Anniversaries

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There are many dates that we all celebrate in different ways (if we can remember them!). Some are easy, like New Year’s Day, because most people share them, but then we remember and ask: “What about Chinese New Year?”

It can get complicated. Most of us need a notebook to remember all the birthdays that we should be celebrating, especially if we have a large family or lots of expectant friends, but for most of us there are likely a few dates that make it into a special category of automatic remembrance. One of those dates for me is today; it’s my parents’ wedding anniversary.

We joke about the fact that although they probably knew in high school that they had found “the one” with whom they would spend the rest of their lives, it took them until the age of 31 years to formalize the commitment (They were born 20 days apart). It’s true that there were complications: the Great Depression where, as young people they needed to help support their families, the Second World War when they wrote enough letters to fill a trunk the size of a post office, etc. We have so many stories and images of the nearly 50 years of their marriage! My siblings and I often speak of how blessed we are to be considered among “the lucky ones.”

At a time when so many people suffer from a lack of love in their lives, those of us who have been blessed by loving relationships of any description ought to be mindful of those who have not been similarly blessed. Is there someone you know who might enjoy a visit, a call or even a hug today? Why wait?

Happy Anything Day to all!

A Heartful Prayer

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In this stressful season for so many, I take comfort in the offering of John Phillip Newell for this Saturday. I hope you feel the same.

“To the home of peace, to the field of love, to the land where forgiveness and right relationship meet, we look, O God, with  longing for earth’s children, with compassion for the creatures, with hearts breaking for the nations and people we love. Open us to visions we have never known, strengthen us for self-givings we have never made, delight us with a oneness we could never have imagined, that we may truly be born of you, makers of peace.

Old Age

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It is beginning to be commonplace, as I learn from reading the daily obituaries for my town, to find more than one – several usually – deceased persons who lived to be over 100 years of age. For some it is “the miracle of modern medicine” that has allowed them to reach a “ripe old age.” For some it is what we call “good genes” and for others it is probably the way they have lived their lives physically, spiritually and mentally. Most likely, for many, it is a combination of those factors.

It is rather startling, however, to read the life of St. Anthony of Egypt and find that his life span was from 251 to 356 CE – yes, that’s 105 years! He was a hermit who desired to give himself totally to God. He did live a solitary life in the desert in fasting and prayer but as Franciscan media tells us, “No saint is antisocial, and Anthony drew many people to himself for spiritual healing and guidance. What I like best in any description of his life is that he preferred “the book of nature” over the printed word. One can learn much from the the natural world, I believe, and the silence that he must have found undoubtedly led to an inner peace after his struggles with his “inner demons” were won.

We have no control, nor any prior knowledge, about the span of our lives. All we can do is to make sure that the quality of each day is the best we can offer to God.  It seems that Anthony had ample time and many opportunities to do just that. Let us promise the same each day.

Dentist Day

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I have a dentist appointment this morning. What does that have to do with spirituality, you might ask. I have come to know that anything can be brought into play in that realm depending on our outlook. Here’s what I mean.

Over the last ten years I have had dental check-ups twice a year and only once has it involved more than a cleaning – that being one small cavity. (I often say my teeth aren’t pretty but they are strong and healthy!) Today’s visit will involve replacement of a crown – a rather more involved process that will involve novocaine and a fair amount of drilling. The truth is, it will probably hurt. The amazing thing today is that I’m not dwelling on that part of the day but rather on the fact that by the time the novocaine wears off my mouth will be healthy and free of decay and I will be good to go!

My point is that a shift in attitude has a lot to do with how an experience can play out for us. Worrying about pain that is not yet present is a waste of energy. I would do better to spend my time welcoming the feeling of blessing that I have a good dental team. Living from the inside is always a good idea and days like today help me to remember that fact.

I have to go now and brush my teeth. I don’t want to be late for my appointment! Blessings on whatever your day holds!

For Martin's Birthday

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The first reading for this day ( 1 SAM 3:1-10) is perfect for this birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. The significant line in that reading rings out with King’s life purpose: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!” And so he was until his death on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated as he prepared for what was to be a Poor People’s March to Washington in another of his non-violent events that characterized his life mission.

In the final months before his death, it seemed that his work had taken a toll on him. “I’m tired of going to jail,” he admitted. “Living every day under the threat of death, I feel discouraged now and then and feel my work is in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.” In like manner, on the night before his death, he told a crowd at the Mason Temple Church in Memphis,: “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

May it be so for all of us as it surely was for him.

