Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Yesterday, I ran across two friends I have not seen in awhile.  With one, I stopped and talked. While we touched of the difficulties of this time, in reality we spoke more of the encouragement that beauty and friendship can bring. With the other, A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell, I gratefully perused its pages over a bowl of soup. A very good day. 
Psalm 1 
Blessed are the man and the woman 
who have grown beyond greed 
and have put an end to their hatred 
and no longer nourish illusions. 
But they delight in the way things are 
and keep their hearts open, day and night. 
They are like trees planted near flowing rivers,
which bear fruit when they are ready. 
Their leaves will not fall or wither. 
Everything they do will succeed.    


The Psalms speak as poetry and prayer. Some of them are very good poems. But as prayer, even the greatest poems are inadequate. Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.  

- Stephen Mitchell 

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Knowing in an Adventuresome Advent

Yesterday, I was in a home dedicated to the care of those with advanced Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Sometimes when we are there, the residents are very engaged, and other times not.  Yesterday was a kind of in the middle sort of day. 
As I opened my Bible to find a suitable passage, I came across one of my favorites: "The Canticle of Zechariah", Luke 1:67-80, and decided to read part of it. I began at verse 76, "And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High," After reading 
it, I asked the residents to imagine that God was holding them as closely as Zechariah was holding that tiny baby, and to know that God believes in us every bit as much as Zechariah believed that his son, who would grow up to be John the Baptist, would be a great prophet for the Lord.  My "plan" (I use that word loosely) was to finish with the encouragement that we are loved so much and held so closely that we can have the confidence to say thank you.  That is pretty much what began to come out of my mouth, however before I finished, "we can have the confidence to say..." 
the effervescent Maureen walked boldly into the room, looked directly at me, and announced, 
​just as ​
boldly, "I know you!"  
Therefore, what 
the people heard was
​ ​
that we are loved so much that we can have the confidence to say, "I know you!"  I had to pause a moment and let the power of that statement sink in. I thanked 
Maureen and told her that she was absolutely right​
. Yes, we a
re so held 
​so closely ​
that we can confidently say that we know God, and we know one another. She came over and gave me a big hug. That is what Maureen does. 
I walk among the prophets. They tell me we know and we are known. Pass it on.  

'And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
 to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. 
Luke 1:76-80

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adventuring into Advent

As Advent begins, I am finding both comfort and inspiration in the book, A Touch of God, Eight Monastic Journeys, edited by Maria Boulding.  This book was first published in 1982 by SPCK in London, England. One of the reasons that I enjoy the book so much is that the worldview of these monastics who lived, were educated, and eventually took their vows in Europe is different that mine.  Yet, the struggles are much the same:  the struggles about how to honor our calls, whatever they might be, both in times when our lives seem to be bearing the good fruit, and in times when we fear we are withering on the vine.  Those times when we are confident in our choices, and those times when doubt seems to be the only voice crying in the wilderness of our heart. Yet, in each of these testimonials, there is are a reminder that if we keep going, our cagey egos will begin to lose their separatist grips. In this process, we can come to accept that regardless of how we are called to work our way through this world, we are first and foremost called to be in relationship. It is in relationship when we can begin to garner a new understanding that hope, peace, joy, and love are not just lovely candles lit in the four weeks before Christmas, but rather are the reality of who we are.  Yes, the journey from ideals to experience can be rough going, but is one that is definitely worth taking. It is in this pilgrimage when we learn to be a friend to God, to one another, and to ourselves.   
Dame Paula Fairle wrote in her chapter that she was born in 1940, so she was in mid-life when this book was published. She acknowledged that even then, sixteen years into her vocation, her personal prayers were “often far from inspiring,” but that she had learned to simply accept that most of her moments of deepest peace came outside of that time formally called prayer.  She concluded her chapter with part of a beautiful prayer/poem that she wrote and that I would like to share. In it, we hear God yearning to be in relationship with us, and the love that eternally lights our way. It seems a fitting way to begin Advent. Let us remember that we are not running to cross the finish line in some sort of Herculean pre-Christmas marathon designed by retailers and marketers. Instead,we can take the time to explore the possibility that anytime a heart begins to open to the experience of love, Christ is born anew. Christmas can then be transformed from a deadline, into a way of being in this world and probably the next.  This is the candle of hope I light today.

