Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost Sunday

Artist: Giotto di Bondone
Image from Wikimedia Commons

This morning I happened to have a brief email exchange with Robin Meyers who is pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and, I'm convinced, truly one of the great preachers of our day. In wishing each other a joyful Pentecost, Robin referred to the event as a "translingual miracle". I was so taken with the expression that I asked him if I could blog it. By way of reply, he said this: "I also call it the ultimate "classless" reunion. Especially those Cretans--the ones your mother warned you about!"

Don't just love it?

(If you don't get the joke, go read today's lesson from Acts. You can find it right here.)

Oh, they're SO good!!

The high tenor on the first cut is Rev. Claude Jeter who died earlier this year.

The second cut, "I'm not tired yet" really gave me a lift this morning!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Our hearts

Artist: Amadeo Modigliani
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I'm reminding you today of what is probably the most famous saying of St. Augustine. It is certainly the first that I learned. It spoke to me powerfully as a girl. And it does today:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.

- Augustine of Hippo

Friday, May 29, 2009

A biblical imperative

Artist: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I subscribe to the emails that Sojourners sends out daily. In addition to other material, they usually include a "quote of the day" as well as a "verse of the day" in those mailings.

I was particularly moved by the following:

There's fire in the ashes and good things happening everywhere. There are reserves of life and strength in us that we never imagine are there until we absolutely need them.

-- Jerry Smith, a Capuchin friar who runs two soup kitchens in Detroit that serve 2,000 meals a day.

And today's verse:

When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.

- Deuteronomy 24:20-22

For the life of me, I do not understand how "Bible-believing Christians" can justify hating immigrants or refusing to help the needy.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The importance of listening

Artist: Camille Pissarro
Image from Wikimedia Commons

This has long been one of my favorite Bonhoeffer quotations:
Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God, either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words ... never really speaking to others.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The life of God flows...

As the sap flows through the branches of the vine and vitalizes the whole organism so that it burst into the beauty and glory of foliage and blossom and finally into fruit, so through the lives of men and women, inwardly receptive, the life of God flows, carrying vitality, awakening love, creating passion for goodness, kindling the fervor of consecration and producing that living body, that organism of the Spirit, that 'blessed community' which continues through the centuries the revelation of God as love and tenderness and eternal goodness…

-- Rufus Jones

I really recommend that you click through and read the article on Rufus Jones. Very interesting indeed. I had not realized that he set the stage, really, for Thomas Merton's works to be so influential.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day, 2009

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The soul

I saved this a long time ago and just found it again. And it gladdens my heart this morning:

What is a soul? It's like electricity - we don't really know what it is, but it's a force that can light a room.

UPDATE: I just found this by Ray Charles and I think it's wonderful:

There's nothing written in the Bible, Old or New testament, that says, If you believe in Me, you ain't going to have no troubles.

We'd all do well to remember that!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Connection problems

Dear readers,

I've lost internet connection at home so posting will be sporadic until that is up and running again.

Thanks for your understanding!


Friday, May 22, 2009

"Come dance with Me"

Artist: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Oh, I love this poem so much! I was this child. (I am this child.)

Has known God,
Not the God of names,
not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does anything weird,

But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me.”



Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ascension of Our Lord


From an article by a Presbyterian pastor:

In his most striking commentary on the Ascension Calvin says: "Since (Christ) entered heaven in our flesh, as if in our name, it follows, as the apostle says, that in a sense we already sit with God in the heavenly places in him (Christ). At the Ascension, our humanity, our "flesh," has been "taken" (Acts 1:11) by God's Beloved One into the very heart of God. This is profound good news for us as Christians and for our whole world. It means that we are more deeply valued, loved and held by God than we may have known before.
This ascension of Jesus Christ is good news for us as Christians, and through us, for our world. It means that God loves, values, holds, and will transform our fragile and broken humanity in Christ. It means that, at the Ascension, Jesus took all of human life, which he cared for so deeply, and brought it "into the heavenly places," into the very heart of God. This includes the suffering refugee, the abused child or spouse, the victim of war or terror, the lonely one in the nursing home, the one who struggles with depression or a lost sense of worth and value, those who are sick, all who are in difficult transitions in life.

-- John S. McClure

This, truly, is divine encouragement.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The questions and the song

"The Turtle Dove"
Artist: Sophie Anderson
The disciples were full of questions about God. Said the master, "God is the Unknown and the Unknowable. Every statement about him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the truth."

The disciples were bewildered. "Then why do you speak about him at all?"

"Why does the bird sing?" said the master. "Not because it has a statement, but because it has a song."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Commitment and joy

It's an interesting principle expressed here that actually making a commitment to joy is necessary:

I have committed myself to joy. I have come to realize that those who make space for joy, those who prefer nothing to joy, those who desire the utter reality, will most assuredly have it. We must not be afraid to announce it to refugees, slum dwellers, saddened prisoners, angry prophets. Now and then we must even announce it to ourselves. In this prison of now, in this cynical and sophisticated age, someone must believe in joy.

