Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Soul Listening . . .

Listening to My Soul –

Guardian of my Deepest Self,
I need to be still, to listen,
not only to falling leaves
and the gentle wind;
I need to listen to my soul,
too long neglected
while I bowed to the wild cries
of my greedy culture,
ever ravenous
for my undivided attention:
Do more, Buy more,
See more, Be more, Go more.

+ + + +

Let me be still
amid the beauty of earth.
Let me be a silent admirer
of all that is sacred.

Let me be reverent
in the presence of another.

Let me restore my inner eye.
Let me put to rest the wildness
of endless activity.

+ + + +

Who or what keeps you from giving your deepest self your undivided attention?
What do you hear when you listen to your soul?

Adapted from: Prayers to Sophia by Joyce Rupp

In this century and any century,
Our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
Is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect
May we listen to our own hearts in love and forgiveness
May we listen to God in quietness and awe.

And in this listening,
Which is boundless in its beauty,
May we find the wisdom to cooperate
With a healing spirit, a divine spirit,
Who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.
We do not ask for a perfect world.
But we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.

Author: Jay McDaniel

Monday, June 26, 2017


It seems that in ancient times there was a king named Akbar, who had a brilliant and clever prime minister name Birbal. Akbar was always asking questions that he hoped would baffle Birbal, but Birbal was always able to answer and so save his life and his ministership. One day Akbar asked Birbal if he could bring him someone who was HERE and not THERE.  Birbal brought him a thief, saying, “This thief is only in the world trying to get money and goods to increase his wealth HERE.”
Then Akbar told Birbal, “Bring me someone who is THERE and not HERE.” Birbal responded by bringing a wondering ascetic and said, “He completely neglects all aspects of this world.  Including his body and his well-being, to focus entirely on the world beyond.”

“Very good,” said Akbar. “Now bring me someone who is neither HERE nor THERE.” Birbal left for a while and then returned, presenting to the king a beggar, saying, “This man is neither HERE nor THERE, because he is always envious of everyone else in the world. He’s not participating in the world in any sense and, at the same time, has no concern for spiritual matters. Thus, he is in no way THERE either.”

“Very good again,” exclaimed a pleased Akbar. “Now, is it possible that there is anyone in the world who is both HERE and THERE?”  “Yes, your majesty,” answered, Birbal., and he brought forth an honest household couple. “This man and woman work in the world and tend to their family, but do everything with God in their thoughts. Because they do the work of the world and allow their spiritual practices to carry them through both the good and the bad times, they are a woman and man who are both HERE and THERE.” (Story by John Shea – The Legend of the Bells)

Reflection: In a recent article it stated that many of us are being seduced by multi-tasking, - trying to do a number of things at once. Researchers have now identified a new syndrome emerging called Continuous Partial Attention (CPA). This is described as when a person continues to e-mail, text message, and blog, while supposedly listening to someone else.

Much like our story, CPA can fool us into being not HERE and not THERE! - or be an Absent Presence (another syndrome). These syndromes can un-ground us from our capacity to listen to ourselves, or to the words of another, and to listen between their words and beyond their words. So let us consider a simple practice for the week:  Stop, breathe deeply, – be HERE, be PRESENT, and attend to the moment. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

His Name is John!

The story is told that in Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer.  Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries.
Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth.  Thus their motto was “Ne Plus Ultra,” which means, “No More Beyond.”  The word being torn away by the lion is “Ne” or “No” thus it reads “Plus Ultra.”  Columbus had proven that there was indeed “more beyond.”

Today, we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist, whose witness and voice called his hearers to a baptism of repentance and to recognize the “more beyond” in his prophetic message; the “more beyond” restrictive rules, regulations and religious customs, the “more beyond” predictable practices, and certainly the “more beyond” an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!
From the beginning of his life to the end, John the Baptist was a living witness to God’s unconventional and unpredictable ways of acting.  Elizabeth, his mother, was “more beyond” the age of childbearing when she conceived.  Her relatives and neighbors rejoiced at God’s intervention on her behalf, but they had very definite ideas about how things should go after that.  Religious convention prescribed how the rite of circumcision and naming were to proceed.  

