Saturday, December 31, 2016

God's Timing . . .

Turning Points

Time turns
taking us
where we would
not choose to go.
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

O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing             
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Taken from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder

Life Lessons . . .

Lessons on Life

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall. When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.
If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall.

Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.
Don't judge life by one difficult season.
Persevere through the difficult patches
and better times are sure to come some time or later   
Author Unknown

New Year's Prayer!


CALENDARS and any digital keeper of time!

Generous God, Holy One, you who live outside of time, and reside in the imperishable moment, for you have poured out an abundance of gifts and blessings of every sort and kind upon this world from the beginning of time. Now we ask your blessing this New Year's Day (Eve) upon your gift to us of time into the new year. Bless our clocks, watches, Smartphones, and all digital keepers of time . . . You who kindly direct us to observe the passing of minutes and hours. May they make us aware of the miracle of each second of life we experience.

May these our ticking servants help us not to miss that which is important, while you keep us from machine-like routine. May we ever be free from being clock watchers and instead become time lovers. Bless our calendars, these ordered lists of days, weeks and months, of holidays, holy days, fasts and feasts and all our special days of remembering.

May these servants, our calendars, once reserved for the royal few, for magi and pyramid priests, now grace our homes and our lives. May they remind us of birthdays and other gift-days, as they teach us the secret that all life is meant for celebration and contemplation.

Bless, O God, this New Year, each of its 365 days and nights. Bless us with new moons and full moons. Bless us with happy seasons and a long life. Grant to us, O Holy One, the New Year’s gift of a year of love. Amen

(Author Unknown)

A New Year's Blessing ~

Standing at the Gates of the New Year

Sacred Mystery,
Waiting on the threshold
Of this new year,
You open the gates
And beckon to me:

“Come! Come!
Be not wary of what awaits you
As you enter the unknown terrain,
Be not doubtful of your ability
To grow from its joys and sorrows.

For I am with you.
I will be your Guide.
I will be your Protector.
You will never be alone.”

Guardian of this new year,
I set aside my fear, worries, concerns,
I open my life to mystery, to beauty,
To hospitality, to questions,
To the endless opportunity
Of discovering you in my relationships,
And to all the silent wisps of wonder
That draw me to your heart.

I welcome your unfailing Presence
And walk with hope into this new year.

From: Out of the Ordinary by Joyce Rupp





Monday, December 26, 2016

Mary, risking her "yes" . . .

Graphic from Lyndsey D'Errico's Blog

Caryl Houslander – laywoman and mystic wrote the following as a reflection about Mary:

“Christ asked Mary of Nazareth for her human nature. For her littleness, her limitations, flesh and blood and bone, five senses, hands and feet, and human heart. 

He who was invulnerable asked to be able to feel cold and heat, hunger and thirst, weariness and pain. He who had all things and had made all things asked to be able to be poor and to labor with his hands and look with wonder at the wildflowers. He who was wholly sufficient to himself asked Mary to give him a heart that might be broken.  . . . Mary answered ‘yes.’”

In our Gospel today, we contemplate the scene where we see that Mary and Joseph are transients. In this setting, Mary, a young woman in a patriarchal society brought her child into the world without the security of a home.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, the traditional Palestinian way of securing a newborn, and laid him in a manger.

Meanwhile, the first to hear the message were shepherds, themselves a group of laborers of low economic and social rank, who were busy with their flocks.  They hurried to Bethlehem and there found Mary and Joseph and the child.  “Here the displaced couple, the manger and shepherds together form a clear image that our God comes to the world through the poor, the marginalized, the powerless and the oppressed.”

Our Gospel also tells us that there was something very significant about Mary.  Luke writes: “As for Mary, she treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them.” What Luke is telling us is that Mary was someone who throughout her entire life pondered, reflected and listened deeply to God in her life trying to discover how God was present to her in the events that were happening.  And in her pondering, she surrendered to trusting so deeply and was open to all possibilities.  She allowed God’s love to define her and direct her life rather than let her fears propel her into illusions or darkness!

