Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To Let Go . . .

 “Letting Go Takes Love”
Author Unknown
To let go does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off,
it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To let go is not to enable,
but allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means
the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another,
it’s to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to care for,
but to care about.

To let go is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To let go is not to be protective,
it’s to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny,
but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more
To let go and to let God, is to find peace!
Remember: The time to love is short.


In Praise of Autumn . . .

In the stillness of an autumn afternoon
we sit in quiet communion. Before us,
hills and valleys yawn, spreading wide
their yellow and green, ochre and gold
harvest of hay, beans and corn.

All summer long these fields drank
daily offerings of dew and sunlight.
We listen to the hush of hills, a hawk
above us riding thermal winds,
the drying corn nearby whispering
Praise! Praise! Praise!, the grass
beneath our squeaking swing
chanting, sotto voce, Thank you, God.

Everything around us whispers shhh.
And when we do, we hear the holy
breath of God bringing forth the world.
 Poem by: Sister Irene Zimmerman, SSSF

Friday, September 23, 2016

Francis . . .The little man with a ginormous mission!

Painting by Cimabue

On October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi will be observed. This man, small and fragile in stature, was able to move the political and religious worlds much like a “spiritual tsunami” which has lasted over 800 years. It was with these words heard in the little village church while praying before an ancient crucifix: "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin” that Francis turned the world upside down. We have all received from his spirit again and again to teach us the values that have empowered so many over these hundreds of years to carry on his mission, his dream, his call.

Today we know that there have been so many ways in which the memory of Francis is ever before us.  Besides the women and men orders that live in religious community and commit to his way of life, there are also all those other images, books, etc., that keep the life of the Poverello before us.  For instance, how many of us have Francis in our gardens?  Yes, and yet here are a few more items that have been created to remind us that he once lived and changed the world: books (both novels and biographies), films, classical music, poems, blessings, chapels, churches, songs, wineries and vineyards, pet blessings and even tags for identification.  Everything short of action figures or video games! And most of us can recite the St. Francis Peace Prayer; however, research has attributed the present form to Cardinal Francis Spellman from 1949.   

So let us ask Francis to intercede for us and our world as we experience our nation and our planet “falling into ruin” for so many reasons.  Let us pray together:

A Franciscan Prayer for Peace

Lord, make us instruments of your Peace.  In a world all too prone to violence and revenge, We commit ourselves to the Gospel Values of Mercy, Justice, Compassion, and Love; We will seek daily to promote forgiveness and healing in our hearts, our families, and our world.

Where there is hatred, let us sow Love; Where there is injury, let us cultivate Peace. Fear and distance prevent people from recognizing all as sisters and brothers; tensions lead to violence and mistrust; We will strive to honor the dignity that God places in each and every human person.

Grant that we may not seek to be understood as to understand; To be loved as to Love.  Our failure to understand the other can create exclusion in all its negative forms – racism, marginalization of those who are poor, sick, the immigrant; it can also create situations of domination, occupation, oppression and war.  We pledge to see the way of solidarity, to create hearts, homes, and communities where all people will experience inclusion, hospitality, and understanding.

For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned and in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Let us pray: God, create in us;
- The capacity to hear and understand the voices of those who suffer from every form of violence, injustice, and dehumanization;
- The openness to receive and honor people from other cultures, languages, religious traditions, and geographical regions;
- The creativity to explore new ways of community and dialogue through music, poetry, performing arts, and mass media;
- The audacity to undertake the building of communities of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.

To God who is above all and in all are the glory and the honor.  Amen.

"Dancing Francis" Viterbo University Campus
La Crosse, WI

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Autumn Stories . . .

There was a small boy who when walking down the street one day found a bright copper penny. He was so excited that he found money and it didn’t cost him anything. This experience led him to spend the rest of his days walking with his head down; eyes wide open, looking for treasure.

During his lifetime he found 296 pennies, 48 nickels, 19 dimes, 16 quarters, 2 half dollars and one crinkled dollar bill ~ for a total of $13.96.

He got money for nothing. Except that he missed the breathless beauty of 31,369 sunsets, the colorful splendor of 157 rainbows, the fiery beauty of hundreds of maples nipped by autumn’s frost. He never saw white clouds drifting across blue skies, shifting into various wondrous formations. Birds flying, sun shining, and the smiles of a thousand passing people are not a part of his memory. (Author unknown)

A little girl walked to and from school daily.
Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with lightning.  The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school and she feared the electrical storm might harm her child.

Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child's school.   As she did, she saw her little girl walking along.  At each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up, and smile.

Another and another flash of lighting followed quickly and with each, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile.  

When the mother's car drew up beside the child, she lowered the window and called to her, "What are you doing?"
The child answered,  
"I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture."

An Autumn Dance . . .

A Prayer for Autumn Days

God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising.  We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been.  We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk.  Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns.  As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives.  We always need to recognize your power-filled presence.  May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of surrender.  We must wait for harvest in faith and hope.  Grant us patience when we do not see the blessing. 