Here in our Gospel, all of Elizabeth’s family and friends gathered around her for the purpose of circumcising the child.  But they also decided that her newborn child would be named Zechariah, Jr. after his father.  And then in this awkward moment, Elizabeth’s voice is heard in the wilderness of promise and possibility, and she says: “No, no, the child’s name will be John” … which translates, Yahweh is gracious. 

These people are faithful Jews, good people and lovers of God.  But at this moment, God is about to reveal a mystery that has never so much as entered their minds or hearts.  God was preparing to do something new.  Something “more beyond” their imaginations.  God and not social convention was to give John his name. 

Perhaps the miraculous and unusual circumstances surrounding John’s conception, birth, and naming are clues as to God’s plan for this child who will be a prophet – one chosen to be "voice and heart, call and sign" of the God whose design for the world is justice, compassion, forgiveness, love and peace.

In every age God sends prophets to remind us how God desires to be involved in our lives.  Prophets do as much as they can to carry out their purpose, which is to interpret the will of God and to proclaim it to the people.  "They stand in our midst and tell it like it is, speaking disturbing words that people don’t like to hear."

We might ask  . . . Who are those in our time who have been called to be the prophetic voices to speak disturbing words that people don’t like to hear?

·         Let us remember, Bishop Oscar Romero:   He wrote . . . “Do not consider me, please, an enemy; I am simply a pastor, a brother, a friend of this Savadoran people.  One who knows their sufferings, their hunger, their anguish.  It is in the name of these voices that I raise my voice to say: Do not idolize your wealth!  Do not horde it to let the rest die of hunger! I speak in the first person, because this week I received notice that I am on the list of those who are to be eliminated next week. But let it be known that no one can any longer kill the voice of justice.”

·         Sr. Dorothy Stang : a Notre Dame de Namur sister, who worked among the peasant farmers in the Amazon and who was assassinated in February 2005.  In her journal she wrote, “O God, we have given all.  I have even sacrificed my home, country, family, my trust, to work among your people. God, my lover and Creator, I love You but I don’t understand why they (ranchers and military) seek to destroy our simple life-joy-caring among the people.  I never came to create hate or division but to build love, confidence and caring among a beautiful abandoned people.  Does this have to be part of life’s struggle?”

·         Finally, John Dear, a peace activist, who had at one time been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  His challenge to us all is to be contemplatives of non-violence, be students, teachers and visionaries of non-violence, be activists of non-violence, and be prophets of non-violence and stand publically for peace.
So what is the Good News for us today?
Let us be open to the graces of these powerful readings.
Let us be open to risk the “more beyond” our comfort zones so that we, too, can be voice and heart, call and sign of the God who unsettles us.
Let us pray for all who are called in our time to be prophetic and speak words of challenge that people don’t want to hear.
And let us pray that John the Baptist will intercede for our world today so that we, too, will choose to live “more beyond” violence, greed and power and truly live peace, be peace.   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Summer Morning Prayer

Opening Prayer

I bow before you, my hidden but beloved God,
as I begin this day.
An alarm rings in my heart to awaken me to the fact
that I am a pilgrim who travels a sacred path.
I now answer that call to mindfulness,
as I prepare to enter into silent prayer.
I join myself with all who are in prayer at this sacred hour
when the Earth once again faces its source of life, the sun.
I now turn fully to face you, O God,
the source of the universe and of my life,
as I enter into silence. (pause for silent prayer).

With fidelity I have tried to still my restless heart in you,
the divine source of all that I am.
May this effort bear fruit by my living more fully in the
present moment this day.
I join my voice to all the awakening sounds of the Earth
at this hour, as I pray. (reflect on a chosen passage of scripture)

Concluding Prayer

This summer day is growing warmer
as we turn to face the fullness of our daystar, the sun.
Plants, animals, and we human folk are all solar-powered
in the marvel of your clever creation.
May this morning prayer give me the energy
to act at all times this day with love and kindness.
May I treat each person and each living being as a
brother or sister, as a member of your sacred family.

