Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What is old, is new! What goes around, comes around!

An Advent story to ponder . . .

Once upon a time there was a thief. He wasn’t really good at it. Not a professional at all. He was just a poor man, with hungry children and a wife who labored hard. He worked sometimes, but more often than not there was no job to be had and so no food either for hungry mouths. It pained him to see his wife and children suffer so and angered him that there was no pity in the kingdom, no kindness or generosity in his neighbors. He took a chance, a big chance, and stole some food. The king’s law was death by hanging if a thief was caught. He got away with it often. He took bread, apples, and flour when he could and sometimes a ribbon or two for the one he loved so.

But he wasn’t good at it. He was just poor and hungry and desperate, and finally he got caught, with the bread in hand. He was jailed and sentenced to be hanged until dead, in public for all to see, as a warning to others. He was desperate, for life, for his family, and for their future. In jail the night before the execution he told one of the guards in confidence that it was a shame that he would die tomorrow, for a secret, a great secret, and a skill would die with him. Too bad he couldn’t tell the secret so someone who could use it wisely or get it to the king, who certainly would be interested in it.

The jailer said that he’d be happy to take the secret of the dying man. And so the man told him: “I can take a pomegranate seed, plant it in the ground, water it, and make it grow so that it will bear fruit overnight. My father taught it to me, as his father taught him, for generations. But tomorrow it dies with me.”

The jailer could hardly believe his ears and immediately brought word to the king. The next day, before the execution, the king arrived and had the poor man brought forward. “Let me see you do this marvelous thing,” the king commanded. And so the man asked for a spade, dug a hole, asked for a pomegranate seed, and then turned to the king and spoke: “This seed can only be planted by someone who has never stolen anything in his life or someone who has never taken anything that did not belong to him by right. Of course, I am a thief, caught stealing bread for my children and wife, so I can’t plant it. You’ll have to have someone else do it.”

The king turned to his counselor and commanded him to plant it. The man froze and stuttered: “Your majesty, I can’t.”   “What do you mean you can’t?” the king uttered.

The counselor explained. “Once, when I was young, before I was in your employ, I took something from a house where I was staying. I returned it, of course, but I can’t plant it.”

The king was annoyed and turned to his treasurer and commanded him to plant it. The man went chalk white and shook. “I can’t, your majesty,” he confessed.

“What, you, too?  What have you done? Have you stolen from me?”

“No, no, my king,” he protested, “but I work with figures, calculating all the time, and it’s easy to make mistakes, and I am forever trying to balance accounts, taking from here to put there. With huge sums of money, land deeds, contracts, and so on it’s easy to overlook something. Besides I often have to make deals with people so that better deals can be made later. Its business, sire.”

The king turned to another, and instinctively the next man shrunk away from him. It was the poor man who spoke next. “Your majesty, perhaps you could plant it yourself.” This time it was the king who hesitated. So many things went through his mind. He remembered stealing from his father in anger, impatient to be king himself and wanting that power and freedom, that access to wealth. The poor man spoke boldly, “Your majesty, even  you cannot plant the seed, you who are mighty, with power over life and death; you who have wealth and much more than you need to live on; you who make laws that destroy even the poor who are desperately hungry and caught in the web of others’ greed and insensitivity. You can’t plant the seed. You are a thief. Why are you so hard on me, a poor man who stole bread to feed his family? You are going to hang me, leaving others in need with no recourse.”

The king stopped. He heard, thank heaven, and repented of his harshness and injustice, his callousness and disdain for others. He pardoned the man who reminded him to first change the laws and then to work at making life worth living for so many in his kingdom. The king was impressed with the poor man’s wisdom, cleverness, and understanding and took him into his employ. Things began to change, or so the story goes. Would that it were true for all those who hear this tale told today.
Original source unknown.
(previously posted)

 Found in Advent Christmas and Epiphany . . . Stories and Reflections on the Sunday Readings by Megan McKenna. Orbis Books, 1998. "The Pomegranate Seed” is a story found in many folktale traditions.