God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future.  We yearn for insight and vision. 

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life.  For all this, we are grateful.

Prayer:  God of love, you enter into our autumn season, into our deepest places of inner dwelling, into the heart of our transformation.  You give us glimpses of the truth.  May we allow our experience of autumn to speak to us of necessary change and growth.  May we accept the invitation to reflect upon our own life, growth and challenges.  Grant us an openness to the continuous process of letting go and moving on that is part of the human condition.  We are grateful that you are our faithful companion on this journey.  Amen                                                                                                                                 
Joyce Rupp
      May I Have This Dance?

Monday, September 19, 2016

God of Autumn Transformation!

A Song of Praise to our Autumn God 

O God of Autumn loveliness, we thank you for the many colors of our lives.     
We thank you for the rich hues of red, the promising hope of greens,
the depth of the golds, and the well-worn browns.

We praise you for all of the life you have given us, the life we celebrate at this harvest time each year. Like the leaves of the trees, we ourselves have been blown around, toasted in the sun, and whipped by rain and storms. Yet, we stand as a testament to life well lived.

Your trees, O God, remind us of our letting go, our need to trust transformation so that new life can come. Yet, like them, we resist the tearing, wrenching, pulling, and tugging.  We cling earnestly to our color and our home!

Release us, God of the Autumn, and free us so that the wind of your Spirit can fling us to the places we most need to go.  Bury us deep in places where we will find warmth.  Help us to find ourselves grounded in You.

As we look around in this harvest time, we celebrate the bounty all around us and deep within us.  May we be forever grateful for the plentitude!  May we be forever generous with all that is ours.  May we be forever willing to give of ourselves!

And as we journey towards this winter time, help us to always carry the spirit of springtime deep within us as a sign of hope!  We believe, O God of Transformation, that all of life is your belief and hope in us!  Ready our hearts, steady our hearts that we can respond fully in faith and love!

(Author Unknown)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Welcome, Autumn!

Autumn Equinox - Poem by Jacqueline C Nash

On this the first day of Autumn
the sun is now on the wane,
day and night are of equal length
so a balance of light and dark will reign.
Now the nights begin to get colder,
increasing darkness ensues,
the sap returns to the trees roots
and the leaves will be changing hues.
This is a time to look back on our past
and for a future to be planned.
The wheel turns to an ageing year
when we remember all things must end.
We must say farewell to the Summer
as Autumn leaves start to fall
and if we listen very hard we'll hear
the chill of Winter's call.

"Leaves On A Stream", Mindfulness Exercise With Naomi Goodlet


Autumn, Our Teacher!

Artist Unknown
“O Sacred Season of Autumn” by Edward Hays

O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher,
for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.
As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty,
I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches.
You are the season of retirement,
of full barns and harvested fields.
The cycle of growth has ceased,
and the busy work of giving life
is now completed.
I sense in you no regrets:
you’ve lived a full life.
I live in a society that is ever-restless,
always eager for more mountains to climb,
seeing happiness through more and more possessions.
As a child of my culture,
I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.
Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received,
may I know that it’s enough,
that my striving can cease in the abundance of God’s grace.
May I know the contentment
that allows the totality of my energies
to come to full flower.
May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure.
As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty,
let me also take delight
in the abundance of the simple things in life
which are the true source of joy.
With the golden glow of peaceful contentment
may I truly appreciate this autumn day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Breathing a Blessing for Our World . . .

 A Blessing for Our World

• May the God of strength be with us; and may we be God’s strength to those in our world whose hands and hearts we hold.

• May the God of gentleness be with us; and may we be God’s tenderness to warm all who are hurt, alone, depressed, or in need of kindness.

• May the God of mercy be with us; and may we bring mercy, courage, and hope to those in our world who suffer from fear, lack of trust, or who have been hurt in any way.

• May the God of compassion be with us; and may we be God’s compassion to those who are weary, or in need of a listening heart. 

• May the God of patience be with us; may God’s patience be with us as we pray to stand with out-stretched arms, with an understanding heart - free of judgment -to receive those who are in need of our support.

• May the God of peace be with us; may God’s peace be with us as we pray for those in our world who are the least, the last, and the lost; and for those who are troubled, anxious, in doubt, and restless.  May God’s peace be a warm mantle of love to still their hearts.

 +Breathing in: Generous God  
Breathing out: Thank you

Be . . .

A Japanese Garden
By Charmiane Aserappa and Akiko Naomura

Be the still pool.  Let your face reflect the glory, the wonder.
Be the dragonfly.  Silent but joyful.
Be the bud.  Prepare to blossom.
Be the tree.  Grant shelter.
Be the butterfly.  Accept the riches of the moment.

Be the moth.  Seek the light.
Be the lantern.  Guide the lost.
Be the path.  Open the way for another.
Be the wind chime. Let the breeze blow through you.  Turn the storms into song.