I pray now for these personal needs: (offer intentions), and
for the special needs this day of (n.).
May the business of this day never eclipse my real work
as a pilgrim on the sacred path.

Open my eyes and ears to the miracles you have hidden
along my path this day.
Let my mind find its joy in the present moment,
the only place where you dwell.

I bow before you, Divine Creator, Holy Mother,
Eternal Source of my existence.
Your heart is my home;
from you I have come
and to you I journey this day.

(Author: Edward Hays)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Blessing for this day . . .

Blessing This Day
 I only want to see the day ahead,
 My attention will not go     
  backward into my history,
 And my attention will not go forward
  into my future.
I am committed to staying only
in the present time,
 To remaining grounded in my world,
 To feeling a bond with each person
  I meet,
 To respecting my own integrity
  and my own honor,
 To living within the energy of love
  and compassion this day,
 And returning to that energy when
  I don’t feel it,
 To making wise and blessed choices
  with my will, 
 To maintaining perceptions of                  
 wisdom and non-judgment,
 To release the need to know why things happen

 the way they do,
 And to not project expectations over how
 I want this day to be ___
 And how I want others to be.
 And finally, my last prayer to trust the Divine.
 With that I bless my day with gratitude and love.
   Caroline Myss

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Gathering Prayer for the Week . . .

Gather Me to Be with You

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

 + + + 
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
Forgive me for claiming so much for myself that I leave
no room for gratitude; for confusing exercises in self-importance
with acceptance of self-worth;
+ + +
For complaining so much of my burdens that I become a burden;
For competing against others so insidiously that I stifle celebrating
them and receiving your blessing through their gifts.

+ + +

O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
Keep me in touch with myself, with my needs,
my anxieties, my angers, my pains, my corruptions,
that I may claim them as my own rather than
blame them on someone else.
+ + +
O God, deepen my wounds into wisdom; shape my weaknesses
into compassion; gentle my envy into enjoyment,
my fear into trust, my guilt into honesty,
my accusing fingers into tickling ones.
+ + +
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
(From: Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Beginnings and Endings of the Day . . .

God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need.  Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace.  And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone
undone. . . just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with God.  Then you will be able to rest in God ~ really rest ~ and start the next day as a new life.
St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Trust your sense of judging melon!

A businessman needing to attend a conference in a faraway city decided to travel on country roads rather than the freeways so he could enjoy a relaxing journey. After some hours of traveling he realized he was hopelessly lost. Seeing a farmer tending his field on the side of the road, he stopped to ask for directions. “Can you tell me how far it is to Chicago?” he asked the farmer. “Well, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer replied.
Well, can you tell me how far I am from Fond du Lac, WI?” the businessman questioned again. “Well, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer again replied. “Can you at least tell me the quickest way to the main road?” The exasperated businessman asked.“Nope, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer again answered. “You really don’t know very much at all, do you?” blurted the impatient businessman. “Nope, not much, but I ain’t lost,” the farmer calmly answered.

Part One: Here is another reflection from my retreat journey. So the story goes . . . “Can you tell me how far . . .?” That was a question that often lingered in my mind and heart before, during, and after my retreat. On the way to my retreat, I traveled north on the freeway, thinking that I would by-pass the road construction that appears like the flowers once spring has entered our hemisphere. No luck. Shortly upon my journey, there were rows and rows of orange barrels, workers with hard-hats and green vests, and company trucks parked along the road creating their own parking lot. So I had to be alert to the change in lanes, the new signs that were temporary, and the traffic that didn’t like being confined to only one lane. Unfortunately, I missed my exit going north since the new markings were tilted from the wind, and the orange barrels were also scattered, making it somewhat questionable if my exit was really open. So I knew that the next best thing was to shift into “Plan B”, which was simply to take the next exit and turn around and hit my desired exit going south. But lo and behold, upon entering the next exit going north, the ramp now was reconfigured with a round-about – again inviting me to test my driving and reading skills, while trying to not lose sight of the ramp I needed to go south. Well, with a smile and a wave to the other drivers, I eased my way to my ramp and headed south. Whew! I wondered if this was a sign of what was to come.  Would I be asking God - Can you tell me how far within am I to travel?  What is your desire for me? To what signs do I need to be alert? What is being reconfigured in your dream for me? 

