Monday, November 30, 2015

A Prayer for Climate Change Conference . . .

A Prayer for the Pilgrimage towards the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, 30 November to 11 December

Creator God,
You have called us to be keepers of your Earth. Through greed, we have established an economy that destroys the web of life. We have changed our climate and drown in despair. Let oceans of justice flow. May we learn to sustain and renew the life of our Mother, Earth. We pray for our leaders, custodians of Mother Earth as they gather in Paris at the climate talks. May they negotiate with wisdom and fairness; May they act with compassion and courage, and lead us in the path of justice for the sake of our children and our children’s children.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Friday, November 27, 2015

Advent Soup?

Five year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup. But he didn't want to go in alone. “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” She asked again, and he persisted. Finally she said, “It’s OK — Jesus will be in there with you.”
Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: "Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?”

These four weeks of Advent begin as never before, with a time as individuals, as a faith community, as a religious congregation, as a church, a nation, and inhabitants of this planet earth ~we all are faced with standing in liminality – an in-betweenness - hoping against hope that God is in the darkness of it all!  Like Johnny, we, too, need to be courageous and creative and call out to our God to hand us what we need in this time of doubt, confusion, apprehension, and fear while walking in this space and time of uncertainty.  

In her book, Journey of the Soul, Sister Doris Klein, describes this liminal experience: She writes: "When we face those times of uncertainty in our life, the scene is often blurry. Things we were so sure of suddenly make little sense. The answers we thought were clear now seem lost in a distant fog, and we wander aimlessly, unable to regain the focus we once believed we had. Our confusion is unsettling. Doubt, like vertigo, distorts our balance as we fearfully wander in a vast and empty inner wilderness as we wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic washes into our hearts our breath becomes shallow and, with each question, the judgments seem to escalate.”

We are not to lose heart. Author Clarissa Pinkola Estes assures us  . . . “We were made for these times,” she writes. “People everywhere are concerned and deeply bewildered about the state of affairs in our world. Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world will help immensely.” Yes, we are made for these times and as a people, a church, a nation, a world, we need generous, creative, imaginative people whose zeal can be ignited by the vision of a daring and not quite rational undertaking. 

In our nation of abundance, let us not forget that over twenty percent of the children in our nation live in poverty.  And in comparison with other industrialized nations, we have more high school drop outs, more violent crime among youth, more poverty among the elderly, more medically uninsured citizens, and the widest gap of income between the rich and the poor.  Again, like Johnny, we need to call out to God and risk entering the darkness of these realities that cause us to ponder the scarcities and the inequities of our social system.

We are made for these times – and we must dare to become imaginative and creative so as to confront the dark forces that keep our minds and hearts hostage. When we live in liminality, we need to be able to take risks without worrying about the consequences.  Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Faithful waiting is the antidote to fear and self-doubt. It is believing God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings.”

Now is the time for hope to be born again in the faces and hearts of our children and young adults, and where we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as pillars of passion, heralds of hope, and voices with vision where it will spread around the earth, brightening all things. For we have been made for these times and as Paul writes to the Corinthians: That in God we are enriched in every way, and that we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as we wait for the revelation of Christ Jesus. 

It is here in this time that we are to be watchful, alert and awake so that we will encounter our God in our midst to create from the chaos as in Genesis. Advent is a season that invites us to cross over the threshold from darkness to light, from anxiety to a holy serenity, from emptiness to abundance, and to wholeheartedly turn to seek God who is already in the turning!

Yes, we are made for these times and called, invited, chosen,  and challenged to be alert, awake, prepared and vigilant. So when God breaks into our lives in unexpected ways during this Advent season and we feel confused, anxious, frightened, or we find ourselves grasping for hope — let us be ready to ask God to just hand us the tomato soup or whatever we may need to be at ease and to be faith-filled as we live into this liminality – for God is already here among us. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Waiting in Stillness

Author Pico Iyer ~

 "in an age of speed, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow,
in an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention,
and in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still."
(The Art of Stillness)


Friday, November 20, 2015

A Warm Blessing for Cold Days!

A Winter Blessing

Blessed are you, winter, dark season of waiting, you affirm the dark seasons of our lives, forecasting the weather of waiting in hope.

Blessed are you, winter, you faithfully guard a life unseen, calling those who listen deeply to discover winter rest.

Blessed are you, winter, frozen and cold on the outside, within your silent,
nurturing womb you warmly welcome all that longs for renewal.

Blessed are you, winter, your bleak, barren trees preach wordless sermons
about emptiness and solitude.

Blessed are you, winter, you teach us valuable lessons about waiting
in darkness with hope and trust.

Blessed are you, winter, season of blood red sunsets and star-filled,
long, dark nights, faithfully you pour out your beauty.