Be the rain.  Wash away, cleanse, forgive.
Be the grass.  Grow back when you are trod upon.
Be the bridge.  Reach in peace toward the other side.
Be the moss.  Temper your strength with softness, mercy.
Be the soil.  Bear fruit.

Be the gardener.  Create order.
Be the temple. Let the Spirit dwell in you.
Be the seasons.  Welcome change.

Be the moon.  Shine through the darkness.
Be the pebble.  Let time shape and smooth you.
Be the leaf.  Fall gracefully when your time comes to let go.
Trust the circle.  To end is to begin. 

Slowing Our Hurried Pace . . .

Poem: "Slow Me Down, God" by Wilfred Arlan Peterson

Slow me down, God.
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 tension 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, God.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Prodigal . . .

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Ivor Williams (1908-1982)


The Mother of the Prodigal Son

Where is the mother of the prodigal son
On that day so long ago?
What were her thoughts
And what were her fears
As she watched him turn to go?

How many times in the dark of night
Did the tears slide down her face?
Did she get out of bed
And fall on her knees,
Just to pray that her boy was safe?

How were the days when she did not know
Was he alive? Was he warm? Was he well?
Who were his friends?
And where did he sleep?
Was there anyone there she could tell?

But, oh, on that day when she looked down the road
As she had looked since her son went away,
Did love unspeakable flood her soul?
Did she cry?
What did she say?

I think when the father had welcomed their son
And the boy had greeted his brother,
That the servants made a path
For him to enter the door
And the waiting arms of his mother.
Author: Chis

**Prodigal: meaning extravagant . . .

Monday, September 5, 2016

An early September pondering . . .

Photo by JF

How surely gravity’s law, strong as an ocean current, takes hold of even       the strongest thing and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing – each stone, blossom, child – is held in place. Only we, in our arrogance, push out beyond what we belong to for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again to learn from the things, because they are in God’s heart, they have never left God.

This is what the things can teach us; to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that before she can fly.
   --Rainer Maria Rilke

For Pondering:
•Where and when do you experience yourself rooted in the Earth?
•Where in your life do you sense that you are in need of grounding?
•How in your life do you honor the changes, movements, and subtle shifts of the seasons?
•What have you learned from your experiences in life that are in “God’s heart”?
•Have you ever had to learn from “falling” and trust in your own “heaviness” of life’s challenges and gifts?


Friday, September 2, 2016

Mother Teresa to be Sainted!

 Sunday, September 4, Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
The Paradoxical Commandments

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa's children's home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However, an article in the New York Times reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Dr. Kent Keith]

• “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” (Mother Teresa)

• Advice to a Novice - “The story is told of what she said to a novice gingerly cleaning an ugly wound in a woman's neck, as if repelled by what she saw. Mother Teresa told her that was not how to do the task. She took over a scalpel and quickly excised the nasty ulcer.
 ‘You must understand,’ she said, ‘that this is Jesus. We are cleaning the wounds  of the Lord.’ She then turned to a reporter witnessing this encounter: ‘If we didn't  believe this -- that this is the body of Christ -- we could never do it. No money  could make us do it. I wouldn't ask these fine young women to take on a life like  this. We are not social workers. We are seeing and touching the heart of Christ --  twenty-four hours a day.’" –Mother Teresa

• “I will never forget one day when I met a lady who was dying of cancer and I could see the way she was struggling with that terrible pain. And I said to her, ‘You know this is but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Him on the cross that He can kiss you.’ And she joined her hands together and said, 'Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.” –Mother Teresa

• “One night a man came to our house and told me, ‘There is a family with eight children. They have not eaten for days.’ I took some food and I went. When I finally came to the family, I saw the faces of those little children disfigured by hunger. There was no sorrow or sadness in their faces, just the deep pain of hunger. I gave the rice to the mother. She divided it in two, and went out, carrying half the rice with her. When she came back, I asked her, ‘Where did you go?’ She gave me this simple answer, ‘To my neighbors-they are hungry also.’
 I was not surprised that she gave–because poor people are generous. But I was  surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we  are so focused on ourselves we have no time for others.” –Mother Teresa

• A successful businessman traveled to India to spend a month working in one of Mother Teresa's shelters. He longed to meet the tiny nun, but Mother Teresa was traveling, and it wasn't until the day before his departure that he received an audience. When he was finally in her presence, much to his surprise, he burst into tears. All the times when he'd been self-centered, busy or focused on his own gain flashed before his eyes, and he felt an enormous sadness that he had missed so many opportunities in his life to give of himself and his resources. Without a word, Mother Teresa walked over to where he was seated, put her hands on his shoulders and looked deeply into his eyes. "Don't you know," she said, "that God knows you are doing the best that you can." (Story from Chicken Soup for the Soul At Work by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Maida Rogerson, Martin Rutte, Tim Clauss