Kickstart

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Some mornings there is no reason for the joy or distress we feel upon waking up to the day. Nothing on the calendar is more than a mild challenge, no ache is greater than the normal twinge of aging, no residuals of a delightful or disturbing dream can be named. Some of us do, however, act as the weather directs: sunny or gray depending…

It’s good to have a few “fall-back” kickstarts just in case we need something to get going. Prayer helps, and certain quick reminders from the psalms do just fine most days. Today provides one such example. I recommend saying it aloud and then keeping it written in a convenient place for any gloomy day.

I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold! Praised be the Lord, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies.

Advertisements

Name That Tune

As soon as I saw the first two lines of the psalm response for today on the US Bishops’ website, a refrain began to repeat itself in my head. It isn’t unusual for a song to settle itself in my mind for an hour, a day or – rarely – an entire week, clinging so tightly that I despair of it ever letting go! Sometimes it’s my own fault. Occasionally I can’t get enough of a song, new to me, so I play it repeatedly while driving to learn the lyrics. Once in awhile the trigger is a word or phrase that just pops up from my mental rolodex and has little to do with the song that ensues. (That’s likely the fault of my Aunt Myrtle who could sing anything, creating parodies if no published song sufficed.) But I digress…

The verse (PS 102:2) that I am singing comes from the music of Taize and is a simple, repeated plea to God for recognition and solace. The repetition that is characteristic of Taize music adds to the urgency and intense need of the petitioner.

O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer. When I call, answer me. O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer. Come and listen to me.*

How could God refuse such a plea, especially if it is sung over and over? The imperatives (Answer me! Come! Listen to me!) seem to strengthen the verse from a request to a command. Who would be so audacious as that with regard to God? Something in me says that God might be waiting for us to be that bold. It is probably dependent on our openness to whatever the answer might be that would perk up God’s ears to the request.

That conclusion tells me how seriously I should consider what my prayer contains. It feels as if there should be no specificity, rather that the prayer would simply be a desire for God to pay attention to my being and the attitude with which I live my life, desiring only a way to respond to God through every step of every day. Might it be as general a request as that? And as comprehensive?

*Taize music is easily found on YouTube.

Spring Cleaning

Tags

, , ,

I left my bedroom window open all night last night for the first time in many months and I am happy to say that I believe spring has truly sprung here in New York State. Just now reading about the practice of “letting go” I sensed how it’s easy to see how examples of that process manifest in many ways in the spring.

It’s time for cutting down and picking up what is dead in the garden spaces and all over the land where the winds of winter left evidence in small and large branches. The miracle of growth will follow if we give sufficient space to breathe. Pruning is not my favorite task but I have come to know its necessity and its effectiveness.

Within a week our summer buildings will have running water again as the fear of frozen pipes is past. Spring cleaning has always been a harbinger of new life, a clearing away of dust and debris to let the sun shine in. As we polish furniture and windows, there is a concomitant cleansing process that can happen in the cleaning team, a joy that comes with letting go of what no longer serves us and therefore gives way to the new. We begin to feel the energy of who will come to programs this season, what we will give and receive and how we will grow just as our cherished land will again flourish in this divine/human exchange. And all will be greatly blessed!

The Perfect Home

Tags

, , , , ,

More often than not, I check the Franciscan Media website as part of my morning routine to educate myself about little known (to me, at least) saints of the Church. I am pretty well aware of the celebrations of the most famous ones but some new names pop up every once in awhile and I’m glad to know that some newly canonized people are less recognizable for things like physical martyrdom or the founding of religious communities. Their holiness is simpler – if not always easier – in a daily life sort of way.

Today I found that – like lots of other websites – http://www.franciscanmedia.org has been significantly updated and now includes an eye-catching blog that stalled me on my way to doing my own daily duty! The blog post that appeared was from March 26th and included two articles under the title, Radical Hospitality. They were both about the life and work of Dorothy Day but the first only tangentially.

The author, Shannon Evans, spoke of her own life and her long-held desire to follow in Day’s footsteps by living in and serving with her large family at a Catholic Worker house. Her opportunity to do so quickly revealed to her that this was not the way God was calling her – or her husband and children – so after a few months, her dreams dashed but knowing in her heart that this was the correct decision, they moved back home. While Evans admits to still wishing to be more like her idol and doubting that will ever change, she writes the following:

Children of all ages, races and wealth are jumping on the trampoline in the backyard. I can hear their squeals of delight as I type. I’ll talk with mothers later on in the heat of the day – we’ll talk about the garden, we’ll talk about racial injustice, we’ll eat cantaloupe, and we’ll live this fruitful, painful, mundane life together side by side. I don’t think this kind of house of hospitality will ever look or feel important. But I do think it will matter. And I think Dorothy Day would say it does too.

What a great lesson of searching for what is truly one’s calling and accepting it when it turns out to be different from expected but perfect in God’s eyes.

Assessment

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent. We don’t have much more time to achieve what we projected at the beginning of these 40 days, this “holy season.” How am I doing? Sometimes it seems that I am very aware of my desire to change, to jettison the parts of me that I see as less than acceptable, as holy, or as enough for God. I read Isaiah’s message from God: See, I am doing something new!…Do you not perceive it?” and I wonder if I really understand how present God’s Spirit is, how alive and active in every breath I take. I remember how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery and hear St. Paul speak his faith to the Philippians: Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal…and again I move to self doubt.