Advent Joseph


 Among so many Madonna & Child paintings, it seems that artists have tended to leave Joseph out, let alone thought of painting him actually holding the baby... but Georges de la Tour painted this beautiful picture of Joseph with Jesus holding a light for him to work by.
Catherine Alder
Advent Hands

I see the hands of Joseph.
 Back and forth along bare wood they move.
 There is worry in those working hands,
 sorting out confusing thoughts with every stroke.
“How can this be, my beautiful Mary now with child?” 
Rough with deep splinters, these hands,
 small, painful splinters like tiny crosses
 embedded deeply in this choice to stay with her.
 He could have closed his hands to her,
 said, “No” and let her go to stoning.
 But, dear Joseph opened both his heart and hands
 to this mother and her child.
 Preparing in these days before
 with working hands
 and wood pressed tight between them.
 It is these rough hands that will open
 and be the first to hold the Child.
I see the hands of John,
 worn from desert raging storms
 and plucking locusts from sand ripped rocks
 beneath the remnant of a Bethlehem star.
 A howling wind like some lost wolf
 cries out beneath the moon,
 or was that John?
 This loneliness,
 enough to make a grown man mad.
 He’s waiting for this, God’s whisper.
“Go now. He is coming.
 You have prepared your hands enough.
 Go. He needs your servant hands,
 your cupping hands to lift the water,
 and place his feet upon the path to service and to death.
 Go now, John, and open your hands to him.
 It is time.”
I see a fist held tight and fingers blanched to white.
 Prying is no easy task.
 These fingers find a way of pulling back to old positions,
 protecting all that was and is.
 Blanched to white. No openness. All fright.
 But then the Spirit comes.
 A holy Christmas dance begins
 and blows between the twisted paths.
 This fist opens
 the twisted fingers letting go.
 Their rock-solid place in line has eased.
 And one by one the fingers lift
 True color is returned
 And through the deepest of mysteries,
 The holiest of holies,
 O longing of longings
 Beyond all human imagining
 this fist,
 as if awakened from Lazarus’ cold stone dream
 reaches out to hold the tiny newborn hand of God.

A Time of Light . . .

Blessed Are You Who Bear The Light

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes ___
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

Author: Jan Richardson                                         
From Circle of Grace/

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Student Santa!

The students were having their briefing about how to be a good ‘Santa Claus’. The Christmas season was gearing up in the department store, and Alex was here on his first day as a ‘holiday-job Santa.’

‘Whatever you do, don’t frighten the children,’ the manager told them sternly. ‘Not even if the parents want you to!’

Armed with this advice, Alex started his first day.  The very first child that arrived, parents in tow, screamed blue murder the moment he set eyes on Alex’s fine new Santa outfit and long white beard. Nothing would pacify him. Not the parents’ admonitions to ‘be a brave little boy’, and not Alex’s own attempts to console the crying child.

Eventually, in despair, Alex hit on an idea. He began to peel off his ‘uniform’, bit by bit, starting with the white beard. The child stopped crying, and watched him, fascinated.  The red hood was removed, and a young and rather embarrassed face came to light. The glasses were removed, and two twinkling, youthful, blue eyes appeared. The red robe was discarded, and underneath it was an ordinary young man in blue jeans and sweatshirt.  The child looked on in amazement, until he was soon laughing and relaxed.

Once the relationship between them had been established, Alex started to put the ‘uniform’ back on again, and as he did so, he told the little boy a story of how, a very long time ago, God had come to live on earth with us, and so that no one would be frightened, God had come in very ordinary clothes and lived the life of a very ordinary child.  The boy listened, wide-eyed.

Soon, it was time to move on. The next ‘customer’; was waiting. The boy‘s parents moved away, rather disgruntled. ‘What a shame,’ they said. ‘It spoiled all the magic.’

‘The end of the magic, perhaps,’ mused Alex, ‘but the beginning of the wonder.’

Source Unknown
Previously posted

An ADVENTure of Holy Waiting , , ,

"We are not restful people who occasionally become restless. But we are restless people who occasionally become restful.” (Henri Nouwen)
Advent is the liturgical season when we pay special attention to the mystery of waiting. In our American culture, we have a real problem because most of us Americans don’t like waiting, and we certainly don’t see waiting as something to celebrate. We live in a culture that cooks its food in microwaves, or we can choose the “drive thru,” ; we measure time in microseconds or even nano-seconds. It’s not that we do not wait.  We may spend hours waiting in lines at airports, at doctor’s offices, on the highway in traffic, at the grocery store checks-outs – we even have to wait in the Self-Serve check-out lane or Express Lane!  Recently, I saw a clip that even bank tellers may be eliminated with some type of digital technology so no waiting would be needed. “Everyone knows that Americans hate to stand in line. It’s contrary to the basic American values of independence and self-determination. While standing in line may   not threaten life, it certainly threatens liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (T. Stawar)

I invite you to just lean back in your memory of your everyday experiences and recall where you wait: for your medicine, or for it to take effect, for your meals, for a phone call, a visit, or a letter. Or you wait for the result of your tests, or for healing. (Pause) Think of a time you waited and how you felt. Turn and tell someone where you have waited – share how you felt. How did it change you?

