Debate

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Everything is quiet this morning. I woke up to a morning with no wind, no rain, no snow – and no cars racing down the road. I was grateful for all that after the tumultuous debate of democratic candidates for President of the United States last night. Most bothersome was the disregard for time limits as people continued to talk while others were chiming in with their opinions and disagreements until it became what I imagine the Tower of Babel was like. I presume this will continue now until the primary races are over and there is a named nominee. And then there will be the more contentious period of run-up to the general election. It will not be a pretty process, but unavoidable for committed citizens. While we don’t need to listen to everything, staying above the fray and listening to nothing is not the way to participate in our democracy so I am grateful for moments like this one and guides like John Philip Newell who grounds me in simplicity with his morning prayers. Won’t you join me today?

We wake to the forgiveness of a new day. We wake to the freedom to begin again. We wake to the mercy of the sun’s redeeming light. Always new, always gift, always blessing. We wake to the forgiveness of this new day.

May our enemy become our friend, O God, that we may share earth’s goodness. May our enemy become our friend, O God, that our children may meet and marry. May our enemy become our friend, O God, that we may remember our shared birth in you. May we grow in grace, may we grow in gratitude, may we grow in wisdom, that our enemy may become our friend. (Praying with the Earth – A Prayerbook for Peace, p. 36)

Jewels on a Page

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Yesterday I picked up one of many small notepads on which I make lists and jot down things I need to remember. It’s become almost a full-time job to keep track of everything as life seems to move so rapidly — or is it just that I’m moving more slowly? Regardless of the answer to that question, I love the “jewels” I sometimes find written on pages that I have forgotten but find impossible to let go. On the page in question I had written two brief quotes on the remaining top half of said page. I needed a clean page to note the information I was to get on a phone call already in progress but rather than discarding the previous message, I saved it for later, after my phone call. A very wise decision!

I have no memory of writing the following two quotes but am happy now that I saved them as they seem to me to speak of a wonderful way to live a balanced life encompassed by both the poetic and the mundane, namely: in beauty and discipline. See if you agree.

Beauty is that which glistens on the edges of our yearnings and lives into the depth of things. (Embracing a Beautiful God by Patricia Adams Farmer)

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments and that bridge must be crossed each day. (Brian Johnson, http://www.optimize.me)

What Do You Mean?

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Jesus seems somewhat frustrated with his disciples today (MK 8: 14-21). Having just come back from an intense four-day retreat/workshop where the presentations were challenging, I can understand. Sometimes when Jesus speaks he is using language from a different level of consciousness and his friends are just not tuned in to what he means. This is one of those times and he seems uncharacteristically frustrated – so much so that he asks, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And again when he has reminded them of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves he says, “Do you still not understand?”

It must have been difficult for Jesus as well as for the apostles. It’s a good thing they had the psalms to fall back on (as we do!). And Jesus would have needed to remember lines like those of Psalm 94 this morning when he got frustrated – words like the following:

The God who knows our every thought, how fragile we each are; will not that God in evil days speak words of rest, and instruct our hearts to understand…? (vs. 11-13a)

Take courage when you lack deep understanding of God’s workings in your life or when you feel as if you are missing the point of life in God. Hold on to trust and the overwhelming compassion of the Jesus who was fully human – just like us – and willing to forgive in our moments of confusion.

Perseverance

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In today’s lectionary readings, we have a section from the beginning of the letter of the apostle James, (ch. 1: 1-11) that speaks of perseverance. It’s a good reminder in these troubled times. What are we to do with our distress and uncertainty? The advice of James is similar to the book of Meg Wheatley entitled simply Perseverance, a book that is filled with helpful thoughts and encouragement. I offer her introductory statements and questions today as the kind of reflection that can keep us on a course of hope. See what you think.

The word “perseverance” in Latin means, “one who sees through to the end,” “one who doesn’t yield.” In English, it describes how we maintain our activity in spite of difficulties. Tenacity, steadfastness, persistence, doggedness — these are all common synonyms.

In Chinese, the character for perseverance is often the same as the one used for patience.

Human experience is the story of perseverance. Throughout space and time, humans have always persevered. We wouldn’t be here without them.

Think of all the people you know — family, friends, strangers — who have just kept going, who didn’t yield, who were tenacious, steadfast, patient.

How would you describe them? What were some of their traits? Their capacities? What was it like to be around them, to listen to their stories?

At the end of their lives, how were they?

Angry? Contented? Cynical? Peaceful?

What do their lives offer you as lessons on how to persevere?

What do we all need to learn from them now?

What Does Love Mean?

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Last night in my email there was a sweet little video posted by Tara Brach that ended with some quotes by 4 to 8 year olds in answer to the question of what love means. I found it heartening and way better than chocolate. Here are my favorite answers.

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that that your name is safe in their mouth.”

“When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you get scared because you think they won’t love you anymore and you get surprised because they love you even more.”

“You really shouldn’t say “I love you” unless you mean it but if you know they love you, you should say it a lot. People forget.”

Happy “on-going” Valentine’s Day. Think on these things from the wise ones in our midst!