As usual, however, when I turn to Joyce Rupp, I find what I need to go forward. Her Lenten reflection called Carrying Crosses* contains a petition and then a recognition of what is true and necessary for us as we strive to accept ourselves as God sees and loves us every day. I am always grateful for her ability to speak just the right words at the right time. Listen:

Expand my perception of the good things my life already holds. Decrease apprehension about not having enough, being enough, doing enough or growing enough.

Confident in your grace and daily empowerment, I give myself to you as fully as I am able at this time. As I carry the crosses that are mine, remind me often that you are always with me and never against me. I place my desire for union with you into your loving care. Amen.

Amen, indeed.

*Prayer Seeds, p.90.

Feeding the Fire

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I’m still living a little in the experience of my desert retreat, reading one of the recommended books* for the second time. I love the way Rev. Gregory Mayers, CSsR, goes deep in each chapter into a saying of one of the Desert Fathers – or Mothers, as in this case – to find a relevant message for today. Here is what chapter 3 held for me yesterday in the very first and last paragraphs of the text.

Amma Syncletica said: In the beginning, there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that, there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it’s smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.

Gregory Mayers concludes: The longer you live, the more you learn that you cannot control your life very much. You are in control of very little, as a matter of fact. The more you realize this fact, the more likely you will enjoy life, the natural ecstasy inherent in life itself. This doesn’t mean that the external circumstances bend to your pleasure. It means you cease judging life, circumstances and events on the basis of your personal comfort and desires. The religious traditions call this “living the Will of God.” Then something happens, something indescribable. We are living in the Mystery, or perhaps to say it better, the Mystery is living us. (p. 28)

*Listen to the Desert: Secrets of Spiritual Maturity from the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Decisions, decisions…

Tags

, , , , ,

This morning I sit waiting for the snow/sleet/rain that has been predicted. Nothing is happening outside and there is no sound except one mourning dove and a small cheeping bird of some kind. I am supposed to leave in an hour to be part of a work detail helping friends to pack up dishes and other belongings in preparation for a move to a new home. It’s one of those days when everything could be tinged with tension if we go ahead with the plan, knowing that the return home could be difficult because of slippery roads. Why not wait until tomorrow when there will be clouds but no precipitation expected? But we had this plan…

Flexibility is so easy for some people and so difficult for others. I credit spiritual practice for any melting of rigidity in my life; letting go usually means letting God do the deciding. You must have heard that phrase: Let go and let God, yes? Easy to say but sometimes difficult to achieve. If we start with the little things, however, like allowing a schedule change when an alternative presents itself without a problem, we can learn to deal with the bigger things with less distress. Staying in touch with God is key.



Christmas Anyone?

Tags

, , , ,

I have a Christmas cactus that doesn’t seem concerned about the rules. It never blooms anywhere near Christmas. I woke up one day recently and noticed that there was an incipient bloom leaning against and propped up by one of the longer branches of the plant. There was no place for it to go as it was connected to a three-sectioned stem close to the dirt that fills the pot. (I’m hoping a picture will clarify this unhelpful description.) I had no expectation that this flower would be able to bloom as it was not free to bow and unfold in space. I pictured it as a stillborn child that would die as it lived – tightly closed in upon itself. (Those of you who are familiar with Christmas cactus know that their flowers usually bounce at the ends of each branch in increasing beauty during their lifespan.)

This morning as I was seeking help from Meg Wheatley in her book, Perseverance, I looked up and saw the first unfolding of my sweet flower! I was reading about success at the time and had just stopped to consider the following thought: “Can you accept as a measure of success that you kept showing up, day after day, even when you weren’t feeling helpful or effective?”

I don’t know what tomorrow will be like for me or the flower but I do know that, for today, her measure of success has motivated me to show up and do my best in whatever comes my way.

Sunrise

Tags

, , , , , ,

Here comes the sun in all its blinding radiance, fairly shouting “Awake! Awake!” with the promise that it is indeed spring. I hear the energy in the birds and wish I could join in the song but I made the mistake of reading today’s headlines before the sun appeared. It seems that every day there is something new to add to the list of issues and/or events to mourn. Then I think that it is still Lent after all and that life goes on as it will.

Then my eye falls on the cover of Robert Moynihan’s book about Pope Francis that in bold letters entreats the world: “PRAY FOR ME!” (the first words of his papacy.) In that humble moment the Pope reinforced the fact that life is a jumble of strength and weakness, easy and difficult, happy and sad. In so doing he also let us know that we are all in this together and we can – if we truly make the effort – overcome the darkness that exists all around us.

So I face the sun and make an inventory of the day ahead, slowly feeling the rising of expectation within me. It will be a good day, I trust, because of the Pope, the people I will encounter, the conversations we will have, the prayer we will share, and the sun which will continue to rise in my heart.

I’m OK, You’re OK.

Tags

, , , ,

Lent is often a time of deepening for people who are trying to live a good life yet finding themselves less “holy” than they desire to be. (You can, perhaps, intuit how I would know this truth…) Anyway, there was a small paragraph on the franciscanmedia.org site this morning that I saw while reading the “saint of the day” section. I found it consoling, knowing that today would be a day for me to recommit to my Lenten mindset and spiritual practices. It’s the last sentence that spoke a kind reminder from God to me.

Saintly people show us that the love of God and love of neighbors are two sides of the same coin. Love of God strengthens us as we take small but concrete steps to express our love of neighbor. Our inability to do everything needed should not stop us from doing what we can.