A Wider Window

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Just for a moment as I looked out my window this morning the sky was pink and blue and beautiful. Now I can still call it beautiful as I mourn the passing of pink and wait for the light of full sun – the promise of the meteorologists for this day. But my enthusiasm is tamped down a bit by a tiny ache in my heart, the same one that soars with the wonder of sunrise but today makes me long for the mountains and faces of Peru. Strange that ten days of immersion in a far-away place could be so deeply planted just by the smiles of children or the grandeur of mountains. But it is clearly there, as firmly as the loyal tree that graces my window, and just as still.

I need to shake off the lassitude that comes with travel and get back to the work-a-day world that fills my life with meaning. I know I will but also am confident of a larger stretch of life outside my window that I take to all the days to come. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Living In Love

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After arriving home about mid-day on Thursday, I was off again the next evening to conduct a 24-hour retreat. Some would call that very poor scheduling but, as it turned out, it was a lovely way to re-enter from the “time-out-of-time” that was Peru. The topic, Living In Love, could have been easily predicted; it is February after all when all the Valentine candy and flowers can hardly be avoided.

We covered a lot of ground and pondered weighty questions in our time together. We watched the roaring fire that kept the frigid air from overtaking our reflections. We talked about food on our breaks (everyone but me an aficionado of organic prep!) and had done the bedroom laundry by mid-afternoon, re-making the beds with as easy a rhythm as on a Saturday at home. Our day was punctuated with readings from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12 & 13, and I smiled just now to find his words echoing again in today’s lectionary.

It occurs to me that our little band of seekers yesterday was a model of what Paul saw as a way to practice love and grow in love in simple yet essential ways. Here is the crux of the lesson that we took home. You will, of course, recognize it. But read it slowly, perhaps aloud, letting it seep into you and, maybe for the umpteenth time, find a home.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude. It does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1COR 13)

The Simple Things

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As promised, I have returned “at the turning of the calendar.” I cannot, however, be blamed for bringing the blast of arctic cold home with me. It was sunny summer in Peru with temperatures about 100 degrees higher than here in New York State! What I have brought home are memories of an extraordinarily beautiful and generous population, rich in kindness if not in finances and a willingness to welcome others with open arms.

The gospel acclamation for this morning says this: “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.” Immediately I am thrown back to the large room inside the front door of the convent in Lima where we made puppets with the neighborhood children one day last week. Newspaper, scissors, markers and a few other sheets of shared paper – one with an outline of a rabbit’s face – were all Alexa and I needed to create our puppet and share the delight of everyone in the room. At the end of the morning the children prepared to leave with their treasures (including one Hershey kiss and a piece of bubblegum). There was no pushing or shoving as they lined up single file. Rather, kissing each of us in turn as they walked out the door, they whispered, “Gracias, Hermana” and blessed us with happy smiles.

There will be more to tell, I promise, but for now, it is enough to hold those sweet faces in my heart.

A New Adventure

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It’s 3:29am and I have already nearly downed a whole cup of coffee. I am missing a phenomenon familiar to me as I sit thinking of the snow that is falling at home in New York State. It’s raining here in North Carolina in a far less daunting but not so beautiful event. (I am truly a child of the Northeast as the big snowstorms hold for me both awe and a recognition of danger for so many…)

I’ve come here to meet up with a friend with whom I will travel to Peru to visit our Sisters and the wonders of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley for the next nine days – surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We leave in fifteen minutes for the airport and a long day of travel. I can only imagine what we will experience and I hope to be fully awake for the duration. I am not certain of access to the internet because of time and circumstance but I promise to return with the turning of the calendar. I will surely be back by February with lots to say!

Blessings all!

Antony of Egypt

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Today is the feast of one of the great Desert Fathers, a man living an amazingly long life (251-356), whose legacy is greatly revered by those seeking a depth of spirituality. At the same time, Antony’s words are often quite matter-of-fact and “down-to-earth” and occasionally sound even humorous in our day (although most likely unintentionally). Here are three examples.

A brother said to Abba Antony, “Pray for me.” The old man said to him, “I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.”

Abba Antony said, “I saw the snares that the enemy spread out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.”

Abba Pambo asked Abba Antony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

Who Are We?