...and let the questing mind be still…
In the ground of your being I have my home,
so do not seek me in the world apart.
Within your spirit true communion lies.
You are no homeless stranger in a land afar,
No alien on a foreign shore,
for I am with you.
Do but be still and know that I am God.
I look upon the world with your dark eyes;
I feel the flowing air on your cool cheek.
I hear the twittering in the moving trees,
For with your senses I perceive.  
I am with you, I am within you.
So do not turn away but come to rest in me.
Within you is our meeting place.
Be but still, and I will speak in silence
To your loving wayward heart.    

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


"What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god!" 
Jonah 1:6  
This passage came up in my morning devotional.  Jonah, believing that he could avoid God's call to go to Nineveh, boards a ship heading to Tarshish.  A storm has come up, and the men on the ship are all crying to their deities to save them.  The captain wants Jonah to join in this mighty chorus.   At this moment, Jonah realizes the futility of trying to run from God.  Yet, even with this understanding, like most of us, Jonah never does live fully into his role as Prophet Par Excellence.  He does eventually go to Nineveh and tells them of God's distress with them. Surprisingly, they listen and  repent. Yet, Jonah, so wrapped up in his Jonahness, cannot be happy for the change in the people. There is no sense that he fell in love with those he walked among. Therefore the story feels incomplete, but perhaps that is the doorway for us to step through. We are called to live that love.   
Holy One, as families, friends, and communities gather for Thanksgiving, help us to fall in love. Help us to be gentle with one another and accept one another. May our different traditions deepen our appreciation for all your people. May we not be burdened by our preparations, but rather go about them with a sense of joyous anticipation. Let us see the beauty in each Thanksgiving gathering, and then enable us to go out and share that beauty and gratitude with your world.  Amen.  
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.   


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Still Light

In the waning light, 
I go to the driveway to sweep
 before the night's expected rain.  
I am never terribly neat about all these leaves, 
but I do try to keep the drains clear;
they are not terribly efficient either.   
A neighbor walks by slowly, 
letting his old dog keep up.  
We often say hello, 
but today, he stops, 
and we talk of leaf fall.     
The leaves are not yet done, 
nor are we,
so we take a little bit of time
to look up and speak
of leaves and trees 
and the messy beauty 
of it all.   

Monday, November 21, 2016


The word Eucharist woke me at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning.  I had to get up and find out exactly what the word meant. I discovered that it comes from the Greek work eucharistia which means thanksgiving.  Eucharist is not a word that is heard much in Protestant services, but it is used at Hesed, the Benedictine community I am blessed to pray with. Eucharist is celebrated on Wednesday nights, and I try to join them whenever possible. Regardless of where Communion is celebrated, how it is served, or what words are used, thanksgiving must be at the heart of the practice.  Without gratitude, we cannot be fully in relationship with God.   
On Saturday, my first SpiritCare service was held in a community that cares for those suffering from chronic mental illness.  I noticed that several of them were drowsy, which is often a side effect of the strong medications that many of them must take. With the exception of the parakeet who was in full voice (I have sung with several birds over the years!), not many in the room were singing.  Yet, when it came time for Holy Communion, most of them accepted it with gratitude.  
While I was praying over the wafers and the cup, and indeed giving thanks to God for gathering us in, I noticed a caregiver help a resident sip some liquid out of a small plastic glass. Whether it was juice or medication or both I do not know, but it seemed very much a moment of Holy Communion: the offering and taking in of that which encourages healing. I suggested that we all should think of Communion anytime we are drinking, eating, or taking medication; it is all an offering that comes from God for God's people. Communion is a communal act, even when it occurs in private.  Through it, we are brought into relationship with all that is mortal and temporary, divine and eternal.   
As we were packing up our things after worship, one of the residents asked the pianist how long she has been playing the piano. Mary (not her real name) laughed and said since she was a child. She added,  "You think I would be playing better by now!"  Dawn very seriously replied, "No, you play beautifully." She was quiet for a moment or two and then told us she used to play, but cannot now because she has no sheet music. Mary, who by then was in her full music teacher mode, walked over to her and said, "I will bring you some music. What do you like to play?"  Dawn replied, "Classical." At that point, Mary brought out a copy of the hymn, "This Is My Father's World" and said, "This is not classical, but would you like this for now?"  Dawn replied that she liked that hymn very much and gently accepted the offering. Communion may not give us what we think we want, but rather what we need.     
In some ways, taking part in Holy Communion is like a handshake. We agree to accept God's love, but we also agree to accept one another. This is how we live into Christ: with one another.  A friend recently told me, "Sue Ann, you are no longer an only child."  None of us are. Let us give thanks. 