Mary did not grasp immediately all that she had heard, but listened willingly, letting these events sink into her memory and seeking to work out their meaning.  She tried to interpret her life, grasping to understand difficult matters concerning the lives of those she loved. 

She pondered in order to fathom the meaning of her experiences and kept on her Gospel path walking by faith having only enough light for the next step. Often Mary carried a great tension within her in which she was helpless to resolve the realities of her life and had to simply embrace them as mystery, accept them and believe, and then go on with her life living with these holy tensions.

Now, on this first day of the New Year, let us ponder over our lives and resolve to commit ourselves to listen as Mary did, and hear God speaking to us in these times of insecurity and uncertainty, through the Scriptures, our prayer, and through all the events in our everyday lives.

So let us be open to the graces of the readings today:
• That like Mary, may we risk our YES to ponder and treasure all things in our hearts – both the ordinary and the extraordinary – then touch into our inner wisdom and let God direct and guide us as we walk this New Year’s path.

• That like Mary, may God grace us in our efforts to ponder life’s events and to empower others as we strive to be voice and heart for peace and justice in our community, church, government, and in our world.

• That like Mary, when we experience a helplessness to resolve the realities of our world around us, let us ask her to intercede for us so that we may learn to accept them, embrace them as mystery, and believe in the power of the Holy One to bring about something new!

• On this World Day of Prayer for Peace, may our world be blessed with new saints and prophets of peace, who will have the vitality, heart, energy, and courage to inspire others to wake up and move mountains to bring about the elimination of poverty, starvation, wars, and environmental chaos.

• Finally, it is because of Mary that Christ now Nazareths and Bethlehems in us.  The great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins captures Mary’s significance in his poem entitled,

“The Blessed Virgin Compared to Air We Breathe”: -

Of her who not only
Gave God infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race.

Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvelous!

New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon and eve;
New Bethlehems, and he born
There, evening, noon and morn . . .

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Bethlehem Star Inn ~

Magnificat of the Stable
(Luke 2:6-7)

We came to Bethlehem in early evening, exhausted from the long trip. The city already filled with Jews born here. Bethlehem, House of Bread, City of David, singer of songs, City of his grandmother, the beloved Ruth. There are families who return even to distant relatives, to birth their children here in family homes generation after generation. These Jews are gathered at the command of the Romans in order to record a census of the people born here.

 We see Jews by the thousands, arriving from the west, the south, and like ourselves from the north. Jews are sleeping in the open fields, on the rooftops, for there are no rooms at the inns. The Roman census clerks and their women have confiscated all of the inn rooms for their numbers.  We hear their drunken laughter surging through the open doors.  The smell of their pigs roasting in the garden sickens us as they well know.

 This is no place for our child to be born. The innkeeper looks at me with distress as he whispers that there is no room at his inn. But he turns from his house, motions to Joseph to follow as he leads us over the hills to the near empty eastern side of the city.

 There he makes room in his private stable cave, away from the crowds and the noise.  A newly cleaned place, safe, pure. He hurries back to his unwelcoming duties.

 My soul rests confidently in the animal warmth and the lantern light of this simple place, Beloved Creator, and my spirit rejoices in the privacy of this time of birthing we share with you, O God of Creation, - for you come alive again tonight in the bone and flesh of your people.  Yes, this is  the time we have waited for. This is the moment of blessing.

 Holy is birth, and you shall show yourself from age to age in those who enter into creation with you. You have shown the power of a dream enfleshed and we are humbled.

 You have pulled down all our strivings and lifted up this simple, common moment. This stable is filled with good things, new life and happy people.

 Are those in the inn rooms as satisfied? You have come to Israel, mindful of our shared nature, according to the promise of Eden . . . mindful of our nature to seek the wisdom of new life together as long as we walk the earth.

 From Miryam of Nazareth by Ann Johnson

Winter Blessing at Christmas Time!

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 lesson 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                          

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas . . . A Legend . . .

Photo by: Carol B.
Why Some Trees Are Evergreen
By John Shea from The Legend of the Bells

When the plants and trees were first made, the Great Mystery gave a gift to each species. But first the Great Mystery setup a contest to determine which gift would be most useful to whom.