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Psalm 8 is a lyrical reminder of our place in creation, calling us again today to our duty and privilege as “caretakers” of all God has made. In one lovely but haunting translation that calls us to recognize “the book of beauty that God’s fingers wrote,” the psalmist asks: “Who are we to stand before all this and see?” The answer comes as gently as the question that has been asked.

We are mortal beings set in this world, below the splendor of transcendent space…You placed us here and gave the earth into our care. You bid us cherish all this that’s ours, all the beasts and creatures of the wild. The birds of air, the fish of sea, the plants and everything that lives and moves are we here to know and love…*

My question as the images of all these creations pass before my inner eye is one of evaluation, knowing the effects of global warming and destruction of habitats causing the increased extinction of entire species. How well have we cared? Who are we in the role we have been given? Who are we?

*Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.16)

Choice

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This morning I started reading something about how everything in our lives is a choice, even when it seems that life has treated us unfairly. Suddenly I was repeating the first line of a prayer card that I had kept in my Bible for years. The first two lines pop up frequently for me in the morning as I’m looking forward (or not) to the day. I’ve often wondered about the rest of the prayer of which I have no memory. It must have seemed that what I remembered was sufficient advice for the day. This morning, however, I decided to “Google it!” although I had little hope of success. Wouldn’t you know! Google is the memory of the world – even of little known and seldom used information. I still think the beginning is enough but repeat what I found simply because I found it. (No author attached)

This day is mine to mar or make. God, keep me strong and true. Let me no erring bypath take, no doubtful action do. Let all I meet along the way speak well of me tonight. I would not have the humblest say I’d hurt them by a slight. Grant me when the setting sun this fleeting say shall end, that I rejoice over something done, be righter by a friend. Let there be something true and fine, when night slips down to tell, that I have lived this day of mine, not selfishly, but well.

Not stellar poetry by any means, but as I typed the poem/prayer in its entirety I came to understand why I kept it. I could do well to live the words – all the words – every day that I am given.

The Human Jesus

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Like many people, I receive a few “thought for the day” quotes in my e-mail each morning. Most often I delete them without too much reflection but occasionally there is something that makes me sit up and take notice. Perhaps because of the Wednesday and Friday gospels this week that focused on the miraculous feeding and healing powers of Jesus, I was led to reflect on his humanity today by Brother Curtis Almquist of the Episcopal Society of St. John the Evangelist in a short post entitled Growth. Here’s what he wrote.

I don’t think Jesus asked to be the Messiah any more than any of us asked for the deck of cards that was handed to us in our birth. But Jesus grew into the acceptance of his humanity, his gifts, his limitations, his mission, and his unfinished business, facing the same developmental issues that we all do in growing up.

Even though in theory I totally buy into Paul’s declaration to the Philippians that Jesus “emptied himself of godliness” and “became like us in all things but sin,” it’s rather stunning to think of Jesus having limitations, let alone “developmental issues.” I must admit, however, to a tiny sensation of relief and gratitude somewhere inside me as I begin to conjecture just what that might mean. I think it will take some time because there are no words that will clarify the sensation. It will take imagination, visualizing Jesus in life situations – in his youth, as a young adult and during his ministry – asking him questions about what he is experiencing in the situations in which he finds himself and then listening for answers.

Trusting that this process is not just a “flight of fancy” but rather a journey into the “imaginal” world may lead to a deepening of understanding and appreciation of Jesus as “fully human.” Why not give it a try?

Audacity

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Every once in awhile we find someone in the Scriptures who isn’t afraid to take a risk in his/her approach to Jesus. The leper in today’s gospel is such a person. Upon seeing Jesus “in one of the towns where Jesus was,” this man took the dramatic step of prostrating himself before Jesus saying, “If you want to, you can make me clean.”

I have this image of the encounter. Jesus is either chatting with someone on a street corner or shopping for something that he or someone else needed. There is no crowd around; it’s early in the gospel of Luke (5:12-16) and the man was able to go right up to where Jesus was and, recognizing him somehow, declare his request without hesitation. Whether Jesus was taken aback or happy that the person in front of him was so direct and sure of him, his answer was just as straightforward. “Of course I want to (my favorite translation says), be clean!” And so it happened. Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the man and the leprosy left him immediately – just like that!

When I am feeling timid about the reasonableness of my prayers, I would do well to remember this man and summon up the courage of my convictions, remembering God’s willingness to hear me and help me. Confidence will win every time!