We are meant to eat of this bread, to sit down at this feast. When we as people live for that bread and cast our lot with it, we create nothing less that the kingdom for which Jesus gave his life. It is all around us, all the time, this beautiful world, just about to happen.   

Nora Gallagher, The Sacred Meal    


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Knowing, One Gesture at a Time

This morning, while standing in the kitchen waiting for the tea to brew, I became aware that I was happy. I just knew that everything was going to work out just fine.  I did not know what "everything" was, or even how to define what fine is. I just knew, and also knew I did not need to know.  I thought, "This must be  freedom."   
Later that morning, I was leading worship in a skilled nursing community.  Many of the patients there I have known for years. I have seen their ups and their downs, and they have seen mine.  So, while we were in the midst of singing a lovely old Thanksgiving hymn, I could not help but become aware of a man whom I did not know as he was being wheeled into the room.  He looked to be about my age, and he looked to be quite unhappy. A resident handed him a song sheet, but he rebuffed the offer.  I was singing at the time, so I simply smiled at him and nodded my head to try to let him know he was welcomed.  
During the next hymn I noticed him mimic me, not in a flattering way, and then make an obscene gesture.  I knew the activity assistant did not see him because she would have been mortified. I kept on singing, but when he looked toward me, I looked at him directly, smiled, and simply lifted the index finger of my left hand.  Those of you who ever met my father knew this was how he acknowledged that he had seen you.  Just one finger, lifted. My father had spoken; this  man knew he had been seen.   
Had I been a much younger chaplain, such a gesture by a patient or resident might have thrown me.  However, I am not a young chaplain.  I am old enough to understand this man's pain at finding himself, not large and in charge, but in a gurney listening to Thanksgiving hymns. Not only that, these hymns were being led not by an angel, but rather someone very real, close to his own rather sagging age, accompanied by a choir mostly in wheel chairs.  For some, this can be a source of solace.  For others, it can be perceived only as a defeat.  I saw this and in my own way, my one finger salute was an acknowledgement of this. However, he was not interested, and he was certainly not interested in communion. A caregiver came and began to wheel him out of the room. I thanked him for being with us. He kind of smiled. About that time, Emma tugged at my sleeve and said, "You did not offer me communion." I had given her a blessing, but it was true; I had not offered her communion. I turned and reminded her that she has for years told me she was Buddhist and that she had always declined the invitation.  She laughed and shrugged; I gave her communion and we hugged.      
Tonight I think of the chaplain who might come after me. He or she may be young, or may be older.  Nonetheless, I feel a sense of wanting that person to know that I did my best to lay down a path of love.  And that yes, everything will be okay. The tea will brew; communion will be served, and all kinds of communication will go on.  We have God to thank for it all: one embracing gesture, one knowing, one hug at a time.    

Monday, November 14, 2016

For These Times (and always)

"The point for us all, perhaps, is to never give up on life and never to doubt that every bit of kindness, every tender touch we lay upon another in life can heal what might otherwise have died, certainly in them, perhaps even in ourselves."  
Sister Joan Chittister, The Rule of St. Benedict     
In this manner, we can all be activists.  Last week, in a skilled nursing community, one of the residents told me that she was happy being there.  We both smiled, but I did feel my eyebrows raise. She shyly said, "I know; that was not the case in the beginning." Yet, in the few months that had passed since her somewhat stormy arrival, she found herself falling in love with her fellow residents, and staff members. That is healing on a deep level; the kind of healing that changes the lives of not only those who are healed, but others around them. She, too, will become a healer.  I have a sense of God's healing as a trade wind; it cannot be seen, but it moves perpetually through our lives wherever we are, and always brings us to love.  
As we move through this day, let us practice kindness. We just never know whom it will touch, and change. Christians, let us be Christ, so Buddhists can be Buddhas, and in all walks of faith and life people can live into their best selves. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Call and Response

Very early in my ministry, I walked over to say hello to a woman sitting quietly in a wheelchair. Even from a few steps away, I could tell she probably had some form of dementia, but I was stunned when I looked into her eyes and saw absolutely no light coming from them. She did not stir, and it was only the gentle rise and fall of her chest that let me know she was still living.  At that moment, I silently began to argue with God. How could this be?  I confess that for a moment or two I actually became somewhat petulant; indignant that one could be continuing to live in such a manner.  "God, do you not see that it is time for her to move on?" 