We wait because we have to – sometimes we have no choice but to wait. And we may wait impatiently, looking at our clocks, calendars, watches  – or maybe we even find ourselves complaining – if not verbally, then we may hold it in and do some “internal global whining.” Our culture tends to view waiting as an inconvenient necessity or as an outright injustice that stems from a variety of factors, for example:
• We see time as a resource to be controlled and allocated for our own personal gain and convenience.
• We allow time to run our lives, hurrying to and from scheduled appointments and on to the next appointment.
• We see waiting as a certain sign that something is wrong that should have been fixed but was not.
• Our entertainment, from television, to radio talk shows, to movies has created an illusion that all problems are resolvable in something less than two hours or even less than that.
• Our culture tends to prize action more than meditation, speed rather than slow progress and arriving rather than the journey.

So in our culture, waiting sometimes bores and often irritates us however we may find that at every stage of our lives some new forms of waiting are involved. However the Scriptures teach us that if  we approach waiting in the right spirit, waiting is a creative moment when we grow spiritually.  When we wait, we are in touch with an essential aspect of our humanity which is that we are dependent on God and on one another.  It is also an act of love since, by waiting for others; we pay them the respect of letting them be free. Waiting is a mystery – God waits and nature waits – so that when we as individuals wait we go beyond ourselves and enter into sacred life-giving process, experiencing that we are made in the image and likeness of God. This is why Advent is a time of celebration.

Advent is the season when we remember with gratitude creative experiences of waiting in our lives or the lives of people we have known, the people who have waited for us at one time or another.  We also remember the great waiting experiences in human history, in the Scriptures, and especially in the life Jesus. Today, we have come to reflect on faithful waiting.  Henri Nouwen writes that, “Faithful waiting is the antidote to fear and self-doubt.  It is believing God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings.”

Waiting teaches us to live life in increments, in small pieces rather than large chunks. Waiting teaches us to measure our progress slowly. It is hard to trust in God’s time - Kyros time – God’s  slow unfolding time.  God’s time is different from our time - Chronos time - time of clocks and calendars.  On God’s time, we are often waiting for the bigger picture but must be content with each small piece.  When we are waiting, we put one foot in front of the other every morning and evening.   Henri Nouwen says that sometimes we have enough light only for the next step.  Faithful waiting teaches us patience. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the fullest in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.  Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere.  The moment is empty.  But patient people dare to stay where they are.  Faithful waiting means nurturing the moment.

1. So as we reflect on the gift of waiting, faithful waiting, it calls us to be patient – which invites us  to trust that often times there is no quick fix.  When we have to wait without knowing the answers, without knowing what’s ahead, we are nudged into a new perspective.  Waiting without immediate solutions presents us with an opportunity to lean into the unknowing, to let go of the false promise of a quick fix, and to grow in patience.  At this time in our lives, there are many who wait for peace.  Jim Forrest, a member of Fellowship of Reconciliation, has compared the labors of peacemakers to those of the artisans who built the great medieval cathedrals, working generation after generation on projects whose completion most would never see. 

2. Patience invites us to trust in the fullness of God’s time. It is hard to wait.  We often want to take our lives into our own hands and make things happen – possibly right away! Scripture ask us to trust in the fullness of God’s time.  If we recall  Chardin’s prayer:  “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.  We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.”  It is said that there is rightness about God’s time:  ripeness, maturation, a waiting that is worth it.  (Nature is a wonderful example of God’s time – (the seasons, the ebb and flow of the oceans, the gestation period of a child in the womb).  Patience is a standing invitation to trust in God’s timing.

