Thursday, August 30, 2018

Work can be a spiritual exercise . . .

Litany of Labor:

Leader: Let us pray to the God of all creation, from whom comes life, work and purpose.
Almighty God, when you lovingly formed us out of the dust of the earth, you breathed into us the breath of life and gave us work and purpose for living.
 We give you thanks, O God.
For those who plow the field; for farmers and farm workers, for those who work with their hands and those who move the earth, for all who provide food for others.
For those who tend the sick and those who seek new cures; for doctors and nurses, for scientists and technicians; for all who work to care for the sick.
For those who design and create; for inventors and explorers, for artists and musicians; for those who write books and those who entertain; for all who open windows on their world through art and music.
For those who work in offices and those who work in warehouses; for secretaries and receptionists, for stockers and bookkeepers; for those who market products and for those who move them; for all who serve others through administration.
For those who inspire our minds and those who motivate us; for teachers and preachers, for public servants and religious servants; those who help the poor and those who work with our children; for all who encourage us to learn.
For those whose labor is tidiness and cleanliness; for janitors and sanitary workers, for drycleaners and maids; for those who produce cleaning products and those who use them; for all those who add beauty and cleanliness to your world.
For those who sail the waves and those who fly the skies; for captains and attendants, for astronauts and deep sea divers; for those who chart and those who navigate.
For those who serve in the armed forces; for soldiers and airmen; sailors and marines; for all those who put themselves in harms way to protect others.
You bless us all with skills and gifts for labor. You provide us opportunities to use them, for the benefit of others as well as ourselves and the growth of your Kingdom on earth. Guard and protect those who labor in the world.
Send your special favor on the unemployed, the under-employed and the disabled, that they may find work that enriches their lives and provides for their families.
Give health to the sick, hope to the bereaved.
Keep us from laboring for ourselves alone.
Make us loving and responsible in all that we do.

(Adapted from: Author: Carolyn Moomaw Chilton) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Welcoming of the Quiet of Night . . .

God, you have been with me all through the day, stay with me now.  As the shadows lengthen into darkness let the noisy world grow quiet, let its feverish concerns be stilled, its voices silenced.

In the final moments of this day remind me of what is real, true, and good. But let me not forget that you were as present in the stresses of the day just past as you are now in the silence of this night.

You have made me for day and for night, for work and for rest, for both heaven and earth. Here in this night, let me embrace and not regret the mysterious beauty of my humanity. Keep me in the embrace of your unconditional love through the night, and the day to come.

Surround us with your silence and give us the rest that only you can give . . .  peace now and forever.     

(Adapted: My Day Is Ending, Evelyn Underhill . . . original source unknown)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Support during times of struggle . . .

A flock of wild geese had settled to rest on a pond. One of the geese had been captured by a gardener, who had clipped its wings before releasing it. When the geese started to resume their flight, this one tried frantically, but vainly, to lift itself into the air. The others, observing his struggles, flew about in obvious efforts to encourage him; but it was no use.

Thereupon, the entire flock settled back on the pond and waited, even though the urge to go on was strong within them. For several days they waited until the damaged feathers had grown sufficiently to permit the goose to fly.
Meanwhile, the unethical gardener, having been converted by the ethical geese, gladly watched them as they finally rose together and all resumed their long flight. (Albert Schweitzer )

Friday, August 17, 2018

Tree Musings . . .

“On the day of Judgment God will only ask one question: Did you enjoy my world?”
 (Traditional Jewish Saying)

She stands sentineled near the water’s edge, surrounded by birch, ash, and maple companions with vines entwined between her exposed ground roots.  This White Oak remains upright and almost motionless as the whispers of the lake breezes float through her branches. Gentle winds seem to tease her leaves as if prompting them to stir with laughter. Her sapwood continues to produce leaves that encircle her like a crown, while her center’s heartwood is now completely spent. This is always the prized wood sought after for special wood artistry. Yet she thrives. She becomes our teacher and speaks these wisdoms to us:

• Live life by giving your heart-center away. 
• Always provide shade and shelter for those who seek refuge from this world’s storms.
• Be sure to have friends stand by you when struggles find you.
• Seek nourishment from the waters of laughter, prayer, love, and solitude.
• Enjoy the beauty of creation and let butterflies teach you about transformation.
• Dream often and reach beyond the possible.
• Practice speaking words of comfort, mercy, and forgiveness.
• Don’t be afraid to bend and risk a new perspective.
• Always be a learner and trust in your talents.
• Be curious and chance walking to the edge.
• Be content when your growth is steady and slow, for that is what makes you of value.