“I want you to stay awake and keep watch over the earth for seven nights,” the Great Mystery told them.

The young trees and plants were so excited to be trusted with such an important job that the first night they would have found it difficult not to stay awake. However, the second night was not so easy, and just before dawn a few fell asleep. On the third night the trees and plants whispered among themselves in the wind trying to keep from dropping off, but it was too much work for some of them. Even more fell asleep on the fourth night.

By the time the seventh night came the only trees and plants still awake were the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the fir, the holly, and the laurel.

“What wonderful endurance you have!” exclaimed the Great Mystery. “You shall be given the gift of remaining green forever.  You will be the guardians of this forest. Even in the seeming dead of winter your brother and sister creatures will find life protected in your branches.”

Ever since then all the other trees and plants lose their leaves and sleep all winter, while the evergreens stay awake.

Author’s Reflection:
I use this story during the Advent-Christmas season. It ties in with two major themes – wakefulness in the midst of sleepiness, greenness in the midst of barrenness. If you add to these two images the images of light in the midst of darkness and love in the midst of rejection, you have the imaginative contrasts that capture the feast of Christmas.

These images unfold a message of strength and defiance. The surrounding world may be asleep or barren or dark or rejecting, but it cannot completely close our eyes, with our greenness, snuff out our light, or destroy our love.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas, reading between the lines. . .

Last year around this time, I had to have the battery in my watch replaced. So I went to my favorite jewelers, and while I was waiting, the saleswoman asked if she could share with me the story of her seven-year-old son. It seems that their church had just selected the cast of characters for its annual Christmas play, and her son had been chosen to be Joseph, an obvious honor for this young boy. Then, imitating her son’s enthusiastic reaction upon hearing this wonderful news, she placed her hands upon her heart, and smiling, shared his precious exclamation: “Oh, thank you.  I have waited all my life for this!”

God, too, had waited a lifetime, in fact, for an eternity to become flesh within Mary’s womb and within the world of humanity!  Tonight we are invited to share in the story of Luke’s account of the nativity, a narrative that is highly charged with social, religious, and political overtones. He wrote this specifically for his Gentile/Christian audience and emphasizes that this divine child has humble origins, with no royal trappings surrounding his birth. He is born during the course of a journey; the first guests to his birthday party are the marginalized shepherds. He is a child for all people, of all nations.

In our Gospel, we further contemplate the scene that is depicted so vividly: Mary and Joseph are transients, equivalent to the homeless of our city streets. She is a young woman in a patriarchal society, living in an occupied nation, "and brought her child into the world in the manner of enormously disadvantaged people, that is, without the security of a home." 

Mary and Joseph have traveled some 7-10 days to Bethlehem, so as to be counted like sheep and registered according to the dictates of the government.  Bethlehem was an arduous 94-mile journey from Nazareth, and Mary, in the last weeks of her pregnancy, rode on the back of a donkey. Scholars assert that one could not travel this journey except in the twilight or early hours of the morning, as both the heat of the day and the darkness of the night drove people to cover. There were no hotels, restaurants, or waysides, and sojourners carried water, perhaps some figs, olives, and a loaf of bread, and slept on the side of the road. It was a difficult, dangerous, and grueling journey for anyone, but in particular, for a young woman in the last stages of her pregnancy. Indeed, it is quite reasonable to assume that no health care provider would ever recommend either the journey or the primitive mode of transportation for a woman preparing to bring her child into the world.

Bethlehem is crowded with others who have made a similar journey, and the expectant parents seek shelter, but to no avail. Finally, they are directed to a cave, where they shelter with village animals. Upon the birth of her child, Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes, the traditional Palestinian way of securing a newborn, and laid him in a manger.

Meanwhile, the first to hear the message of the miraculous yet humble birth were shepherds tending their flocks in the fields, laborers of low economic and social rank. They hurried to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the child just as the angels had said. "There, within the simple cave, the displaced couple, the manger, and the shepherds came together to form the clear image that our God comes to the world through the poor, the marginalized, the powerless, and the oppressed." 