3. Patience opens us to what we call active waiting.  Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands.  If the bus is late.  We can’t do anything about it, so we have to sit there and just wait.  It is not difficult to understand the irritation that we feel when somebody says, “Just wait.” (Sometimes I think of the 500+ people that wait in line each evening at St. Ben’s meal program in Milwaukee, WI – they just wait.  And if they cause a problem while they're waiting, then they are removed.) But in the Scriptures, there is no passivity in waiting. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.  Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment in the conviction that something is happening where we are - and that we want to be present to it.  A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is thee moment.

4.   Patience gives us time to be available to others. Waiting presents us with opportunities to isolate ourselves and do “global whining” or to realize that we have time to be available to others.  When  we wait, we often find that we are not waiting alone.  Patience gives us time to be available and to connect us with others.  We can never experience the richness of empathy, the intimacy of shared joy and sorrow, or the solace of friendship without taking time to be available for others.  There is not a short-cut to our experiences.  Waiting gives us the chance to be open to each and every slowed-down experience.

So this week, let us ask for the grace to be open to Advent opportunities to practice holy waiting, and to grow in being restful in our restlessness!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Let the ADVENT- ure begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

Everyday a day of Thanksgiving . . .

November Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you remember from this November?


Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Thanksgiving Story . . .

A glass of Milk, paid in Full

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk.

He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.”

He said, “Then I thank you from my heart.”

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and humankind was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Years later that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.

Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to the case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, and then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room.

She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She began to read the following words:

“Paid in full with one glass of milk.
Signed, Dr. Howard Kelly.”

Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Life of this day . . .and the next. . .

Look to this day
for it is life
the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths
of existence
the joy of growth
the splendor of action
the glory of power.
For yesterday is but a memory
and tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday
a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow
a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day . . .
~ an ancient Sanskrit poem  

God of day and God 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)


Having gladness . . .

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 undersand
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 Unknown

Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Knot in your life"!

The Knots Prayer

O God,
please untie the knots
that are in my mind,
my heart, and my life.

Remove the have nots,
the can nots and the do nots
that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots,
may nots, might nots
that find a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots,
would nots, and should nots
that obstruct my life.

And most of all, God,
I ask that you remove from my mind
my heart and my life all of the ‘am nots'
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought
that I am not good enough. Amen.

Author Unknown . . .

Blessed . . .

Blessed Are You Who Bear The Light

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes ___
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

Author: Jan Richardson                                         
From Circle of Grace

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Leaves as teachers of prayer . . .

The Leaves

The leaves had a wonderful frolic.
They danced to the wind's loud song.
They whirled, and they floated, and scampered.
They circled and flew along.
The moon saw the little leaves dancing.
Each looked like a small brown bird.

The man in the moon smiled and listened.
And this is the song he heard.
The North Wind is calling, is calling,
And we must whirl round and round,
And then, when our dancing is ended,
We'll make a warm quilt for the ground.

Today in my morning prayer, the Scriptures were from Luke, in which the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  I looked up from my book and viewed the maple tree beyond my patio. Slowly, lovingly, and with inner knowing it was giving a nod to each falling leaf that it was time to let go. Truly, my patio companion was teaching me how to pray!

Oh, how I visited this view often in the spring to watch the buds take shape and birth forth the fragile beauty of the new leaves unfolding.  I remember how each leaf participated in the dance of the April ice storm, the summer intense sun and rains, and the rush of tornadic winds . . . Now it time to pray them in gratitude for their journey. And so with each falling leaf, I was being taught how to pray. To pray in gratitude for what was, and to pray in openness to what will be.

I prayed in gratitude . . .
• for each person I have met along my summer journey as I listened to the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of their lives.
• for each memory of the tragedies of nature – floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and volcanoes.. .  learning once again,  that with some things there is no control, but only honoring our understanding to be in partnership with earth as its stewards.
• for each moment I gathered with friends to celebrate thresholds, turning points,  anniversaries, jubilees, professions, passings, and fun times to mark the day.
• for each Birthday card I received . . .
• for each opportunity to photograph the streams, flowers, trees, mushrooms, birds, sunrises, and moonsets . . .
• for each time of prayer in which the silence spoke of Divinity . . .

May I continue to listen to the falling leaves as they teach me how to pray.
For all that was, I give thanks. For all that will be, I pray with openness and hope.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Zacchaeus ~ Out on a limb!