Blessed are you, winter, when your tiny snowflakes flurry through the air,
You awaken our sleeping souls.

Blessed are you, winter, with your wild and varied moods,
So intent on being yourself, you refuse to be a people-pleaser.

Blessed are you, winter, when ice storms crush our hearts and homes,
You call forth the good in us as we rush to help one another.

Blessed are you, winter, your inconsistent moods often challenge
spring’s arrival, yet how gracefully you step aside when her time has come.

            Author: Joyce Rupp from The Circle of Life                         

A Blessing of Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Blessing

May an abundance of gratitude burst forth
as we reflect upon what we have received.

May thanksgiving overflow in our hearts,
and often be proclaimed in our prayers.

May we gather around the table of our hearts the ardent
faithfulness, kindness, and goodness of each person we
encounter on our journey of life.

May the harvest of our good actions
bring forth plentiful fruit each day.

May our basket of blessings surprise us with
its rich diversity of gifts and its opportunities for growth.

May all that nourishes our lives bring us
daily satisfaction and renewed hope.

May we slow our hurried pace of life so we can be aware of,
and enjoy what we too easily take for granted.

May we always be open, willing,
and ready to share our blessings with others.

May we never forget the Generous One
who loves us lavishly and unconditionally.

Let us pray:
O gracious God who so generously lavishes our lives with goodness, create in our hearts a deep center of gratitude, a center that grows so strong in its thanksgiving that sharing freely of our treasures becomes the norm and the pattern of our existence.  Remind us often of how much you cherish us, of how abundantly you have offered gifts to us, especially in the hours of our greatest need.  May we always be grateful for your reaching into our lives with surprises of joy, growth, and unconditional love.  Amen. 

 (From a blessing by Joyce Rupp)

Giving Thanks . . . and Remembering . . .

November Meditation ~ Giving Thanks . . .

I do not know if the seasons remember their history or if the days and nights by which we count time remember their own passing.  I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars. . . . I do not know if the air remembers November or if the night remembers the moon.  I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so. Perhaps that is the reason for our births -- to be the memory for creation. Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected.  Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:  "What can you tell me about November?"  ~ Burton D. Carley ~

Memory is vital to human life.  The Scriptures make memory central to our faith.  We are continuously called to remember the story of our ancestors of faith and their journey of transformation.  This week, we remember the courageous initiatives of the people we call Pilgrims, and join with all in our past and present to give expressions of gratitude through ritual for all our blessings over the past year.  We gather “to be memory for creation” and join with the many others throughout our country this week to remember, to celebrate and to give thanks. 

Let us remember briefly the story of the Pilgrims, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in America, and who were fleeing religious persecution in their country of England.  At first they sailed to Holland to seek religious freedom.  Not satisfied with what they experienced, they set sail on the Mayflower in September of 1620. There were 44 Pilgrims aboard who called themselves the “Saints,” and 66 others, whom they called the “Strangers.”  The trip took 65 days. 

When we hear the word Pilgrim, we may possibly think of grim-faced people wearing black and white clothing with pointed collars and large buckles.  In fact, the “Pilgrims” weren’t really pilgrims at all.  The word pilgrim refers to someone who travels a great distance to a special or sacred place for religious reasons. But the people who came on the Mayflower and settled on the site of modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts didn’t come just for religious reasons.  Mainly, they came for economic ones – to build a better life for themselves and their families. 

The first winter was devastating to the Pilgrims. The cold, snow and sleet were exceptionally heavy, interfering with the workers as they tried to construct their settlement.  The spring brought welcomed warmer weather, their health improved, but many had died during the long winter.  Of the 110 Pilgrims and crew who left England, less than 50 survived the first winter. The harvest in the fall was very successful and the Pilgrims had much to celebrate, they had built homes in the wilderness, they had raised crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter and they were at peace with their Indian neighbors.   In that year of 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians.

This week, we are carrying on a tradition that goes back at least to the time of Abraham Lincoln, setting aside a Thursday late in November as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving.  During the Civil War, President Lincoln, looking for ways to unite the nation, proclaimed in 1863 that the last Thursday in November would be a day of thanksgiving.  And yet, in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November.  However, controversy followed and Congress passed a resolution decreeing that the fourth Thursday shall be Thanksgiving. 

Let us remember that Thanksgiving is rooted in remembering.  The ancient monk Cassian has a wonderful descriptive phrase for our memory.  He calls it the “jar of the heart.”  We can open this jar anytime and take in the rich memory of the past.  As Christians, we are a people of memory; we are called to remember. Remembering is very important in our faith journey.  Our memory of God's grace and faithfulness in the past continues to provide spiritual nourishment long after the event itself is over. Remembering becomes the source of our strength which sustains us even in the midst of suffering; it "enables us to see our difficulty in a new context and thereby find the comfort and the courage to live it." (Kidd, 24)

May the “jar of our hearts” never become empty of wonderful memories – for it is written “thanksgiving unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denials into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity . . . it turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Thanksgiving makes sense of our past; brings peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow.” (Melodie Beattie)

What will you remember from this November?