The answer almost immediately came into my mind. I would probably never know the answers. Furthermore, to pursue those answers was not why I was called into the ministry.  Those questions were for others. My role was to be present, and that meant I was called to witness and to love. I humbly accepted the "response," and gave her a blessing. I never saw her again. Yet, I think of her when I start once again to question how God can let what is happening happen. I think of her when I need to be reminded to love.  
There are, of course, a lot of those questions, and worse, going on right now.  Therefore, when I came across this passage from Ephesians in my morning reading, I found both solace and guidance.  I was reminded once again that sometimes, even when we do manage to come up with a few answers, however brilliant we or others may find them, there is much more that we cannot yet know. 
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.     
Ephesians 3:14-19 NRSV  

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Veterans Day

An elder recently reminded me that Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day and was originated to commemorate the truce signed between the Allies and Germany, bringing an end to WWI.  She has memories of being in school when on the 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, the children would stop what they were doing and stand for a moment of silence. 
Wars and conflicts rage on, including those on our streets.  Veterans have given up much just so we can share a moment of peace.  Let us not squander it.  


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Healing Together

One of the books on my nightstand is A Touch of God, Eight Monastic Journeys, edited by Dame Maria Boulding. Her personal story is entitled, "A Tapestry, from the Wrong Side." She contends that while a tapestry is being created, the backside of it is rough looking with little hint of the beauty that is happening on the other side.   
Dame Maria felt the monastic call early in her life, but it actually took years for her to find the way into living fully in community.  When the Second Vatican came, she began to see that "the meaning of of the monastic vocation is to be sought not on the periphery but the centre (sic) of Christian life, indeed of human life and experience."   She noted that as Second Vatican came to a close, a "charismatic renewal" was becoming influential, bringing a strong sense of community and mutual support.  Yet, even then there was some discomfort; it felt to her that this influence still tended to be confined to to the "like-minded, those on the same wavelength."   However, she also discovered that this renewal "led us to expect the healing power of the Lord in persons and situations and to understand healing as a community task."    
As I ponder the healing that needs to be done not just in this nation of ours, but also the world, I keep being reminded of the necessity of being in community,  of being in relationship. Yet, it is not just a matter of being in relationship with only those who agree with us. We now can no longer ignore that there is a great divide in this nation. How do we move across this chasm that has now grown large and rugged enough that, like the Grand Canyon (but not nearly as beautiful), almost no one can ignore it?   While Dame Maria was not writing of our nation's current struggles, she brings up a beautiful point about healing: that we can trust that God is always working to bring us to healing and wholeness. She quotes John 5:17, "My Father is still working, and I also am working."  
Healing is needed by all, and needs to be undertaken by all.  The liturgy for this Sunday is the beautiful Isaiah 65:17-25 where we are reminded that God is always creating, doing a new thing, and we do not have a complete picture of this ongoing project. We are not all of the same faith. In addition, we are also of different cultures, backgrounds, and education levels. Yet, we are all part of God's creation, and God is still weaving us into this creation. We cannot find wholeness unless we find it with one another. I know some of us are shocked that we have a president elect whose campaign statements and bravado we simply cannot agree with.  Yet, we have to accept that for now the vote has been cast. Without this initial acceptance, the work that needs to be undertaken by us all will be thwarted.  Many of us are broken-hearted. No question. We should pause and take this pain in, but we do not want to get stuck there indefinitely. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer writes:  
If you hold your knowledge of self and world wholeheartedly, your heart will at times get broken by loss, failure, defeat, betrayal, or death. What happens next in you and the world around you depends on how your heart breaks. If it breaks apart into a thousand pieces, the result may be anger, depression, and disengagement. If it breaksopen into greater capacity to hold the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the result may be new life. The heart is what makes us human - and politics, which is the use of power to order our life together, is a profoundly human enterprise. Politics in the hands of those whose hearts have been broken open, not apart, helps us hold our differences creatively and use our power courageously for the sake of a more equitable, just and compassionate world (18).    
We cannot yet see the whole tapestry.  Let us follow the Apostle Paul's encouragement to not "vex the Holy Spirit," but rather continue to allow ourselves to be woven into God's handiwork. This is not a solo experience; we are being threaded together, even with those on the other side of the canvas. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Lessons and Prayers

Last night I dreamed of walking through San Francisco. It is predawn, but there is much activity: merchants are getting ready to open early, and people, dressed for work in downtown offices, are lining up to wait for a bus.  I start to take my place in line, but realize it is an express bus, and I am not going that far. I walk on and see people from all walks of life: the very poor, a woman dressed in a wild costume walking on stilts, young couples who seem to be coming home from a night of revelry, and those who sit at a corner begging.  I stop at a table outside a cafe. There I see a broken egg, and behind the napkin holder someone has stashed a bottle of prescription pills.  In the dream I think, "People are hurting more than I know."  

