Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  I have beautiful memories of Thanksgiving when I was a child, and I love to be in the kitchen simply cooking and remembering the laughter and the good food brought forth by my mother and her best friend.  Some years Tyler and I can spend Thanksgiving with friends who live several states away. In those years, my friend and I cook and laugh together.  That is a time I truly treasure.    
May you spend Thanksgiving in a way that allows you to pray and give thanks for the blessings of this life.  In The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister writes, "There is nothing more important in our own list of important things to do in life than to stop at regular times, in regular ways to remember what life is really about, where it came from, why we have it, what we are to do with it, and for whom we are to live it."  
Blessings on it all. May we all have a slow Thanksgiving, one that we can deeply savor and enjoy.   
Sue Ann     

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Psalm 71

Dr. M. is mourning the loss of the one whom he called by name, but also described in that beautiful old-fashioned phrase, his "lady friend". He is also losing his eyesight as glaucoma is turning his world gray. He can can no longer see well enough to draw, so he is left without that longtime companion as well. His grief and age are deep enough that I wonder how long he will stay, a question that only the One he calls Jesus can answer.  For now, we simply come together to talk and pray. I read scripture aloud, and we ponder this achy thing called love that will always ask us to let go.            
In my old age, my God, I take my final stand, 
for my last refuge is in you. 
You are for me a mountain fortress set high upon a rock, 
your transcendence all the safety that I need. 
With this around me let me never be ashamed 
as you correct the balances of life 
that restore and save the world. 
For in you alone there's hope in life, 
which since my youth I've known. 
And from the moment of my birth 
that hope has been my strength, 
and it possible in the midst of all that is, 
to offer praise. 
Yes, it is true, you've made me taste 
great trouble Lord. 
The deep adversities of life I know by heart.
But you restore and keep me still, 
and bring me from those deep despairing 
places on earth. 
Each step I've made, you've strengthened me, 
your loving arms have held me close, enfolding me. 
So even now I'll take up instruments of song
and with feeble voice I'll sing my way 
to journey's end.    
Psalm 71, "Wisdom's Aged Song", abridged  
Ancient Songs Sung Anew, 
Lynn C. Bauman  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Psalm 70

A few days ago, I sat and prayed with an older African-American man I met last month. Both times I have found him sitting quietly in his room. He does seem to be a little mystified about this woman pastor who has suddenly appeared in his life, and it took him several tries to get comfortable pronouncing my name. Yet, to sit with him is like resting next to an old tree. He is a deacon of his church, and wants to return to that role, but he has lost his eyesight. He tells me he "can't see a thing." However, above all, he trusts Jesus and that absolute trust is no doubt the source of his patience. After I prayed for him, he lifted a prayer for me, and it left me with a sense that he and Jesus are quite close. "Lord Jesus, watch over this white woman pastor named Sue Ann and bless her in her work..." I had to smile as we have certainly never talked about my being white.  Regardless, Lord Jesus, I must ask the same and I thank you for bringing this good deacon into my life. May he always find his strength in you.  
But those who seek for you 
let them be glad, 
as you restore their loss, 
and give them back their joy. 
Psalm 70:4
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ora et Labora

Earlier this week I visited an older skilled nursing community.  The noise level is high here, and I always wonder how anyone can heal in the midst of such noise. The mental and physical health of the patients and residents varies greatly. Some are there for the rest of their lives and are quite frail; others are in rehab, and while their physical health has been impacted greatly, their stay is generally short-term.  Sometimes when I step into the activity room, I feel I am being tossed into a giant mixing bowl. Yet, the staff is remarkably stable, and we are always greeted as returning family. We find our way through the tables and the wheel chairs, and make some space for God.   
As I walked down the hall this week, I passed by the cramped administration and admitting offices, the kitchen, and the rehab area.  I have walked down that hall for over nine years, saying hello as I dodge mops, brooms, carts, and pails. Yet, this week it struck me that people were praying. They might not be aware of it, but as they perused emails, checked records, mopped the floor, or encouraged a wobbly elder to take just a few steps more, that is what they were doing. My paced slowed, and I let the silence in - the Silence that that is always there but seldom heard, and I joined my prayers to theirs, just as I am this morning.  
All work can be prayer, but in the crush of our busyness and distractions, we forget that Christ is at the heart of our work when we allow our work to connect us to others. St. Benedict knew this. Mother Teresa knew this (even the orphaned children she cared for would be assigned a regular task to do for the community). May we know it as well. Human beings cannot flourish until we recognize that we do not work, nor do we live, just for ourselves.      

