The Power of Words


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Sometimes I worry about this task I have taken on, wanting to say something every day that will be useful to at least one of the people who reads my words. Then I think of that phrase: my words. They are never just mine—these words that come to me sometimes with little or no effort, and sometimes as if I were a woman in labor, seeming to push each one out with a mighty force, in order to convey a thought, a feeling or an image. I know I can never adequately express the effect that the sun has on the mountain outside my window, especially on a frigid day like today when some of the frozen trees create a zigzag path to the top that only a nimble giant would attempt to scale.

Today, on the feast that notes the conversion of St Paul, I wonder how he felt when trying to express his experience of the light that changed his life that day on the road to Damascus…or on any day that followed. There are lines in the Scriptures that can touch our hearts with a power that we cannot understand but only recognize. There are poems that take our breath away and lines that when put to music move our bodies even without our consent because they cause such a stirring in our souls.

So today I celebrate those women and men down through the ages who have given us the gift of language and the facility to make words do for us what we cannot do ourselves to express and praise and love and explain ourselves—especially to the One in whom we live and move and have our being. (Acts of the Apostles: 17:22-28)



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The temperature outside could be construed as NOTHING. It reads 0 degrees F. Not too hot. Not too cold…just a perfect place to start building a day. (How ridiculous a mis-reading! One could easily get frostbite if not bundled up from head to toe.) The bluejays on the deck are already hard at work tap, tap, tapping away at the suet cakes. How they survive the day without broken beaks and roaring headaches is a mystery to me! Let me start again…

This time I could use the temperature outside as an excuse for inaction. It looks like a beautiful day outside. The sky is blue and the sun is shining…but it’s so cold as to make it impossible to move from my chair: a day to lament arthritic limbs and a headache at least serious enough for some over-the-counter drug…Excuses abound…

There is, however, a tiny beating sound inside of me that indicates discomfort with inertia. I can hardly hear the sound but I know there is more to this life than this chair and my rocking…rocking. I wonder if perhaps this is a moment like it was the day Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment: The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe…” It is Mark who is recounting this day when Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee and seeing Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea, he said to them, Come after me and I will make you fishers of men. (MK 1) They left their nets that day and became the first apostles, following Jesus to the end. No more sitting around looking out the window, wishing it was warmer outside. No more watching the birds and wondering about their headaches, just getting out of their chairs and getting to work—following that voice that is the best invitation ever offered.

Blessings of the Day



As I sit to write at the very end of the morning, I am feeling blessed for the hour-long phone conversation I had this morning with my sister. We talked about good things in the family and the country that had happened over the past week. We even laughed a lot—an experience that has been severely lacking lately… It’s very cold here this morning; we’re in the grip of an arctic blast, they say. I was glad that I got out of bed when I did, however because, looking out the window onto the back yard, I thought I was in a Disney movie like Fantasia where teapots swirl in a wild musical dance and the snowflakes are huge and blinding! I was in the midst of a very energetic squall – happy to be watching from inside! It was an altogether pleasant morning.

A New Time


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As our new President, Joe Biden, begins to re-establish order to the political system and the life of the nation, we hear the words of The Letter to the Hebrews which proclaims a new covenant. It could be a message for us today as we read or hear God’s promise: I will put my laws in their minds and I will write it upon their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people…all shall know me from the least to the greatest…

It feels a bit like a mighty wind has blown through the country and dissipated the heavy fog that has covered us for so long. It is also in some ways as if we have awakened from a long sleep. Some of us are still a bit groggy and slow-moving, but our desire is now awakened for the future. May our resolve be strengthened and our hearts be turned to know again how great is our God and faithful in good times and bad. May we have learned this truth as the sun begins to shine again.

Breathe In, Breathe Out


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Today is a day to rejoice in the ability of the human spirit to rise to challenge and see what promise there is in each day. We had a day of ceremony yesterday here in the United States of America. It was a day of gratitude for technology and creativity, a day to participate in the unfolding of a new day, a new reality. I sat in our living room all day, unwilling to miss a moment of what was happening in the transition of leadership in government. It had to be simple and we had to intuit the smiles on faces that were masked but that was easy to do because we knew a new day had dawned and the eyes of the country were shining with hope.

President Biden said at one point that he had been asked recently to describe the United States in one word. His answer was: POSSIBILITY. If he had been asked to expand his answer to a sentence, I have no doubt that he might have said, “All things are possible for those who love God.” That’s how I feel today. It’s as if we have hardly been able to breathe lately and now we understand a way forward: one breath at a time.

What to Say…?


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On Sunday – the day before yesterday – I wanted very much to write something of value about Thea Bowman, but I failed. The night before I had participated in a zoom call prayer service honoring her memory and in preparation for Martin Luther King Day, a time for parades and the singing of such songs as “We shall overcome…someday.” I watched a video of Sister Thea’s address to the Conference of Catholic Bishops who were appropriately edified by the truth she spoke months before her death in 1989. I watched Doctor King’s address the day before he died when he assured the world that he had “been to the mountain” and was not afraid of what might happen to him as he continued to tell the truth of what was needed for the defeat of racism. I watched the news in disbelief and saw again and again the angry mob – different moments but the same hatred – breaching the Capitol building walls in Washington, D.C. on January 6th, feeling helpless and wondering how we could have sunk to such a state of chaos.