Part Two: Upon leaving the grounds at the end of my retreat, I headed to the office to submit my payment. I casually asked the woman at the desk, “Can you tell me what the name of the road is heading east that takes me down into the valley from these bluffs? I’ve taken it before, but can’t remember its name or number. I believe it was a left turn.” She said, “You want 162 South.”  Ok – I would go with that and upon heading east for only a few short miles I came across 162 South, but it was now a right turn.  Hmmmm. This didn’t feel right or look right, for I remember a Stop sign, some fences, and the road umbrella-ed with beautiful maple and oak trees. This road, 162 South, was none of this. Hmmmm. Maybe those guys in the green vests and orange barrels have reconfigured this road too. So I made the right turn onto the road and didn’t recognize anything, any place, and there were no signs to let me know the place to which I was headed, and there were not too many roads that intersected with 162 South. So I thought, hmmmmmmm – guess this is a new adventure heading east. So I began “expanding my world view” now enjoying the beauty of the bluffs, and the greenery and wild flowers. Still no town or village – besides, I didn’t have a GPS, or a Pillar of Fire or a Pillar of Cloud – only my little direction gauge on the dashboard, my trusty map, and my inner compass – my own inner GPS – my intuition. After a number of miles, I knew this was not the road I had always taken when leaving the bluffs, but thought it would offer me some new perspectives and experiences.

Eventually, I thought of the wisdom statement from a meditation site:  “Trust your sense of judging melon.”  None of us go to “Melon School” to learn how to select just the right melon to place on our table for a sweet ‘n juicy treat. Somehow we already have that inner knowing about which melon is the best – we trust our eyes, our fingers, our nose, our grip in holding the melon, and our taste buds when samples are made available. Like my capacity to judge melon, I now had to trust my eyes, nose, mind, body, and inner knowing that I would eventually find the freeway. 

So it could be that the next time I would find myself in the bluffs of North West Wisconsin seeking a road of which was part of my comfort zone, I may just want to take another route – “a road less traveled,” which would offer me new learnings that I would have missed if I didn’t get “hopelessly lost” in the trust of God, nature, and road signs which were probably put up by those workers who attended “Orange Barrel School.”

I close with two quotes from Dag Hammarskj√∂ld who must have traveled back roads as well: “How long the road is. But, for all the time the journey has already taken, how you have needed every second of it in order to learn what the road passes-by.” And “The longest journey is the journey inwards.”

Previously posted June 2013

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Prayer . . .

F: Fully

R: Rely

O: On

G: God

The Gift of Darkness . . .

Sweet Darkness
When your eyes are tired                          
the world is tired also.
When your vision is gone                       
no part of the world                     
can find you.

Time to go into the dark     
where the night has eyes                         
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure           
you are not beyond love.       

The dark will be                           
your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon
 further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.                
The world was made                                  
to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness
 and the sweet confinement
of your aloneness to learn . . .
Anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive    
is too small for you.
 _ David Whyte

Friday, June 2, 2017

Come, Spirit, Breath of God . . .

Come, Holy Spirit ~
Replace the tension within me with a holy relaxation,
Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm,
Replace the anxiety within me with a quiet confidence,
Replace the fear within me with a strong faith,
Replace the bitterness within me with the sweetness of grace,
Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light,
Replace the coldness within me with a loving warmth,
Replace the night within me with Your day,
Replace the winter within me with Your spring,
Straighten my crookedness, fill my emptiness,
Dull the edge of my pride, sharpen the edge of my humility,
Light the fires of my love, quench within me the flames of envy,
Let me see myself as You see me, that I may see You                                     as You have promised ~
And be fortunate according to Your word, “Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.”       

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Prayer . . .

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan,  
and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of              
up and down,
who is gazing around with her enormous and                        

complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly                                                                            
washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, 
how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~ Mary Oliver