Almighty and merciful God, we pray to you for our brothers and sisters in France who have endured violence and terror in the past few days. We pray also for all those who died in the attacks, for those who were wounded, and for all those who are in mourning. God, even though we know the glory of the Resurrection, we desire still that the grace of the Resurrection be ever more present in the world. Give us the wisdom and the face to see it; give us the courage to embody it by our lives. Reconcile all peoples who are divided and send your Holy Spirit to make all one in the peace and the justice that you alone are capable of giving us. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(Father Gregory Haake, C.S.C., Assistant Professor of French, Notre Dame University)

Dieu tout-puissant et miséricordieux, nous te prions pour nos frères et sœurs en France qui ont subi ces derniers jours la violence et la terreur. Nous prions aussi pour tous ceux qui sont morts dans les attentats, pour ceux qui ont été blessés et pour tous ceux qui sont touchés par le deuil. Seigneur, nous avons beau connaître la gloire de la Résurrection, nous souhaitons toujours que la grâce de cette Résurrection se manifeste davantage dans le monde. Donne-nous la sagesse et la foi de la voir ; donne-nous le courage de l’incarner par notre vie. Réconcilie tout peuple divisé et envoie ton Saint Esprit afin que tous soient un dans la paix et dans la justice que toi seul es capable de nous accorder. Par Jésus, le Christ, notre Seigneur. Amen -

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Inside, Outside, and All Around!

Inside thoughts while pondering outside tragedy in France . . .
and in other places recovering from tragic storms!
What to say,
How to be,
How to pray,
and how to hold this tragedy.
Only a collective sigh breathed.
Filled to the brim with
Tragedy-tears of deep sorrow,
Like stone water jars
Silently awaiting words of transformation. (sjh)

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don't even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome. Isabel Allende

Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.  Robert Kennedy

Blessing Our World Now by John O’Donohue

Sometimes when we look out, the world seems so dark. War, violence, hunger, and misery seem to abound. This makes us anxious and helpless. What can I do in my private little corner of life that could have any effect on the march of world events? The usual answer is: nothing. We then decide to do what we can for our own and leave the great events to their domain. Thus, we opt out, and join the largest majority in the world: those who acquiesce. Believing ourselves to be helpless, we hand over all our power to forces and systems outside us that then act in our names; they go on to put their beliefs into action; and ironically these actions are often sinister and destructive. We live in times when the call to full and critically aware citizenship could not be more urgent. We need to rediscover the careless courage, yet devastating simplicity, of the little boy, in the middle of the numbed multitude, in naïve Socratic fashion, blurts out ‘But the emperor has no clothes.’ When spoken, the word of truth can bring down citadels of falsity.

Real presence is the ideal of all true individuation. When we yield to helplessness, we strengthen the hand of those who would destroy. When we choose indifference, we betray our world. Yet the world is not decided by action alone.  It is decided more by consciousness and spirit; they are the secret sources of all action and behavior. The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force. And it is comprised of the mentality and spirit of all individuals together.  Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter. Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on. When you give in to helplessness, you collude with despair and add to it. When you take back your power and choose to see the possibilities for healing and transformation, your creativity awakens and flows to become an active force of renewal and encouragement in the world.  In this way, even in your own hidden life, you can be a powerful agent of transformation in a broken, darkened world.  There is a huge force field that opens when intention focuses and directs itself toward transformation.
(From To Bless the Space Between Us)


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Thanksgiving Story . . .

The Rolling Coin

A wise old man once owned a precious golden coin. One day, as he sat gazing at this precious coin and rejoicing in its beauty, a thought occurred to him: ‘It isn’t right that I should be the only person to have the pleasure of possessing this golden coin. What use is it if no one shares it?’ And he went out and gave the coin to a passing child.

The child couldn’t believe her luck. She couldn’t take her eyes off this shining coin. Then she had a sudden idea: ‘I’ll give this coin to my mother. She needs so many things. This coin will make her very happy.’

Of course, the child’s mother was delighted with the coin – such an unexpected solution to so many of her problems. She pondered in her mind as to how to spend it and what to buy first.

As she was thinking about this there was a knock at the door, and there stood a street beggar. ‘Poor soul’ she thought. ‘He has nothing, and we are just about getting by.’ And she gave the gold coin to the beggar.