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Tree
by James Tissot

As I was pondering the story of Zacchaeus, I played around in my head with idiomatic phrases about trees. What came to mind are the following phrases: “barking up the wrong tree”; “money doesn’t grow on trees”; “a tree is known by its fruit”; “up a tree”; and “out on a limb” – do any of these phrases touch into your own stories of your relationship with trees?

I leaned back into my memory when I was a “wild child” of about eight years old.  I had a fondness for climbing, especially trees. I would often climb telephone poles, rock formations, backyard swing sets, tree houses, swinging ropes, and all sorts of trees in my neighborhood.  When my father got wind of my desire to climb objects, especially trees, he warned me not to do it in case I would fall.  Was this warning heeded?  Maybe my future was to be the pioneer that initiated artificial wall climbing, or a mountain guide as a companion of the Sherpa people! However, the warning was not heeded, as you could have guessed. 

One day I found myself at the very top of a neighbor’s cherry tree. It was not too sturdy for climbers like me.  In fact, I was not able to make my way down with ease for I would break a few significant branches in my decent as well as possibly an arm or a leg.  So I had to shout to the nearby neighbor and have him bring his ladder to dislodge me from the “twisted hands” of the branches that were holding me in place. Once I reached the ground, I asked my kind neighbor to not tell my father.  No luck.  How did I know that fathers had a secret code to snitch on the exploits of their children? But what I’m failing to tell you is that it was sheer joy that I felt when I reached the top of that tree. You could gain a whole new perspective of your environment, spy on your friends or bullies of the neighborhood, and it offered a vision that ground level would never provide.

So what does this have to do with Zacchaeus?  My thoughts are these:  that when there are murmuring mobs, critical crowds, or individuals who stand in our way of our potential, then maybe we have to be risk takers with curiosity and creativity so as to pursue a new perspective about ourselves and others and take up the challenge to “go out on a limb” seeking new possibilities. That is, maybe we have to take leave of the space and time that is our comfort zone and be willing to know ourselves differently from what others assume, expect, or judge us to be.

As a chief tax collector for the Romans, we know that this position did not “gain points” for Zacchaeus.  Being in this work made him eligible for the same snubbing, rejection, and ridicule as widows, children, and blind beggars.  He was not liked by his fellow Jews for he was not about anyone’s potential, only his own. Having heard that Jesus was passing through he was determined to see him. Word must have traveled (without the aid of Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or Pinterest) and made him curious about Jesus. Being vertically challenged did not help him get a clear view of the itinerant preacher entering his city. So why not rise above the crowd and gain a new way of seeing this Jesus.  However, it was Jesus that spied him first “up a tree” and truly “out on a limb.”

Everything about this story has a sense of urgency.  Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, but he has the time to notice and be totally present to this little man with great potential. This is how I believe that God truly sees us – in our potentialness! Jesus sees him as he is – and says, “Hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”  God doesn’t desire worthiness, only willingness and this is what Jesus experienced with Zacchaeus.  Jesus peered into his heart and invited him to see himself as standing tall in his authentic self – his entire self was then open to trust and have faith in Jesus. Now Jesus has made himself an “outsider” once again since he entered the home of a tax collector – a “sinner.”  However, he names Zacchaeus as a “son of Abraham” and gathers him up once again to being an “insider” in the Reign of God – known by name, seen with potential, and loved unconditionally. 

I often wonder what Mrs. Zacchaeus thought when her husband brought home Jesus and his trusty friends for a meal.  Also, there seems to be some hints of what Jesus’ future will be with his own encounter of critical crowds shouting “Crucify him” and his own experience of being “up a tree” for all to see his total and unconditional love for all humanity!

So let us ponder:
• May our curiosities implore us to seek out Jesus as Zacchaeus did.
• May any obstacles to our seeing be overcome with curiosity and creativity.
• May we ask for the grace to be willing to “go out on a limb” to know ourselves at our deepest inner place – where God rests with compassion and mercy.
• May we invite God within us so that we hear ourselves being tenderly called by name again and again, and again.
• May we always be willing to reach out to someone with a “ladder” to help them when they are in predicaments and if we find them stuck in the “branches” of criticism, doubt, and fear.

And when we are "caught up" in life's complications, we will hear our God say, "Hurry down . . .today is my day to be a guest in your home."








Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Presence of the Presence . . .


Silent steps
Rabindranath Tagore

Have you not heard God’s silent steps?
God comes, comes, ever comes.