However, if we listen between the lines of Luke’s account, we will hear a foreshadowing of who this divine child will be as told through the images, intimations, and figurative language in this sacred story.  

This child, too, will one day ride a donkey into a crowded city, seeking an inn with an upper room to celebrate the Passover. There will be no straw-filled manger, but his whole life will be a sacred table of welcoming and mercy, and he will name himself as bread, wine, the Way, the Life, and a shepherd who is good.

Raised as a carpenter, he will be familiar with the feel of the wood beneath his beaten body, remembering the smell of Joseph’s small shop. He will be laid in the arms of his loving and faith-filled mother once again, as he is removed from his cross. He will be wrapped in a linen cloth, much like his swaddling clothes from his moments of birth; but now, they will embrace him in his death.  He will be laid in a cave-like tomb, not warm with the breath of animals nor shielded by the loving protection of Joseph as he was in the stable at Bethlehem.

Then, with an inconceivable and unfathomable mysterious movement, God will bring forth a cosmic energy that will move away stones and break through boundaries and fears, and God will raise Jesus as the Christ born again in every heart of humanity.

Yes, even angels will gather once again upon his rising from death to new life and will sing of his glory as Messiah, Savior, Emmanuel, Wonder-Counselor, and Prince of Peace. Jesus will have waited for this all his life!

This night’s story is known and re-enacted in almost every country throughout the world, children dressing up as shepherds, wise ones, Mary and Joseph, angels and innkeepers, sheep and camels. Yet, what does it mean for all of us?

Each of us this evening is invited to reflect on our own nativity story, recalling the images, details, visitors, and celebrations. We each have been given the task of carrying forward the dreams, the vision, and the mission of our God. Our faith does not depend upon an empty tomb or a lowly stable. Our hope does not cause us to look to the heavens for angel choirs or cosmic convergences of planets or celestial constellations.

But let it be known, “that the mystery of the nativity is that love is made incarnate every time it deepens in us.” As we grow in love individually, as a community, and as a people of God, we make love more present in the world. “As Christmas is born again in each of us, it comes forth again into the world.” No matter where we live, work, play, grieve, or celebrate, the message and mystery of the Incarnation cannot be brought out once a year like the nativity set decorations under our tree.

It is our everyday challenge to accept our call to carry on God’s dream and vision for all humanity. . . And in the words of Pope Francis . . . We are “to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded....   That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.”

Finally, since this is the season and night of story, let us be people of the story . . . stories of faith, hope, resilience, and love, as we continue to share in the Word, the breaking of the Bread, the cup of Wine, the sign of peace; and, shortly hereafter, as we take leave following the light of the stars . . . for God has waited an eternity for us this night.

And so we pray:
“Light looked down and saw darkness.  “I will go there,” said light.
Peace looked down and saw war.  “I will go there,” said peace.
Love looked down and saw hatred.  “I will go there,” said love.
So the God of Light, The Prince of Peace,
The King of Love, Came down and crept in beside us.”   (Rev. John Bell)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Praying Solstice Light!

A Winter Solstice Prayer

The dark shadow of space leans over us. . . . .
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.

May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night,
hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice
that spans the world.

In the heart of every person on this Earth
burns the spark of luminous goodness;
in no heart is there total darkness.

May we who have celebrated this winter solstice,
by our lives and service, by our prayers and love,
call forth from one another the light and the love
that is hidden in every heart.
- Author Unknown

In 2016, the winter solstice date is December 21. This is the astronomical start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere ~ Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 4:44 am CST ~ then the daylight begins to get longer.

Photo by Terry H.

A Blessing at Christmas . . .

Poem: "Christmas Blessing" by Joyce Rupp

May you give and receive love generously.
May this love echo in your heart like
the joy of church bells on a clear December day.

May each person who comes into your life
be greeted as another Christ.
May the honor given the Babe of Bethlehem
be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence.

May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul.
May it be a foundation of courage for you
when times of distress occupy your inner land.

May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children
be awakened within you.
May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation
of whatever you too easily take for granted.