The Light That We Need!

The Story of Two Sons ~ source unknown

A king had two sons.  As he grew older, he wanted to pass on the kingdom to one of these two sons and make him his heir.  He assembled all the wise men and women of the land, and called his two sons to present themselves.  He gave each of them five pieces of silver and told them: ‘By evening, I want you to have filled up this whole hall. What you fill it up with is up to you. You can use the silver pieces if you have to.’

And the wise folk said, ‘This is a great task.’
The older son went off, and came to a field where the farm laborers were harvesting sugar beet, and putting it through a press.  The remainder, after pressing, was discarded. So the older son made an arrangement with the foreman of the laborers, to take all the discarded sugar beet and fill up the hall with it.  When the task was complete, he gave the foreman the five pieces of silver, and told his father that the task was done.  There would be no need for his younger brother to try. He had filled the hall.  But his father replied, ‘There is still time. We will wait.’

The younger son came back, and asked for the sugar beet remains to be moved out of the hall again.  He had nothing in his hands but a candle. When the hall was completely empty once more, he carried the candle into the middle of the hall and lit it.  Immediately, the whole hall was filled with light. Light streamed into every remote corner.

And the king said to the younger son, ‘You shall be my heir. Your brother has spent five pieces of silver to fill up the hall with useless rubbish. You haven’t used even a single piece of silver, yet you have filled the hall with light. You have filled it with the very thing that our people need above all else.’

Monday, August 13, 2018

Mary, Wise Woman, Loving Woman, Faithfilled Woman . . .

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without any hesitation. 
The traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a full lifetime. But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. “I've been thinking,” he said. “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.” (Author Unknown)

On August 15th, we gather to celebrate, to remember and to affirm our belief once again in the passing of Mary into God’s embrace – body and soul. We gather to celebrate all that she had within her that enabled her to trust in Mystery, to walk in the holy darkness of questions and  to ponder her experiences in the light of faith, to hope in God’s love amidst her joys and sorrows, losses and finding and the deaths and risings she encountered, and to live with courage as she responded moment by moment to the challenges and surprises that resulted from her “Yes, let it be done.”

The Assumption of Mary into heaven is one of the oldest feasts of Mary. It is easily traced back to at least the 5th century and some historians say it was even celebrated as far back as the 3rd century. The event is not found in Scripture, and there were no witnesses – the feast came before its definition– it came from the belief of the people, the heart of the people. It is written, that in 1946 Pope Pius XII sent an encyclical letter to all the bishops of the world and asked them to confer with their people about the mystery of the Assumption becoming a dogma of the Church.  On the strength of their response and the testimony of history he declared the Assumption dogma in 1950.  (What a great process – “confer with their people.”  Maybe this should be considered once again.)

Most of what we know about Mary in Scripture comes from the Gospels of Luke and John. As a young Jewish girl, she grew into womanhood with an extraordinary faith. Oftentimes she did not understand what God was asking of her, but she believed with all her heart that it could and would be done, and she acted accordingly. It was enough for her to be called to move within holy mystery and gently hold the tension of all that was being asked of her. She did not seek answers, clarity or quick results – we are told that “she held all these things in her heart” and treasured them until their meaning was revealed a grace at a time!

In our Gospel today, Mary, a young pregnant woman went with haste to the hills of Judea to visit her older pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, who has lived the past six months no longer barren and with a quieted husband. Mary remains there for at least 3 months to be of help and to share the joy of expectation that most mothers-to-be experience.

In response to Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary proclaims a song of liberation for all people; one in which ideals are reversed and the household of God will be peopled  by the poor, the hungry, and the ones with no power. These women, who stand pregnant in an embrace of joy, laughter, and praise for God’s marvels, will give birth to children of the Magnificat. These children in turn will one day stand together and sing a new song that will be revolutionary. John will sing his song of repentance and ring out the Good News that the Messiah is here. Jesus will sing his song of Beatitude that breaks through to the hearts of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized and beyond the laws of purification.

