or present sports stars are the ones they emulate!  But according to the analysts – you need to begin at a young age to develop your potential with passion so as to reach for your purpose and goal.  It is in striving for that special moment in which they become aware that they have  “crossed over” onto their path of “inner knowing” of who they are - that their motivation, courage, and drive emanates and urges them on.

In our Scriptures this weekend, as in the past few weekends, we have the writings of Matthew presenting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  It is in the hearing of his message that the call to new learnings as disciples is presented – going the extra mile, being light and salt, forgiving, and living as a person of peace.  This, like the Olympic athletes takes skill, training, practice, and coaching. 

A good objective mentor, a spiritual guide, or a loving friend can be a great coach as one discerns one’s purpose and passion as one strives to live out the call of the Beatitudes.  This truly can be a spiritual “Olympic feat”! 
“In the thousands of moments that string together to make up our lives, there are some where time seems to change its shape and a certain light falls across our ordinary path.  We stop searching for purpose, we become it.” So let us get fit for our “spiritual Olympics” – for Lent is coming!  This, too, calls for guts, grit, and grace!!

Story: The Land of the Mighty Mountain
There was once a country famed far and wide for its holy mountain.  People from all over the world had heard about the holy mountain, but the strange thing was, the people who actually lived in that country had a habit of walking around with their eyes always focused on the ground.  They never lifted their heads. And if you asked them what they were doing, they would tell you: ‘We are searching for the holy mountain, of course. Why don’t you join us in the search? This is where you must look.’

And so they lived their lives, restless, moving round in circles, walking up and down the many lanes and alleyways of their country, poring over their maps and arguing with each other about where, exactly, the holy mountain was to be found.

Meanwhile, the holy mountain soared to the skies, waiting patiently for the people to discover its beauty and its power, and saddened to watch them picking their way through the world and never stopping to look up.

In one part of the country, there was a large lake, with water as smooth as glass. The mountain was reflected in this lake, and many of the people of that country would gather around the lake, point to the reflection and claim that they had discovered the mountain.  Some of them jumped into the lake and were drowned. Others thought that the mountain had an evil influence, and turned away from the lake. Others decided that, after all, there was no such thing as a holy mountain.

Then one day, amid all the hustle and bustle of the people’s desperate search for the mountain, one of them fell over, and was almost trampled to death by the milling feet all around him. He lay there, flat on his back, thinking that his end must surely be close, when to his amazement; he looked up and saw the holy mountain towering serenely above him. He tried to tell everyone what he had seen, but no one believed him, so he set off alone to seek out the path that would lead him to the mountain.

It was a hard journey, for the path was sometimes steep and perilous, and he kept losing sight of his goal. Many times he fell in his journeying, and every time he fell, he would see, once more, the mountain he was searching for, and be encouraged to keep on walking.  And as he walked, he noticed that the only other people on the path to the mountain were disabled or sick, or were carrying some great load that had made them topple over in their need.  He realized that only those who had fallen were ever able to see the mountain, and only those who knew the full meaning of the word ‘down’ could ever look up. (Source Unknown)

The view of the mountains over Baker Lake in Shasta County, California.

“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.
• You can climb it and cross to the other side.
• You can go around it.
• You can dig under it.
• You can fly over it.
• You can blow it up.
• You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.
• You can turn around and go back the way you came.
• Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.” (V. Nazarian)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Valentine Reflections

Some years ago, I was intrigued with an article about a tribe of people from the region of Morocco. The people have a custom that a woman’s father presents his daughter to the local tribe in search of a husband for her.  When she has found the one, she says, “You have captured my liver.”  It seems that the heart is not always the center of affection.  Who knew that other parts of our internal body systems could be the sources of attraction and love? 

Another experience I recall that I’d like to relate to Valentine’s Day is when I was working as a receptionist at a facility that offered independent living and care for those who needed  rehab and other health care services. I always thought it kind of interesting that as a receptionist,  I was getting paid for smiling and answering the phone!  At the same time, I was attending grad school 2 hrs., south in Chicago, and attending once a month classes in training for spiritual direction on the other side of the State. So answering the phone and smiling was a treat.

One day, one of the regular visitors who came daily to see her father said to me: “Don’t you think that you’ve wasted your life?” After taking in her question, I responded: “No, I don’t."
She went on and said, “You could have a husband and children – you have such talent and seem to be so good with meeting people.” (Now get ready for my next response) – I then responded: “Thank you for your concern and comments.  However, one man would never be enough!  You see, I believe and know in my heart that I am called to belong to everyone and no-one!”  She smiled and proceeded down the hall shaking her head and I heard soft laughter as well.

Guess I never had anyone capture my liver, but I just gave my entire self to the Mission of Jesus and God’s people – mind, heart, soul, liver and all!
? To whom or what have you given your all - passion, mind, heart, soul, liver and all?