May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened
as you gather around the table of festivity and nourishment.
May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust
this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day.

May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart
and visit the One who offers you peace.
May you bring this peace into our world.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

Peace Tree Reflection

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Doves of Peace!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent ~ A Gentling Time!

An Unclenched Moment?

Gentle me, Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy that is You.
~Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

God became a Story!

The Word was made flesh . . .

Storytellers speak of a custom in the Middle Ages.
At that time, monks and most of the populace could not read or write, but every morning in monasteries and chapels many of them would meet around a  Bible. It would be opened, and in silence they would wait for the Word to be spoken and read aloud. The one who could read would slowly tell the story of God’s words in the world, reading a single passage clearly so all could hear. He would finish, stand in silence before the book, bend in homage, and then back away from the stand with the book, standing at a slight distance.

After a period of quiet, he would approach the book again and read the same passage. He would do this again and again, until all had departed and there was no one to listen to the Word of God.  Each monk or visitor left when they had secured what they needed to reflect upon for the day.

The Word invaded their minds, hearts, and bodies, and they took it with them into their work, study, and interactions, as well as their prayer.  With the Word within them, they were ready to live in the Spirit and let that Word transform their own flesh and blood.    
(Re-told by Megan McKenna)

May we be filled with the Word and live in the Spirit!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent ~ God of Everyday, be with us!

God Be With Us

May God be with us in strength, holding us in strong-fingered hands; and may we be the sacrament of God’s strength to those whose hands we hold.

May God be with us in gentleness, touching us with sunlight and rain and wind. May God’s tenderness shine through us to warm all who are hurt and lonely.

May God be with us in wonder, delighting us with thunder and song, sunrise and daisy; enchanting our senses, filling our hearts, giving us wide-open eyes for seeing and splendor in the humble and majestic. And may we open the eyes and hearts of the blind and the insensitive.

May God be with us in love and friendship, listening to us, speaking to us, drawing us close as we tremble at the edge of self-gift.  May God’s love in us light fires of faith and hope, glow in our eyes and meet God’s love glowing in the eyes of our friends.

May God be with us in compassion, holding us close when we are weary and hurt and alone – when there is rain in our heart. And may we be the warm hands and the warm eyes of compassion for our friends when they reach out to us in need.

May God be with us in joy, thrilling us with nearness, filling our heart to fullness and filling our throat to ringing, singing exultation.

May God be with us in peace, stilling the heart that hammers with fear and doubt and confusion, and may our peace, the warm mantle of your peace, cover those who are troubled or anxious.

May God be with us in simplicity, opening us to a clearer vision of what is real and true, leading us deeply into the mystery of life and may our dealings with others be marked by honesty.

May God be with us today and every day. May God hold each of us, empowering us with understanding, love, and respect.

May God’s forgiveness touch our hearts, enabling us to forgive ourselves and each other.

And finally, may we experience God’s peace and the joy that results from unity and prayer, shared values, and common vision

Author Unknown

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent ~ God-With-Us!

God is soaked
in our world.
God’s Spirit
lives and breathes
in and though
all that is.
We are lost
only when we
do not understand
that God
is already with
and in
each one of us.
Our task is recognition
of God’s initiative
to be at home in us . . .
of God-With-Us.
Then we cannot but
be glad.
Author: Edwina Gateley


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent . . .an at ease-ment!

"Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my   hurried pace. Give me, amidst the day's confusion, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking "minute vacations"...slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me of the fable of the hare and the tortoise; that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than measuring its speed. Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew slowly and well. Inspire me to send my own roots down deep into the soil of life's endearing values...that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny. Slow me down, Lord."
 (~ Wilfred Arlan Peterson)


Advent . . .a slowing time . . .

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?
~ Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching
"In the name of Jesus Christ, who was never in a hurry, we pray, O God, that You will slow us down, for we know that we live too fast." (~ Peter Marshall )



Advent Candles . . .