Every moment and every age,
Every day and every night
God comes, comes, ever comes.

Many a song I sung in many a mood of mind,
but all their notes have always proclaimed,
‘God comes, comes, ever comes.’

In the fragrant days of sunny
                       April through the forest path                          
God comes, comes, ever comes.

In the rainy gloom of July nights on the
thundering chariot of clouds
God comes, comes, ever comes.

In sorrow after sorrow
it is God’s steps that press upon my heart,
and it is the golden touch of God’s feet
that makes my joy to shine.

The door . . .


You came down from your throne and stood at my cottage door.
I was singing all alone in a corner, and the melody caught your ear.
You came down and stood at my cottage door.

Masters are many in your hall and songs are sung there at all hours.
But the simple carol of this novice struck at your love. One plaintive
little strain mingled with the great music of the world, and with a
flower for a prize you came down and stopped at my cottage door.
Song Offerings

Monday, October 14, 2019

An Old Cherokee Tale of Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’
(Source Unknown)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Indigenous Peoples' Day


The Earth is always a good teacher — and especially in spring. End your days this season with this prayer from the Native American tradition.
Earth teach me stillness
       as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
       as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
       as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
       as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
       as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
       as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
       as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
       as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
       as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
       as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
       as dry fields weep with rain.
— Ute prayer

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Fellow Blogger . . .


Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time . . .

Sharing a blog:
https:/Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

John Predmore, S.J., is a Northeast Province Jesuit and was the pastor of Jordan's English language parish. He studies art and directs BC High's adult spiritual formation programs. Formerly a retreat director in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Ignatian Spirituality is given through guided meditations, weekend-, 8-day, and 30-day Retreats based on The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatian Spirituality serves the contemporary world as people strive to develop a friendship with God./

Blessings and more . . .

New vulnerability

Blessed are the poor …
not the penniless
but those whose heart is free.
Blessed are those who mourn …
not those who whimper
but those who raise their voices.
Blessed are the meek …
not the soft
but those who are patient and tolerant.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice …
not those who whine
but those who struggle.
Blessed are the merciful …
not those who forget
but those who forgive.
Blessed are the pure in heart …
not those who act like angels
but those whose life is transparent.

Blessed are the peacemakers …
not those who shun conflict
but those who face it squarely.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice …
not because they suffer
but because they love. ~

P. Jacobs
Thresholds: A Book of Prayers, 2011
Edited and compiled by Helen Hacksley and Robert Steiner

Courage to Continue . . .

May you continue
to find the necessary courage
to walk into the real
and to recognize
God in it.
Author Unknown




Enfolded in God's Peace . . .

A Quieting Prayer . . .
I weave a silence on my lips,
I weave a silence into my mind,
I weave a silence within my heart.
I close my ears to distractions,
I close my eyes to attentions,
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me, O God, as you stilled the storm,
Still me, O God, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease,
Enfold me, God, in your peace.
(Author Unknown ~ Celtic Tradition)


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Seeds and Sorrow ~

Once there was a woman whose only son had died. In her sorrow she went to ask a wise holy man is there a way to bring her son back to life. “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to bring your son back to life.” He said to her instead of sending her away or try reasoning with her.

At once she quickly set off looking for that elusive mustard seed. The first place she came to is a huge mansion. Knocking on the door, she asked “I am looking for a house that has never known suffering. Is this the place? It is very important to me.”

“You have come to the wrong place” they told her. They begin to pour out all the tragic things that have befallen upon them.

“Who is better to be able to help these poor unfortunate souls than I who has experience sadness and can understand them?” she thought. Therefore she stayed behind and consoled and comforted them before going to another house that has never known sorrow before.

However, wherever she goes, from huts to palaces, there is never one without tales of sadness and misfortunes. In time to come, she became so involved in listening to other people’s sad stories that she forgot about her quest for that elusive mustard seed. By listening to other people, she had actually driven the grieving out of her life.

Author Unknown

Strength from Adversity


A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.

--- Author Unknown ---


A Story To Ponder . . .

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Viet Nam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier.

The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.”

The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.

He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son.

The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."

But the auctioneer persisted, "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100,  $200?"

Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!”  But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

“We have $10, who will bid $20?” “Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters.” “$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?” The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.  The auctioneer  pounded the gavel. “Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!”

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!" The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the Will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

(Author Unknown)