Writings to ponder:
• “I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.”
                                                                  ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
• "There is only one question: how to love this world."
                                                                  ~ Mary Oliver                                     
• The Expression of Love
"You practice, not to forget or to avoid difficult times but to be fully present for all experiences; past, present or future. When the heart is open, soft and tender, the soul is free to the potential of honest expression. It is here that you meet the internal voice which leads you rightfully towards deeper joy and inner tranquility. Don’t be surprised to find that your internal voice may be saying the opposite of what your mind has been selling you all along. This may stir up deep seated fear, but in time and with continuous practice, you learn to trust your internal voice and you find that life is not the rollercoaster ride you imagined it to be but an ever unfolding mystery of the expression of love in all things."  ~ Nirmala

• Love Barges In
"But love is more like an electrical storm than a pension plan. It has scant regard for our rational intentions. When it comes, almost always unbidden, love will upset our comfortable routines. Like so much confetti, it will fling into the air all our fantasies of what our life is meant to look like. What is true of human love is also true of the love divine."
                                 ~ 'Ten Poems to Open Your Heart' by Roger Housden

• "There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fiber of life, the flame of that heats our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives. It is our connection to God and to each other."                                                  ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

• "When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too." ~ Paulo Coelho

• “Love builds up the broken wall and straightens the crooked path. Love keeps the stars in the firmament  and  imposes rhythm  on the ocean tides; each of us is created of it and I suspect each of us was created for it."                                                                          ~Maya Angelou

+ + +
• The Seven Wonders of the World  Author Unknown
Junior high school students in Chicago were studying the Seven Wonders of the World. At the end of the lesson, the students were asked to list what they considered to be the Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following received the most votes:
1. Egypt's Great Pyramids
2. The Taj Mahal in India
3. The Grand Canyon in Arizona
4. The Panama Canal
5. The Empire State Building
6. St. Peter's Basilica
7. China's Great Wall
While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student, a quiet girl, hadn't turned in her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The quiet girl replied, "Yes, a little. I couldn't quite make up my mind because there were so many." The teacher said, "Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help."
The girl hesitated, then read, "I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:
1. to touch...
2. to taste...
3. to see...
4. to hear... (She hesitated a little, and then added...)
5. to feel...
6. to laugh...
7. and to love.
The room was so quiet; you could have heard a pin drop.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Shadow Dancing!"

On February 2 in the U.S., Ground Hog Day is celebrated. “The story of Groundhog Day begins with Candlemas, an early Christian holiday where candles were blessed and distributed. Celebrators of the holiday eventually declared clear skies on Candlemas meant a longer winter. The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, brought this tradition to the Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, a hedgehog would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather or ‘Second Winter.’ German immigrants brought the tradition to Pennsylvania”

So on this day, chief weather forecaster, Al Roker from the Today Show, steps aside to allow Punxsutawney Phil to become the prognosticator of future forecasts about our season of winter. If the groundhog sees his shadow – we can expect 6 more weeks of winter; no shadow, we can expect an early spring – woo-hoo!  So there’s nothing like a shadow to get us turning around and inviting us once again to go deep within ourselves and “hole up” with our shadow memories. 

However, the word “shadow” moves me to think of Carl Jung and his work on the Shadow aspect of our personality.  According to one author, “the shadow represents all our disowned, despised, and repressed traits.  It lives buried in the closets of our subconscious minds safe from our judgments.  The shadow is our ‘dark side.’ It acts out for us all those denied emotions and urges we wish we didn’t have. If we insist on always being kind and loving for all the world to see, it will express our other side by sometimes taking over and harshly misbehaving.  It is grounded in fear, drama, and competitiveness; it can destroy our relationships if not tamed.  Its sacred purpose in our transformation is to remind us of our emotional unfinished business . . . The shadow dissipates or lightens when we accept it. . . .When our shadow does manifest, we’ll know it is time to listen to its message rather than act on its impulses. We need to see that the shadow, too, can be our friend.”

So moving a little more thoughtfully into the “shadow”, I invite us to recall Sister Dorothy Stang, a Notre Dame de Namur sister.  Dorothy was murdered on February 12, 2005 because she confronted the “shadow” side of the Brazilian government who denied rural workers and peasants rights for their lands. 

“In spite of Sister Dorothy's good work for the people of Para and the world, protecting the rain forest by encouraging sustainable farming techniques presented a threat to loggers, land speculators, and agribusiness concerns in the region. As a result, in the late 90s she was named to a ‘death list’ created by the power brokers of the area.”

“Sister Dorothy repeatedly asked the city, state and national government for protection for the people but she was always refused. Then on February 12, 2005, on a dirt road at the Boa Esperanca settlement in a rural area in Para, two hired gunmen fired six shots and killed Sister Dorothy. She was murdered because she had put into place programs that created self-sufficient communities of people committed to their own independence as well as to the sustenance of the rain forest. As the gunmen approached Sister Dorothy, she took her Bible from her bag and began to read the Beatitudes: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice...”

So in these days before February 12, there are websites with novenas in tribute to Dorothy and all who are willing to confront the Shadows of poverty, crime, war, abuse of power, trafficking of children, abuse of global resources, and on and on.  And as our Sunday Scriptures present the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel, let us enter into a willingness to name our “shadows”, embrace them, listen to them, accept them, befriend them, and ask for the grace of transformation to be a disciple and witness of healing, freedom, and peace for ourselves, all those we encounter, and our world.