The Four Candles burned slowly. Their ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak.
The first candle said, “I Am Peace, but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit." Then Peace's flame slowly diminished and went out completely.
The second candle said, "I Am Faith, but these days, I am no longer indispensable." Then Faith's flame slowly diminished and went out completely.
Sadly the third candle spoke, "I Am Love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer. People put me aside and don't understand my importance. They even forget to love those who are nearest to them."
And waiting no longer, Love went out completely. Suddenly ... A child entered the room and saw the three candles no longer burning. The child began to cry, "Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit until the end."
Then the Fourth Candle spoke gently to the little boy, "Don't be afraid, for I Am Hope, and while I still burn, we can re-light the other candles."
With shining eyes, the child took the Candle of Hope and lit the other three candles. Never let the Flame of Hope go out. With Hope in your life, no matter how bad things may be, Peace, Faith and Love may shine brightly once again. (~ Author Unknown)


Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent Examen . . .Waiting in Gratitude!

Ignatian Examen for Advent

The Grace of Gratitude
I speak from my heart telling God why I am grateful,
being very particular and naming specific things:
gifts, people, events, blessings
How do I wait with gratitude?

The Grace to See
I walk with God through the experiences of my day
(or past year) giving thanks where I have grown,
and noticing where I have stumbled.
Where do I need the gift of light?
How do I wait with a discerning heart?

The Grace of Freedom
I ask for the grace to awaken my memory to anything from
my day (or past year) where God is inviting me to greater
freedom and peace.
I spend some time listening to my heart.
How do I wait in peace… in silence… listening?

The Grace of Mercy
I ask to feel hope, knowing that God will always give me
forgiveness. I ask God’s mercy in personal words that come
from my heart.
How do I wait in hope and with trust this

Advent Season?

The Grace of Transformation
I listen to my heart for invitations to change the way I pray,
live, work, love, play, relate, serve, or define success.
What deep desire within me is waiting to be
uncovered, discovered, or recovered this
Advent Season?

I pray the Our Father that God’s Kingdom reign in my life.

xamen adapted by William Watson, S.J.
Advent Reflections

Remembering . . .again and again!



It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent ~ A Season of Beginnings and Endings . . .

O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense of your timing                                                          
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.
O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Taken from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent: Teaching Us the Gift of Waiting . . .

“Certain words are employed so often during our liturgical seasons that they can easily be ignored due to overuse. ‘Waiting’ is one of these words. It may also be difficult for us to sense how the people of old waited for a savior. It’s quite another thing, though, if we are in the midst of a struggle or a situation where we are currently waiting for something painful to change.

I know many people who are waiting. Some have cancer, and are waiting to die. There’s a family waiting to be healed of the pain they all experienced when one of their little girls was abused by a family member. Another person is anxiously waiting to hear if he has the job for which he was recently interviewed. Yet another waits to know if she will have to move away from her home in which she has lived for 30 years.

What does this waiting have to do with longing for God’s coming? When we wait in tough times, we are in a special God-moment. We know we can’t ‘go it alone.’ The One who came into this world is our Peace-bringer. As we wait, we turn to our God and cry out for Peace to come and enfold us.

Source of Peace, bring your serenity and inner repose to those who wait to be relieved of their pain and struggle.” 

Taken from Inviting God In, by Joyce Rupp

Friday, November 25, 2016

Advent ~ Walking in Mystery!

In late September of 2015, Yogi Berra died at the age of 90. He was a great Major League baseball catcher, manager, and coach.  He was also known to be quite a character.  Besides his baseball competency, Berra was renowned for his impromptu pithy comments, malapropisms, and often unintentional witticisms, known as "Yogi-isms". 

I am sure that we are familiar with some of the quotes attributed to Yogi Berra; even though he says: “I didn’t really say everything I said.” These countless expressions are memorable because most of them didn’t seem to make any sense; yet, at the same time, they contained powerful messages that offered not just humor but wisdom

I’d like to share a few:
• Never answer an anonymous letter.
• The game isn’t over until it’s over.
• Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't go to yours.
• It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

It makes us think and sometimes laugh, but I believe there are some witticisms that relate in particular to our Advent readings.  The expressions offer us a unique perspective and “theology” of how to view our liturgical journey over this Church year.