No doubt that after the Ascension, Mary grew in age, grace and wisdom as well. She, too, was filled with the Pentecost fire of the Spirit and would have received the same energy and power of the Spirit as the disciples. So how can this feast speak to us? 

Mary not only witnesses to the action of God in her life, but she is a woman who was fully human, gifted with grace, truth, mercy, compassion, and faithfulness, on fire with the Spirit, generous in ministry, and centered in God. These are a few of the treasures that she had deep within her that enabled her to be a woman, wife, mother, sister, cousin, friend, disciple, prophet, and witness.

So let us ask boldly for all that she had within her that enabled her to be authentic, faithful, and trusting, so that we, too, will sing out our prophetic song of faithfulness and hope.

Let us ask boldly for all that she had within her to walk in Mystery, for we, too, have journeyed over these years, committed to the transformation of the world, the Church and ourselves promoting mutuality, inclusivity, and collaboration.

And let us ask boldly for all that she had within her to live with courage and to hold tensions creatively, always receptive to God’s grace and to stand tall in this time of liminality, living with paradox and contradictions, not running from mystery, while holding the precious stones of our stories as we proclaim, “God has done great things for us!”

Previously posted

Monday, August 6, 2018

Turning Points and More!

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus. Peter interrupted, “Rabbi, this is a great moment. Let’s build three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking, stunned as they all were by what they were seeing. Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and from deep in the cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love. Listen to him.” The next minute the disciples were looking around, rubbing their eyes, seeing nothing but Jesus, only Jesus. Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw. After the Son of Man rises from the dead, you’re free to talk.” (Mark 9:2-10) 

August 6 marks the Feast of the Transfiguration – a major turning point in the life of Jesus and his trusty companions. Smack dab in the middle of Mark’s Gospel, he presents this event which follows upon Jesus’ first foretelling of his passion and death. What a story of high drama and super special effects! Former prophets showing up in hologram form, a talking cloud, and Jesus’ clothes turning dazzling white. However, this turning point is a result of an instant “Feasibility Study.” God is saying: “Look folks, from here on in it's all downhill. My Beloved will be rejected, suffer, and die at the hands of the elders and chief priests.” This is certainly not good news for the disciples. Sorry, no chance of setting up house at the top of this mountain. “Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus to encourage him to fulfill this mission of nonviolence, and he turns into bright white light, the biblical sign of martyrdom, and becomes the risen Christ.” His future is now foretold . . . believe it or not. 

A turning point is described as an event marking a unique or important historical change of course, or the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment. This is a decisive moment in the life of Jesus – his support group is going to need to be his “backup singers” and not question why all will unfold in a most terrifying manner. For this moment truly calls for “deep listening” and no one will be the same after this mountain top moment. Turning points do that to all of us. How many turning points can we name in our lives? A birth of a child, a death of a child, the loss of a dream-job, or the acquiring of a dream-job, an experience of rejection, a sudden health crisis, financial crisis, an uprising in which a power system is toppled, or a series of natural disasters in which homes, resources, and the lives of many people are destroyed, or a proposal of marriage, or a decision to enter a religious lifestyle!! 

So our practice for the week is to ponder the turning points in our own lives. Then I invite you to journal about that one significant event for you and reflect and respond to the questions: What?, When?, Where?, Who? And write out your significant scenario. After that writing, read it aloud, and then list any learnings you took away from that turning point. Then read the entry again, along with your list of learnings, and pray to name the new wisdoms that you hold. 

For example. When I was just about 8, I almost drowned. See my past posting of April 12, 2012. I can say that one of my learnings in that turning point is that it is best to know how to swim when you’re going to be in deep water. But a wisdom that I now hold is that when life seems overwhelming, or I feel like I’m “drowning” in tasks or expectations, then it is best that I just “turn over and float.” That is, I need to take time for quieting, stillness, and contemplation to do deep listening of the challenge and gift that God is offering me. This then becomes a turning point on my journey of my own transfiguration of love, faith, joy, forgiveness, and hope.

Turning Points 
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

Previously posted August 2012