For now, that is the lesson that I will take from this election.  Later this morning I will step off an elevator, go through a locked door, and be with those who may not be able to remember what an election is. Some will not be able to overtly respond. Others will enjoy the music, even if the words on the song sheet make no sense. Some will be content to simply hold a hand. That will be enough for me.  There, I am always reminded to keep things in the moment.  
Yesterday I met with a small group in an assisted living community. We are small in number, but we have shared many good conversations over the years. I am always touched by their courage as they face some formidable health challenges.  Last month, I shared with them the version of Psalm 23 that I posted on September 21, 2016. They liked it very much.  One woman asked if it "would be alright" if we wrote our own Lord's prayer, and the group expressed interest in doing so. That was our project yesterday. When I asked them how they wanted to address God, one asked if we could address the prayer to Jesus, and the others agreed. I do not think they will mind my sharing the first draft of the prayer with you.  I will take copies of the prayer back to them next month. There will probably be some more editing; we did not have quite enough time to arrive at a collective sense of completion. Nonetheless, I believe it was a meaningful process for us all as we pondered words, Jesus, temptations, and just where we might find heaven.  I liked being their scribe - a role I guess I have had all along.  
Our Jesus, 
Our Goodness who is all around us, 
sacred is your name. 
Your kingdom come, 
Your will be done 
on earth now 
as it is eternally done all around us. 
Give us this day 
the sustenance that will sustain us. 
Forgive us our errors 
as we forgive those who err against us. 
Lead us not into temptation 
but deliver us from evil, 
for yours is the goodness, the power,  
and the glory forever.   


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Right Sharing

Today's reflection on the role of the cellarer fits well into this election time when we have heard so many divisive, misleading, and arrogant statements that I think some real damage has been done to our collective psyches. Yet, God always moves into the broken spaces and mends us with love. The green leaves in the photograph seem to me to be celebrating - not because they are still green; we know the tender green all too quickly fades, but because they belong. That is true for each of us.  In this spirit, I want to share part of Chittister's reflection because I think it gives us a direction in which we all can move. We do not have to shrink into smallness, isolation, and despair, but recognize that we all can take a role in the healing process of this nation.   
The cellarer gets a lesson from Benedict that we all need to learn sometime in this life; we have a responsibility to serve others "without any pride or delay, lest they be led astray." It is not right, in other words, to tax other people's nervous systems, to try other people's virtues, to burden other people's already weary lives in order to satisfy our own need to be important. We don't have to lead them into anger and anxiety, frustration and despair. We don't need to keep them waiting; we don't need to argue their requests; we don't need to count out every weight to the ounce, every bag to the gram, every dollar to the penny. We can give freedom and joy with every gift we give or we can give guilt and frugality. The person with a Benedictine tenor learns here to err on the side of largesse of spirit.*     
Let us use this time to learn a new way of being and living generously with one another - in our families, in our communities, in our world. The elected come and go, but we can always control how we treat one another and this life.     
*The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister, O.S.B., entry for November 8, page 106 

Monday, November 7, 2016


"If you won't be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?"  
Rabbi of Braslav from The Radical Christian Life, Joan Chittister  
May Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. ~2 Thessalonians 2:16      
Let us encourage one another in our struggles and our joys.  I think my new mantra is "If you can't say anything nice about someone, pick up some art supplies."   Feel free to substitute whatever brings you a sigh of relief or a new understanding. Yesterday I found a slip from a fortune cookie in my wallet.  It reads, "Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you."  I have no idea when this fortune came to me, so this message is like a perpetual calendar. I think I will just assume that good things are always enroute, and most will arrive.          
Wishing you a day of balance and joy.  Know you are cherished and very much needed in this world.    