All three of the readings this Sunday are powerful messages of wisdom, as well as pronouncements of encouragement and hope for the future.  The “end time” texts that we have been hearing in the final days of Ordinary Time have now spilled over into today’s readings.  In our Gospel, Jesus proclaims, once again, a message to “stay awake” as he prepares for his next steps toward his Passion.  Here, he is clearly anxious about the future, as he paints a bleak picture of the end of the world. It is a Gospel that is difficult to hear and understand. 

Still, Jesus offers us the encouragement to stand firm against the tribulations which will lead to chaos, disorder, and distraction. We are to be vigilant and pray for the strength to survive all that is to happen. Jesus is always inviting us to be attentive with faith, courage, and resiliency as we face the distractions, denials, and disorders in our culture, in our personal lives, and in the global disturbances around us.

It is challenging to be alert, to be present to the moment with a hopeful heart. It is difficult not to let “the anxieties of daily life” absorb us. It is far too easy to get lost in the particulars of endless tasks, plans, meetings, and so many other interruptions and distracting choices that sometimes whirl us with frenetic energy.

A stance of spiritual watchfulness is what we are invited to cultivate during this period between the first and second comings. As many wisdom figures in our tradition have insisted, God often blesses us with opportunities to know God more intimately, but we can easily miss them by simply not paying attention.
A Yogi Wisdom to ponder from our Gospel: “You can observe a lot by watching.”

This week, Christians begin a new liturgical year and enter into the rich and ancient four-week season of Advent.  However, perhaps for a number of American Christians, Advent passes virtually unnoticed, as the celebration of "Christmas" as a secular and intensely commercial feast begins the day after Thanksgiving.  Yet, the time of Advent offers us an opportunity to dive deeply into a counter-cultural time of quiet reflection, a space of hopeful and patient waiting and discernment about how God's incarnation has meaning and is at work in our world today.

Our faith tells us that God communicates with us whether we know it or not by continuously creating and redeeming us.  We are being “spoken to” continuously by our God who desires us to notice that life communicates God to us.

Advent beckons us to intentionally carve out a sacred space and time for quiet reflection, patient and hopeful waiting while observing, watching, and pondering what the future may hold. As one author counsels,
• ”in an age of speed, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow,
• In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention, and
• In an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” (Iyer)

Before the middle of the fourth century, there were no liturgical seasons, such as Advent or Lent, or any idea of a "liturgical year.” The great feast of Easter was the central focus of the Christian year, along with the Sunday gatherings, considered "little Easters."  Advent is first noted around the year 350, about the same time that Christmas is first mentioned as being celebrated. The date of Christmas might well have been placed near the winter solstice as a replacement to the pagan solstice celebrations of the Roman Empire.

As in the other yearly liturgical cycles, the readings of this Advent season reflect a movement through the four weeks from a cosmic in-breaking of God in the first Sundays to the more intimate stories, including Mary as a central figure, in the fourth Sunday, all of which prepare us for God's incarnation in the most unexpected and unpredictable manner -- as an infant in an occupied country to a poor and unwed teenager.

Advent invites us to set out on a great journey - to follow in the footsteps of Christ in all of his mysteries, so that we can live as he lived and truly be disciples of God’s mercy and compassion. These mysteries are stories to encourage our hearts, their meanings and wisdom are to permeate our being, and their truths are to sustain us through the long haul. 

Advent invites us to do more than simply commemorate Christmas; it invites us to embrace a larger vision. Advent draws us to prepare to live the mystery of the Word made flesh here and now. Life is Advent.

So perhaps Yogi Berra is a teacher for us in this in-between time, offering an opportunity for us…
• to cultivate a spiritual watchfulness and a patient waiting,
• to stand firm in our faith,
• to be present to the moment with a hopeful heart,
• to reclaim our space and time of quiet refection of the mystery of the Word made flesh here and now,
• to realize that we will truly need courage, compassion, resilience, wit, and wisdom.

A Yogi Wisdom to ponder as we take leave today on this First Sunday of Advent: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might wind up somewhere else.”