- Richard Rohr, OFM

As you all know, I have admired Fr. Richard for many years now and was wonderfully privileged to have attended one of his seminars over the 2009 New Year celebration.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More on friendship

"Love and Friendship"

Yesterday's gospel reading is staying with me today --- mainly because some friends I care about have been in a very unpleasant conflict with each other. Here are two thoughts that I think are very wise indeed:

A friend is someone who, upon seeing another friend in immense pain,
Would rather be the one experiencing the pain,
Than to have to watch their friend suffer.

-- Amanda Gier

Here's the other one:

Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead.

-- Chinese Proverb

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Easter 6

"I do not call you servants any longer... but I have called you friends..."
-- from this morning's gospel reading

This is one of my favorite quotations on friendship:

When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.

-- Edgar Watson Howe

And here's the other:

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
I don't know who said that but it's very true. And real friends are very rare.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The ethic of reciprocity

It's known as "The Golden Rule".

Today I found a marvelous page entitled "18 Practical Tips for Living the Golden Rule" and thought I'd pass it on. Here are three of them that I particularly like:

Practice empathy. Make it a habit to try to place yourself in the shoes of another person. Any person. Loved ones, co-workers, people you meet on the street. Really try to understand, to the extent that you can, what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.
Stop criticism. We all have a tendency to criticize others, whether it’s people we know or people we see on television. However, ask yourself if you would like to be criticized in that person’s situation. The answer is almost always “no”. So hold back your criticism, and instead learn to interact with others in a positive way.
Don’t control others. It’s also rare that people want to be controlled. Trust me. So don’t do it. This is a difficult thing, especially if we are conditioned to control people. But when you get the urge to control, put yourself in that person’s shoes. You would want freedom and autonomy and trust, wouldn’t you? Give that to others then.
The other tips are good as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Light in the Darkness

"The Apostle Paul in Prison"

I have had huge respect for Joan Chittister for many years now. Here's something I just found that is very applicable to my experience these days and to that of several of my friends:

Never fear periods of darkness in life. They are the atrium to new phases of life, the threshold to new experience, the invitation to move on from where you are to where there is more for you to learn.

— Joan Chittister in Light in the Darkness

I'm going to make an effort to remind myself of that word "invitation" on a regular basis.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The natural world at worship

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes I think we are way too anthropocentric - about a lot:

The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God. This leaf has it own texture and its own pattern of veins and its own holy shape, and the bass and trout hiding in the deep pools of the river are canonized by their beauty and their strength. The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea too is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance.

The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God’s saints. There is no other like him. He is alone in his own character; nothing else in the world ever did or ever will imitate God in quite the same way. That is his sanctity.

-- Thomas Merton

(I wonder what Thomas Merton would think of what we have been doing to the earth since his death in 1968.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reality and unreality

Years ago, when I was living in Ireland, I listened to a tape of a talk by Fr. John Main on meditation. I had read about him briefly before but the talk itself let me know that this was a true master:

The longer you meditate, the longer you persevere through the difficulties and the false starts, then the clearer it becomes to you that you have to continue if you are going to lead your life in a meaningful and profound way…

What is the difference between reality and unreality? I think one way we can understand it is to see unreality as the product of desire. One thing we learn in meditation is to abandon desire, and we learn it because we know that our invitation is to live wholly in the present moment. Reality demands stillness and silence. And that is the commitment that we make in meditating. As everyone can find from their own experience, we learn in the stillness and silence to accept ourselves as we are. This sound very strange to modern ears, above all to modern Christians who have been brought up to practice so much anxious striving: "Shouldn't I be ambitious? What if I'm a bad person, shouldn't I desire to be better?"

The real tragedy of our time is that we are so filled with desire, for happiness, for success, for wealth, for power, whatever it may be, that we are always imagining ourselves as we might be. So rarely do we come to know ourselves as we are and to accept our present position. But the traditional wisdom tells us: know that you are and that you are as you are…This is the stability that we all need, not the striving and movement of desire but the stability and the stillness of spiritual rootedness.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It seems to me that Mother's Day is a good time to review what Lady Julian said about the motherhood of God, the motherhood of Christ:

And thus in our creation God Almighty is our natural father, and God all-wisdom is our natural mother, with the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit. These are all one God, one Lord.
For the Almighty Truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and preserves us in himself; the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our mother, in whom we are enclosed; the lofty goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us.
The Second Person of the Trinity is our mother in nature, in our substantial making. In him we are grounded and rooted, and he is our mother by mercy in our sensuality, by taking flesh.
To motherhood as properties belong natural love, wisdom and knowledge - and this is God.
I've only given you a sample here. Julian makes many more references to the Divine as our Mother.