A Quick Word

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It seems my alarm was on “mute” this morning, so I’m enough behind schedule to necessitate brevity here and to turn to Joyce Rupp for assistance. She writes:

“Gracious Peace-Maker, thank you for the life you have given me. I desire to be filled with your serenity. Clothe me in your calm presence. Be the stronghold of my heart. Help me to accept the irreversible and to change what is possible. May your peace grow ever stronger in me.” (Prayer Seeds, p.60)

May it be so for all of us today!

Ordinary Time

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Today’s liturgical calendar in my Church announces that it is Monday of the first week in Ordinary Time. What I learned a long time ago is that “ordinary” in this case means “counting” or “ordinal” time. There could be lots going on in our lives – amazing or tumultuous things – but, liturgically, the Christmas season is over and Lent hasn’t started yet. In Church circles I suppose it could be a moment to take a breath, to make sure everything is in its right place (holiday decorations stored perhaps) and planning for the future to begin in earnest. Ash Wednesday (2/26 this year) will be here before we know it, however, and most places are already deep in purple thoughts. It’s hard to live in the present for those in charge.

In an ironic twist on this “first day of the rest of my life” I have found myself with a “blank slate.” I just got my computer back from the Geek Squad after a week without it because of a serious malady. As predicted, all was wiped clean in the process of restoring it to health. Today is a day of starting over, wishing I had done a better job of protecting certain things but finding it necessary to begin again without regret or rancor.

I’m reminded of a wildly popular quote of some years ago that ought to guide my day (and maybe yours, for some reason). It’s from Dag Hammarskjold who said: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”‘

So on we go…

The Voice of God

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Psalm 29 proclaims the power of the voice of God, speaking in myriad ways. Today the Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John, citing the testimony of Matthew’s gospel as evidence of God’s voice in the world. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” It’s one of those dramatic scenes that we can imagine as we are told that “the heavens were opened for him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.”

Was it only Jesus who heard the voice of God that day, or did all the people that witnessed the event hear it as well? Some translations have God saying “YOU are my beloved Son…instead of “THIS IS my beloved…?” Maybe it was a message to all because of the deep meaning of the event for the public ministry of Jesus. Maybe it was a message just for Jesus himself, delivered internally, to strengthen him for that ministry. I like to think of it in that way as it makes Jesus more human and God more accessible, speaking in a softer voice, you might say.

Have you ever heard God speaking in you, for you? It takes a willingness to be silent and listen, as well as trust that God would choose to speak to me personally…I am coming to believe that God is speaking in many ways all the time and is longing for us to hear.

The wind is blowing outside today. Gusts of 35 to 50 mph are expected. Perhaps God is trying to get our attention. The trees are certainly dancing. What can they hear? Perhaps we ought to join them…

Early Prayer

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The daily New York Times “Morning Briefing” was sobering, as was the weather report for today. I don’t ever remember a day in January when the temperature in New York State reached 60 degrees (F.) I sit in the silence wondering where we are going and what we need to be doing in order to survive the crises – political, environmental and spiritual. I am buoyed up as much as anything by the words of J. Philip Newell just now. There are two pieces from his Saturday Morning Prayer that help me.

1. Let me know in my own soul and body the rhythms of creativity that you have established. Let me know in my family and friendships the disciplines of withdrawal and the call to engagement. Let me know for my world the cycles of renewal given by you for healing and health, the pattern of the seasons given by you for the birth of new life.

2. In the busyness of this day grant me a stillness of seeing, O God. In the conflicting voices of my heart grant me a calmness of hearing. Let my seeing and hearing, my words and my actions be rooted in a silent certainty of your presence. Let my passions for life and the longings for justice that stir within me be grounded in the experience of your stillness. Let my life be rooted in the ground of your peace, O God. Let me be rooted in the depths of your peace. (Celtic Benediction, p. 76 – 77)

What Did Jesus Do?

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the passage of time, especially when we feel the days speeding by so that we aren’t even sure if it’s Thursday or Friday – or next week already! There seems to be so much to do sometimes! I thought of Jesus this morning trying to balance things in his life. Today’s gospel from Luke is one of the stories of healing “in one of the towns where Jesus was.” This person sought out Jesus, fell down and pleaded for healing as he was “full of leprosy” and Jesus was quick to say, “I will do it. Be made clean.”

Interestingly, in this as in other stories, Jesus told the man not to tell anyone about what had happened. I wonder now if he was concerned about what would – and did – happen if the word spread. As a result “word spread all the more and crowds came to listen to him and be cured of their ailments.”

I tend to feel sorry for Jesus in these moments when he must have needed some time to recover from “the crush of the crowds.” But there’s a lesson for us in the last line of today’s gospel. When we’re overwhelmed with all we have to do or when there are lots of people vying for our attention, perhaps we should follow his example. Even like the end of that story when “great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.” (LK 5:16)