The Good News from Valentine

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Today is all about love – not just with chocolates and flowers (although I am partial to both) but also with thoughts from St. John the Evangelist who, among many other messages, gave us this deep and meaningful word from his first letter. Keep it close today!

“Love consists in this: it is not we who have loved God, but God who loved us. My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God but as long as we love each other, God remains in us and God’s love comes to perfection in us.”

Choice Words

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The responsorial Psalm in the lectionary for today (PS 37) is a long one but of the few verses chosen for the liturgy, I was drawn to the first which said, Commit to the Lord your way; trust in him and he will act. I didn’t want to leave it there so I turned to my favorite translation and read the whole Psalm of 41 verses. The sentiments were the same and there are many beautiful encouragements for those of us who wish for the more poetic urging. Here are my favorite lines.

Make God, as Lord and Master, your delight and the desires of your heart God will fulfill. Give up your life to God and for the good of all, commit to the One who acts for you…Grow still, be quiet, and wait patiently within, and in that silence put your trust in God. (4-7, Ancient Songs Sung Anew – Lynn Bauman)

Not only does that confirm the value to myself that relationship with God will bring but includes as well “the good of all,” to which we are surely called. May your day be blessed in the peace and blessing of these thoughts.

What Would It Take?

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Sometimes two ideas collide in my early morning moments pushing me to look deeply for readiness. (Shakespeare said: “The readiness is all.”) Here’s what I mean.

First, I read about a woman who sold her house to buy a Stradivarius violin. The commentary about that exchange said the following. The breadth of passion, joy and beauty that she brought into the world through playing that violin far exceeded any gifts she might have offered by inviting friends to her house for tea…Give me the knowledge of my worthiness and the courage to invest in myself. (A Deep Breath of Life – Alan Cohen)

Then, a morning prayer: The world is alive with your goodness, O God. It grows green from the ground and ripens into the roundness of fruit. Its taste and its touch enliven my body and stir my soul. Generously given, profusely displayed, your graces of goodness pour forth from the earth. As I have received so free me to give. As I have been granted so may I give…Pray for the coming day and for the life of the world. (Celtic Benediction – J. Philip Newell)

The challenge of selling all to have what would create the deepest willingness of soul so that transformation resulted is clear in the example of the violin. The question then remains: Am I as willing to “go all in” in my prayer for the life of the world and in my work for this day? What would it take of consciousness, resolve and time? Do I have it in me?

Twins

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Today is the feast of St. Scholastica, sister of the “famous” St. Benedict. I knew they were siblings who both led religious communities. What I didn’t know until today was that they were twins. I don’t suppose that predestined them to be close in mind and heart but it is known to often be significant in the lives of twins. For these two saints the connection seems quite important. Scholastica founded a monastery just 5 miles from her brother. Because of the strict rules of the time, they met once a year at a farmhouse because Scholastica was not permitted in the monastery of her brother. They spent their time, as one would suspect, discussing spiritual matters.

There is a sweet story about Scholastica that made me smile this morning. It seems that Scholastica was aware that the end of her life was near and she asked her brother on their yearly visit to stay the night with her. Not wanting to spend a night away from his monastery, Benedict refused. Scholastica then prayed asking God to let Benedict remain with her until the next day, whereupon a severe thunderstorm broke out, preventing a return to their monasteries.

Here’s the good part…Benedict cried out, “God forgive you, Sister. What have you done?” Scholastica replied, “I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and he granted it.” They parted the next morning after their long discussion. Scholastica died three days later and Benedict saw her soul rising to heaven in the form of a white dove. He buried her in a tomb that he had prepared for himself. (www.franciscanmedia.org)

That might be a story that deserves a “You go, Girl!” and today might be a good day to pray for our siblings and/or those close to us like family, asking God for whatever might be favorable in their lives.

Doorkeepers

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The woman who became known as Saint Josephine Bakhita died the year before I was born (1947). I say “known as” because she had been kidnapped and sold as a slave from Darfur in the Sudan as a young child and had been so terrified that she forgot her own name. “Bakhita” means “fortunate” and hearing of the trials of her early life one might wonder how the name fit. Later, however, having been sold several times – once to an Italian consul in Khartoum – she was brought to Italy and given to a friend. She subsequently became babysitter to a catechumen whom she accompanied to catechism classes. It was there that she was drawn to the Catholic faith, was baptized and confirmed and given the name Josephine. Having won her freedom from slavery, she became a religious Sister.

Josephine’s story is somewhat miraculous if considered as a path to sainthood. Although she suffered severely as a slave and was a “menial” laborer in her convent life, it was her devotion to God that is instructive of what makes a saint. Not unlike Saint Andre Bessette (“Brother Andre of Montreal”) she spent her days as doorkeeper to the convent where she lived and was known for her love to everyone who appeared before her for welcome.

These two saints can teach us that anyone can be a saint if love is the hallmark and motivation of their everyday life. Even you…even me…

(Learn more about St. Josephine Bahkita at http://www.franciscanmedia.org)