Benedictine life is immersed in the sanctity of the real and work is a fundamental part of it. The function of the spiritual life is not to escape into the next world; it is to live well in this one. The monastic engages in creative work as a way to be responsible for the upbuilding of the community...Work and prayer are opposite sides of the great coin of life that is both holy and useful, immersed in God and dedicated to the transcendent in the human.  It is labor's transfiguration of the commonplace, the transformation of the ordinary that makes co-creators of us all.
The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister, O.S.B., 
page 132    
 ora et labora  pray and work 


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Psalm 69

Psalm 69, like many of the psalms, begins with anguish and even a sense of drowning. However, also like many of the psalms, the psalmist works his way through his despair, the "miry clay", to a renewed sense of God's unwavering presence.  This makes for rich fodder for us  in our own trials, when we feel we have nothing but tears and worry to offer God. Eventually we can return to offering praise, but we first must reach that deep well. That can seem to be an arduous journey, but is a journey we must undertake.    
And all afflicted ones in life will hear my song and finding strength, 
will seek you, God, with all their hearts and live. 
For your own ears are always tuned and turned to needy ones. 
You never spurn or cast away those bound in chains, 
So let everything in heaven and on earth offer up their praise, 
let every living creature both on land or sea. 
For God restores the people and rebuilds their walls, 
their land is freely given back in full.  
And even children of the lowly ones who trust your name, 
find lodging safe and home secure at last in you. 
Psalm 34-38
Ancient Songs Sung Anew, Lynn C. Bauman​    
Praise is about celebration.  Certainly the news today is deeply serious and disturbing, and there are times when we must mourn and acknowledge our sorrows and our fears. That acknowledgement is the beginning of a psalm. However, we must also give ourselves time off from our dismay.  In a book of essays entitled, "Called to Community, the Life Jesus Wants for His People", Richard J. Foster writes of the need for celebration:
Far and away the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. This is desperately needed grace...It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.      

​Dear friends, if you can, find something or someone to celebrate today.  If you cannot, keep reminding yourself that you are being held in a love that is beyond comprehension, and you will be able to excavate your joy again. Let us be easy on ourselves in this time and remember that our sorrow never has the last say - that last word belongs entirely to God, and God is love.        

Monday, November 6, 2017

Psalm 68

More from this intriguing translation by Lynn C. Bauman. May all who feel the pull of violence, learn that is not where their majesty lies.  They are so much more than their violence.  I love the images of all the people going to the temple singing.  Even with our differences we become one when we sing.    
And gathering all the tribes of earth, 
let blessings rise as if it were a song upon a flood, 
For it is you who are for us the everlasting fount of praise, 
your name as source of all we raise in song. 
And gathered there the least of all the peoples sing
and mingle with the greatest ones. 
Then summoning the power of God  
they grow in strength, 
And at the temple in the city of your peace, 
they bring their gifts 
and raise their voice in thankfulness...
Let everything be offered up in praise and prayer
from East and West and North and South their voices raised. 
O Rider of the powers of heaven and earth, 
send forth a voice, a mighty voice. 
Awaken us to majesty beyond all time. 
Restore us to our ancient strength again, 
So we may say, how great your deeds, O God, 
O Holy One who rides the heavens.   
Psalm 68: 26- 29,33-36   

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Embrace

A human being is a part of the whole – called by us Universe – a part limited in time and space. We experience our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires, and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

​Albert Einstein, Cosmic Religions, from the Daily Dig 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Psalm 68

Lynnn C. Bauman writes that Psalm 68 is one of the more difficult psalms to translate, and certainly its 36 verses are for me not the easiest to read.  However, the poetry in Bauman's translation is captivating, and I may spend a few days here. 
Last night as I drove a short distance, I listened to part of Cynthia Bourgeault's instructional cd on chanting the psalms.  In it she presents various examples of chants, and even in those short, instructional snippets, I became engrossed in the language of the psalms. I heard the struggle, passion, and the boldness to believe and re-believe that God's love is there in the seemingly deserted places in all of us.I fell in love again with the human voice singing and crying its way to heaven. For a few minutes, there was no darkness to befuddle these bi-focaled eyes. There were no streetlights, headlights, and signs beckoning and informing. Another way was made known: nameless, eternal, and wide.    

Psalm 68
The Rider of the Heavens  
Rise up within our midst, O God, 
then everything else but you will vanish, 
our enemies disappearing from sight. 
Like smoke on wind, 
like wax before a burning blaze, 
evil itself will cease before the white light of your gaze. 
For everyone in right relationship to you 
is filled with overflowing joy, 
And music fills the space where you abide, 
and singing rises to your nameless name, 
O holy One who rides the heavens.        
Psalm 68:1-4