Of course, there are many more references to the Motherhood of God than Julian's - both in Scripture and throughout the history of the Church. But that's a topic for another day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Love from God

Love which stems from created things is like a small lamp whose light is sustained by being fed with olive oil.

Again, it is like a river fed by rainfall; once the supply that feeds it fails, the surge of its flow abates.

But love whose cause is God is like a spring welling up from the depths; its flow never abates, for God alone is that spring of love whose supply never fails.

-- St. Isaac the Syriac

I've spent a lot of time over the years listening to the heartache of people who are obsessed with that "love which stems from created things". There is, of course, nothing wrong with such love. It's just that when it is the only source of our happiness, we are setting ourselves up for much misery.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Paradox and Via Negativa

Some years ago I heard a talk by Fr. Richard Rohr on tape in which he quoted the following:

In order to arrive at pleasure in everything, you must seek pleasure in nothing.
In order to arrive at possessing everything, you must seek to possess nothing.
In order to arrive at being everything, you must seek to be nothing.
In order to arrive at knowing everything, you must seek to know nothing.
In order to arrive at that in which you find no pleasure, you must go by a way in which there is no pleasure.
In order to arrive at that which you do not know, you must go by a way you do not know.
In order to arrive at that which you do not possess, you must go by a way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not, you must go by a way in which you are not.

-- St. John of the Cross

Rohr used a different translation. I wish I could find the one he used as it was a bit simpler. But this will do; oh, yes, this will do.

It is very strengthening and consoling to me right now and I hope will be for others who read it.

(The open circle or enso as pictured above represents enlightenment, emptiness, reality, the all, the void, the absolute.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Henry Finlay (May 1, '95 - May 5, '09)

Henry Finlay

My wonderful, wonderful cat, Henry, died "the good death" peacefully in my arms around 12:30 PM today.

His kidneys had failed and he had stopped eating and drinking. It was time.

Henry was magnificent in every way - genuinely beautiful, possessed of great dignity, and more affectionate than any other cat who has ever shared my life. He specialized in nose kisses and ear nuzzles! He was the "old man" of the family and never lost his "top kitty" status --- even after he got sick.

I am, of course, grief stricken - especially losing him so soon after my beloved Izzy.

But I am grateful and always will be. Grateful to have had the opportunity to give him a forever home when he needed one and even more grateful for all the emotional and spiritual support he has given me for thirteen years now.

Rest in peace my sweet boy. You are purring for the angels now.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Beyond finite comprehension

Something I just found:

What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God's love, a love we don't even have to earn.

-- Madeleine L'Engle

That's what's happening to the church now, isn't it? A lot of us are choosing to "dogmatize our fear" and a lot of people are getting hurt in the process. And the church is getting hurt too.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

And we also need this

for Good Shepherd Sunday:

Sorry to give you Lenten trappings on the video during Easter but this really was the nicest version I could find. What a small choir and what a lovely sound!

Now, I also want to recommend that you go hear the San Marino High School Chamber Choir perform this at St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. Sadly, the recording of the sound is not very good on this YouTube video. However, if you listen carefully, you can tell that this is an amazingly well trained choir with a deeply mature sound. I like the peformance very much.

Good Shepherd Sunday

Image found here (source unavailable)

I simply cannot do better on this day than to quote the marvelous sermon our dear MadPriest posted over on his blog the other day:

The sheep of the field do not destroy their own environment even when they know that such destruction will make life, if there still is any life, a living hell for their children. The sheep of the field do not go around killing each other over fossil fuels and ideologies. The sheep of the field do not go to every length to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease in cows whilst doing very little to contain the spread of a deadly illness that can infect them, because to do so would interrupt world trade and the making of money.

We are the most foolhardy, selfish and self-harming animal that has ever walked on this planet. Any shepherd of ours should look on us, in our self-inflicted misery, and decide, very quickly, that we are just not worth the laying down of any life for. Our salvation, you would think, is just not worth it.

Yet our shepherd, Jesus Christ, did lay down his life for our salvation, and he did it willingly. We did not earn such a sacrifice, we did not merit such a sacrifice, but Jesus still made the sacrifice. And in doing so he gave worth to the worthless, he gave worth to each one of us, although we did not deserve it.

-- The Rev. Jonathan Haggar

I also want to call everyone's attention to this tidbit from todays Epistle (1 John 3:16-24): "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action." May we all let it speak to us - however it will.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I did not know Mr. Rogers had said that!

Did you know he was a Presbyterian minister?

Also, he was a vegetarian.

Here are a few other things he said:
You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they're loved and capable of loving.
I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred.
What do you think it is that drives people to want far more than they could ever use or need? I frankly think it's insecurity. How do we let the world know that the trappings of this life are not the things that are ultimately important for being accepted?
At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job.
How very heartening, energizing and reassuring are all of these quotations!

You can get the pendant pictured above right here.