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Every morning I read from Joan Chittister's book, The Rule of St. Benedict.   Today, I inadvertently read the text for Nov. 7. This passage is about the role of the cellarer, the one who "takes care of things and distributes  goods," and has me pondering stewardship. I went to the web to learn more about this role, and found this beautiful thought written by Father Wulstan Peterburs, OSB, Procurator of Ampleforth Abby in York:  
"In particular, St Benedict stressed the importance of the person and the quality of the relationships of people living and working together. He respected the individual’s freedom, but at the same time noted that there might need to be a little strictness to ‘amend faults and safeguard love.’ In his humane approach, he directed that the Abbot should ‘arrange everything that the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from’, and that ‘in all things God should be glorified.'"

We are called to be good stewards of our environment, our work, home, families, and communities. Surely it is possible to create a society where both the strong and the vulnerable can flourish? Isn't this what our politics should be about? Granted, I live and work on a much smaller scale, but this idea seems to be at the heart of healthy relationships, whether at home or in the wider community. Benedictine spirituality is not about what Sister Joan calls, "false frugality," but rather that the goods of the monastery should be distributed "calmly, kindly, without favoritism, and under the guidance of the abbot or prioress, not to put people under obligation to them or wreak vengeance on those who rebuff them." We may not live in a physical monastery, but we are certainly in this life together: the monastery that is this world. Let us tend to it with the care it deserves.

We all have needs and hopefully, we all have dreams and goals. Let us always make room for the Spirit to bring us together in creative, caring ways where truly all can thrive: leading when called, healing when needed, receiving with gratitude, and sharing as much as we can. This is how God's love can be known to all.

Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also, macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones.
~Laudato Si` #231   

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Boat

Altars are all around us. Let us pause and pray.  

A wise old boatman was taking pilgrims to a shrine. One day someone asked him, 'Have you been to the shrine?' 'No, not yet,' said the boatman, 'because I still haven't discovered everything the river has to offer me. In this river I find wisdom; I find peace; I find God.' But the pilgrims didn't even notice the river; their minds were so focused on the shrine they couldn't see the river. Could that be the story of our lives?"

-- Anthony de Mello quoted in Walking on Water, Madeline L'Engle   
photograph was taken in October, 2016 at the Mission Santa Cruz.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Morning Prayer

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. ~
Laudato Si` Prayer

Community is the place where we come to honor the world. ~ 
Sister Joan Chittister


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Living the Sacraments

In my September 23, 2016 post entitled, "Rest Home," I wrote about the possibility that Jesus was closer to the end of his biological time than he is usually portrayed. His life of the itinerant healer and preacher was certainly not easy, and lifespans were shorter then. This image of an older, weary Jesus has me thinking about that last Passover night when he spoke of the body being broken and blood being poured out. Today I hear both a reminder and a warning that we are all called to live a sacramental life.  That yes, we will all asked, in some way, to give that much.  Soldiers, hospital workers, and birth-giving women know of the blood.  Good parents can tell of their lives being poured out for the children. Teachers creating lesson plans can experience this sense of the heart, soul, and body going into their work. Caregivers who spend long hours tending to those who are ill can speak of this. Any work can be both given, and maybe even more importantly, received in a sense of sacrament.  It goes even deeper. If we stand at the ocean's edge, perhaps we can tune our ears to hear this message as the waves come to shore. The soil we till, the plants and animals we eat, the water we drink all carry messages of sacrifice and offerings. This knowing is still with our indigenous populations, but we first worlders need to be reminded.  A wise writer wrote that there is only the sacred and the desecrated. This is the message of the cross and this is the message of Standing Rock. Jesus is still asking us to remember. Let us listen and pay heed.     
The sculpture, entitled, "Tree of Life,"  was created in 2003 by Gordon Huether.  Water-cut steel and dichroic glass. It resides at the Sunnyvale community center at Heritage Park. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Guide

One of the most honest prayers I know is found in Mark 9:24. "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." Some translations will read disbelief or lack of faith, but I am partial to the starkness of the word unbelief. This prayer cuts to the heart of the paradox of trying to live faithfully.  In times of fear, disappoint, or heavy concern, our hearts yearn to cry,  "I believe."  However, our minds dash from one worried thought to another, leading us to the state of unbelief; an unpleasant land, but one that periodically needs to be explored.   Fortunately, this prayer is an able guide. We need not be afraid.    

The attached image I downloaded from a Facebook post. I regret that the artist was not credited. 

Flickering Mind
Lord, not you,
it is I who am absent.
At first belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away - and back,
I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence. 
I stop
to think about you, and my mind at once
like a minnow darts away,
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent. 
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow,
you the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes. 
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?      
Denise Levertov  (1923–1997)