I could find nothing to write on either day as I considered the danger facing President-elect Biden and what should be deep joy for Kamala Harris as the first woman Vice-President. It seems that we are placing all of our hopes for “fixing” the country on them. Perhaps by tomorrow I will again find a hope without the fear for them and stand – on shaky legs but at least standing – to attend the Inauguration of those two honorable people.

I was drinking my coffee as I wrote the above and, because I think anything can speak, I noticed that I put my coffee mug on the small journal already sitting on my side table, so I picked it (the mug) up again to reveal the message on the flower-strewn cover. It says, “With God all things are possible.” I rest my case and offer my prayer to join with yours for our country and the world on this day and tomorrow.

The Voice of God


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One of the most commonly recognized stories in the Hebrew Scriptures appears as today’s first lectionary reading. (1SM 3) It’s the story of the boy Samuel in his first days in the temple when “he was not yet familiar with the Lord.” It could actually be presented as a comedy in a religion class with Samuel getting out of bed and running to Eli saying, “You called me!” and Eli responding: “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed!” By the third time this happens, Eli the prophet catches on that God is calling the boy, so he instructs Samuel to answer, saying,”Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Many of us long for such a clear message from God, and to be able to recognize it when it comes. Some of us have wise people who help us interpret messages when we don’t recognize the voice of God. To be fair, we can’t always count on such a “direct address” as we find in today’s reading. How have you heard God speaking in your life? Do you allow at least a modicum of silence in your days so that you might hear a message? Are you open to new ways of hearing, new sources of wisdom? Have you any prompts in your environment? A candle perhaps, or music? Or perhaps an icon, a favorite picture of Jesus? There are many ways of preparation to hear the voice of God. And always, an open heart can echo this morning’s responsorial psalm, saying: “Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will!” If you put yourself in the place of most opportunity (openness) and make it a habit to call to God, you might be surprised someday to hear God’s voice in answer!

Becoming Real


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After hours and hours of news that is not only horrific but hardly believable coming from our nation’s capital, I found myself asking myself a question this morning. “What is real?” I immediately found myself in another universe where the question kept spinning out in the following conversation:

“What is real?” asked the Rabbit of the Skin Horse one day…”Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up?” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I suggest a period of reflection on these words from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams to see if you have learned the most important lessons of love. I presume that, if you are reading this, you have worked hard at that task, likely for a long time. Following that conversation with yourself, you might want to reflect on what is happening in our world or our country and even the place you live to consider whether you know any people like those in the reading who have not been loved enough, especially the ones who are always trying to look like something they are not—that is, hiding from themselves. They need our prayers, so I would suggest that you see what you can do for them in that department.

Take Heed!


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The readings from today’s lectionary read like a cautionary tale. . . It might be written as “Wake up!” or “Pay attention!” or even “Can you not hear me when I’m talking to you?” The repetition makes me wonder what was wrong with those people!

  1. First reading: The Holy Spirit says: Oh, that today you would hear God’s voice, “Harden not your hearts…in the day of testing in the desert when your ancestors tested and tried me…Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart…” (Heb. 3:7-14)
  2. Psalm response: I said: “This people’s heart goes astray, they do not know my ways. Therefore I swore in my anger: “They shall never enter into my rest!” (PS. 95)
  3. Gospel: The story of a leper made clean by Christ who told the man not to tell people what had happened but only to go, to show the priest and offer the prescribed donation for the healing. The man went immediately and did the exact opposite: to publicize what had happened so that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly to do his mission. (MK. 1: 40-45)

I say this is a cautionary tale whose theme might be: If today you hear God’s voice… “What was wrong with those people?” I asked. I might have said instead: “What is wrong with our world today?” We know the rules, the laws, the best behavior. We see what has happened in our country when people live only out of their own greed and headstrong actions. Do we stand apart from the crowd, complaining about “those people” or do we speak from what we know to be God’s voice in us?

We need a course correction. Each one of us must ask how we are living up to our call. If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.

Prayer for the Day


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Sometimes, directness is the best stance for our prayer. I met Joyce Rupp this morning on my way to my blog and her words seemed to capture better than mine what would help for today so I offer her wisdom for all of us.

All Encompassing Heart, where there is impatience, let me bring kindness, Where there is strife, let me bring harmony. Where there is hurt, let me bring healing. Where there is rigidity, let me bring openness. Where there is judgment, let me bring understanding.

O Wide and Spacious Love, turn me toward your unconditional acceptance. I seek to be a vessel of your great love. Let me carry your love into all parts of my life and pour it forth willingly and generously. Prayer Seeds, p. 150)