The beggar was speechless. This coin could be turned into food for a month. He made his way back to the subway where he slept, and there he noticed a new resident, just arrived. The poor guy was blind and disabled. No chance of getting anywhere near to the folks who might have spared him a coin or two.

‘I guess he needs it more than I do,’ he thought to himself. And he pressed the gold coin into the blind man’s thin, cold fingers.

That evening, a wise old man walked through the dark subway. He noticed the blind, disabled beggar and stopped to speak to him. The beggar couldn’t remember the last time anyone had bothered to speak to him.

After a while, the wise old man put his arm around the beggar’s shoulder.  ‘I’ve nothing left to give you, except my friendship,’ he murmured.

A tear rolled across the cheek of the blind beggar. How could he ever repay this gift of human kindness that had changed a dark night into a new dawn? With his shaking, aching hands, he reached into his pocket, brought out the golden coin and gave it to his new-found friend.

‘Thank you for loving me,’ he said.

Source unknown

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Story . . .

The Investment

There once lived a rich man who had no greater desire than to do good to those around him, and especially to those who worked for him.

He noticed that one of his workmen, a carpenter, was very poor, and was struggling to feed his family. He could see for himself that the hovel in which the man lived with his wife and children was falling into disrepair, and was no longer a match for the cold and the rain that beat down upon it. He felt great compassion for the carpenter and his family, and he had an idea.

He called the carpenter to him one morning and gave him these instructions:
‘I want you to build me a beautiful house,’ he said. ‘I want you to spare no expense, and to employ only the very best craftsmen for every job that is needed. I have to make a journey, and I will be away for a while, but when I come back, I want you to have the house ready for me.’

The carpenter was delighted to be given this task. Immediately, he set to work, and, knowing that the master would be away, he decided to make a good profit on this enterprise. Instead of hiring the best craftsmen, and using the finest materials, he cut corners wherever he possibly could. The master would never know, and he could keep the difference, and make a lot of money for himself.

And so the house was built. From the outside, it looked beautiful, but as the carpenter well knew, it was not at all sound. The timbers in the roof were weak and badly fitted. The bricks were seconds, which would soon begin to crumble. The roof titles were rejects from the quarry. The building had been carried out by inexperienced workers for low pay.

When the master returned, he came to inspect the house. ‘I have done as you instructed,’ the carpenter told him. ‘I have used the best materials and the finest craftsmen.’

‘I’m delighted to hear it,’ said the master. ‘Here are the keys. The house is yours. It is my gift to you and your family.  May it be a fine home for the rest of your life.’

And in the years that followed, the carpenter could often be heard to mutter, under his breath, ‘If only I had known that the house was meant for
me . . .’ (Author Unknown)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Tree Story . . .

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)
Source Unknown

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Remember November . . .

A November sunrise
November Meditation

I do not know if the seasons remember their history or if the days and nights by which we count time remember their own passing.

I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars. . . .

I do not know if the air remembers November or if the night remembers the moon.  I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.

Perhaps that is the reason for our births -- to be the memory for creation. Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected. 
Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:  "What can you tell me about November?"

~ Burton D. Carley ~


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

. . . make the difference. . .

End Time ~ Make a Difference!

If each grain of sand were to say:
One grain does not make a mountain,
There would be no land

If each drop of water were to say:
One drop does not make an ocean
There would be no sea

If each note of music were to say:             
One note does not make a symphony,
There would be no melody

If each word were to say:
One word does not make a library
There would be no book

If each brick were to say:
One brick does not make a wall,
There would be no house

If each seed were to say:
One seed does not make a field
There would be no harvest

You do make the difference
Begin today and make the difference
~ Author Unknown

Be and be better. . .

Maya Angelou’s ~ When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Guide me, Teach me, Forgive me . . .

Breathe Into Me the Courage to Make Something New

Thank you for all I forget are gifts, not rights.
Forgive me for all the grievances I remember too well.
Save me from the self-pity, the self-seeking,
the fat-heartedness which is true poverty.

Guide me, if I’m willing, (drive me if I’m not),
into the hard ways of sacrifice which are just and loving.
Make me wide-eyed for beauty, and for my neighbor’s need and goodness;
wide-eyed for peace-making,
and for the confronting power with the call to compassion;
wide-hearted for love and for the unloved,
who are the hardest to touch and need it the most.
Dull the envy in me which criticizes and complains life
into a thousand ugly bits.

Keep me honest and tender enough to heal
Tough enough to be healed of my hypocrisies.
Match my appetite for privilege with the stomach for commitment.

Teach me the great cost of paying attention that,
naked to the dazzle of your back as you pass,
I may know I am always on holy ground.

Breathe into me the restlessness and courage
to make something new, something saving, and something true
that I may understand what it is to rejoice.

Author: Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace