March 26, 2018
Almost every day I am allowed to witness a sweet moment of connection and care. There are two school age children, about the ages of 10 and 6, perhaps a brother and a sister, maybe neighbors or cousins, who are in route to a destination known only to them. I assume though that this back pack laden two-some, holding one another’s hand are making their way to school. They protectively hold each other’s hands and with sensitivity guide one another to the side of the road as they are passed by cars.
I am affectionately, tickled as I observe the smiles on their faces and the movement of their mouths, in which I secretly wonder what it is they must be sharing to enlist such an amusing reaction. This witness of connection always brings a smile to my face and emotion rises in my throat at the tenderness displayed and the lesson they are teaching me.
This little connection of care has prompted me to reflect on the invitations I receive daily as God reaches out to me and says “take my hand”. It’s not an invitation of control but rather of desire. God says, “here reach out, I’ll walk with you; Let me walk with you today”.
Recently I did accept a wonderful invitation, and that has been to walk with the 8 candidates and 1 catechumen who will be fully initiated in the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil. And what a walk it’s been! It has been one of friendship, of mutual sharing, of growth, joy, pain, excitement and most especially love. As we grew deeper in this walk of faith, we began to understand more fully what it means to be the “Body of Christ”. We learned from one another, through our own stories, of the ever-present, unending flow of God’s love and mercy.
As we near the Easter Vigil, we understand we reach an important destination, but we don’t stop there. It’s only a rest stop if you will. This celebration of the Eucharist will provide for us the gifts we will need to move on and enter into the next part of this marvelous journey. As we reach new destinations, we do so changed by our experiences and grateful for the comrades who have been with us along the way. We go forward, knowing we will never journey alone and each new opportunity presents the potential of a new hand to hold.
So I invite you to “take our hands” and come along with us: Tara, Reese, Gretchen, Olivia, Brandon, Richard, Terry, Austin and Andrew and all the other companions who’ve traveled with them this far, as we all make our way to this Eucharistic feast of Easter. And as we extend our hands forward to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, may it arise in us the courage we need to then extend our hands out in front of us, behind us and sideways; reaching out in compassion to those whom we might next encounter, and say, “Here take my hand, I’ll walk with you”.
March 12, 2018
This weather has my heart and soul leaping. I hadn’t realized that I was tiring of winter until a few recent days of warmer temperatures and sunshine blessed our earth.
I love to walk outside. I’m grateful for treadmills and elliptical machines in the cold of winter, but outside is my first choice. My favorite places to walk here in River Falls are along the White Pathway which now meanders around all of Lake George, under the Maple street Bridge and over to Division Street.
This walk never disappoints. Recently as I walked this path I realized I could pray the Psalms.
Upon beginning my walk, with the view of the path in front of me, I was reminded that “a path has been set before me”. How often have I trudged my own life’s path never even acknowledging that it had been prepared for me or even grateful to be walking it?
And then I am greeted by the trees, like bystanders on a parade route, barren and quiet now, some young and some majestic in size with years of stories to share, and soon ready to explode with signs of new life. What is the growth that is happening deep within me now, not seen to the naked eye, but still it’s happening. I am gently reminded then to enter into the rhythm of life…be patient. “Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy” Psalm 96:12s;
Sunshine! I could feel it’s warmth upon my face and loved the way it danced through the trees and bounced off of the water., “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield” and the sound of the trickling waters of the melting Kinni soothed me into a reflective moment of remembering and yearning; “as a deer longs for running streams, so to I long for you My Lord and of course, Psalm 23, “He leads me beside still waters. Unbeknownst to me this “prayer walk” had led me to question, how often I had experienced the warmth of God and just totally took it for granted.
These wonderful images had immersed me into this delicious walk for my soul. This walk had become my prayer for the day. All of these wonderful gifts had drawn me into a place of “being” with my God. I didn’t have to share any words or requestI just had to experience and enter into God. Total bliss! So, I invite you, as we embrace the lengthening of daylight hours and the warming temperatures to lace up those walking shoes and enter into the manifestation of God. For as Br. David Steindl-Rast states, “Any place is sacred ground, for it can become a place of encounter with the divine Presence.”
February 20, 2018
“Nana – I’m hungry!”
Almost every morning I’m greeted by these three words, as my daughter and grandson stop at the house on their way to dropping him off at school. My answer is always the same, “come on in….what would you like”? Sometimes his answer is quick and he knows exactly what it is he wants, other times it leaves him contemplating his choices.
Recently I’ve found myself with that same feeling, “I’m hungry”, but not sure either what it was I wanted. I took this to my Spiritual Director. I shared with her some of the heaviness of heart I had been feeling, the worry, the tasks I needed to complete and the opportunities I had to share the love of God and those I had missed as well. I indicated to her of the need for a better grasp of balance and boundaries. After a few moments of silence she very astutely asked, “What will you allow yourself to do today?” This question stopped me. I knew I could answer what I need to do today and even what I might want to do today, but I hadn’t thought of what I would allow myself to do today?
Now when I come back to my grandson and his “Nana I’m Hungry”, statement it seems simple. I offer him choices to which he responds “yes, no – I don’t know – or I don’t like that”.
I realize that it’s like that with me too. At times I can’t name my own hungers either. And as the desires, or the resentments of my heart rise up within me, could this be God, the source of all things. offering me a platter of options from which to choose from or get rid of? My Spiritual Director so wisely pointed out to me that when we become overwhelmed by life sometimes, lines become blurred and we have trouble discerning our needs and our wants.
So that simple question from this very wise woman “What will you allow yourself to do today?” helped me to discern what it was I might need to settle my appetite of unrest….permission. Yes, maybe it was permission I was hungry for. When you look up the word permission it states: authorization granted to do something; the act of permitting. So to what and from whom did I need permission?
Sometimes I want permission to stop during the day for a cup of tea. Permission to take a nap. To knit – to create something. Permission to stop comparing. Permission to visit with someone, permission to “lighten up”, to quit being so serious. As I pondered my list, I realized that I have the opportunity to grant myself permission.
So how should I go about discerning what it is I need permission for? First I need to be aware; aware of the hungers within me those that are physical, emotional and spiritual. Second I need to state to God as my grandson did to me “God, I’m hungry” and then wait. And last, I need to be alert and open to God’s response and then receive in gratitude that which God extends. God does not only come to us with a platter of options but a buffet of bounty!
I am grateful for the simple and yet profound ways in which God is revealed to me. So now if you’ll excuse me, the whistle on the teapot is signaling “Tea Time”.
Permission granted to settle into this moment.
February 12, 2018
Sunday evening usually begins for me the task of looking at the week ahead. I pull out my planner and begin filling in the spaces of my week. This leads then to meal planning; you know trying to accommodate meals to match the schedules. This in turn usually leads me to the grocery store. Alas! The weekend has ended and Monday has begun, all before 6 p.m. on Sunday night. Sound familiar? While I acknowledge that for me this is an important process to keep the stress of a work week at bay, all this planning ahead and planning in, can leave little room for those “divine appointments”. These are the moments when the Divine encounters our space. But sometimes our God has wonderful ways of allowing us to be witness to and learn from others’ divine appointments.
After Sunday’s planning, I headed to the grocery store on Monday. I was hurrying to get in and out so I could get on with the other tasks of the day. In the matter of literally 30 minutes I was witness not once but twice to a “close encounter of the Holy kind”.
Briskly gathering my reusable shopping bags from the back end of my car (it was one of those brutally cold days) I saw from my peripheral vision an older couple who had just parked and got out of their car. A woman, who was parked next to them, had just begun the task of loading her groceries into her car. They exchanged niceties about the weather when the woman, who had just parked, approached her and said, “I’ll take your cart into the store for you”. To which the woman unloading her groceries responded a gracious “sure” and said “I’ll hurry”. These (“do gooders, and I say this with the utmost affection) were not in the least bit concerned about time, and even went so far as to help her get the rest of her groceries into the car. I hurriedly made my way to the entrance of the store to gather the items I needed. Finished and feeling accomplished I once again briskly started off across the parking lot, only to again become aware of an interaction. A store worker was effortlessly and with lively conversation, loading groceries into a customer’s car. As he finished she reached out to place a token of her appreciation into his hand, “a little something for your effort”, she said. “No thanks this is not necessary, it’s what I do”. She insisted, proceeded to thank him again and punctuating the fact that the care and concern he has for everyone and doing his job, did not go unnoticed.
I know I smiled big, as I neared my car and praised God for allowing me to witness this parking lot ministry in action; thankful too for the awareness but feeling a bit humiliated.
As I started my car, I took a quick second to do an “examination of consciousness” and realizing rather quickly that in my own haste I might have missed my own “divine appointments”. I chuckled aloud (rather sarcastically too) at the thought that less than probably 4 hours earlier, in my prayer and reading, I had been prompted with the thought: If your deeds could speak, what statement did you make in the past 24 hours? Whoa 24 hours!! I hadn’t even made it four!! My deeds to that point were all about me!! What I needed to accomplish, what I needed to do – how accomplished I was feeling at checking off my list. God had used some ordinary moments of my day to teach me some extraordinary lessons.
Now please don’t misunderstand, I’m not criticizing list makers or planners, rather what I learned in that thirty minute time span was the need to remain alert and that my prayer must call me to action. I’m grateful to have been witness to these moments of kindness and like to believe that if given the opportunity again that next time I too might respond differently to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Someone once shared with me that it’s important to plan enough to be prepared, but leave room for the Holy Spirit to enter.
As I enter this season of Lent, I will continue to pray to “remain alert” and then most especially to respond. Mostly I pray not to allow the activities on my calendar to serve only as tasks to be completed and ways for me to feel accomplished, but that they become opportunities to encounter the Holy; and to see that these divine appointments will be my simple attempt to meet God in the work I do every day.