Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Feast of the Incarnation

This beautiful Christmas hymn has been a favorite of mine since I was a child.

May the blessings and joys of Christ's holy incarnation be with everyone this day and always!


Monday, December 24, 2012


"Kingdom people are history makers. They break through the small kingdoms of this world to an alternative and much larger world, God’s full creation. People who are still living in the false self are history stoppers. They use God and religion to protect their own status and the status quo of the world that sustains them. They are often fearful people, the nice proper folks of every age who think like everybody else thinks and who have no power to break through, or as Jesus’ opening words put it, “to change” (Mark 1: 15; Matthew 4: 17)." 

 -Richard Rohr, "Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The true consolation of Advent

When I was a little girl, my Sunday School teachers and church choir director made it very plain that Advent was only partly about the coming of Christmas. It was really more about Christ's second coming in glory.

Some time ago I found a blog with a posting that talks about that by referring to the Book of Revelation - also known as the Apocalypse:
Spoiler alert: if you want to know what the Apocalypse is about, I will happily summarize it for you in two words: God wins. The longer version is that no matter how mighty and oppressive earthly powers may be and no matter how dire the plight of the faithful may be, the victory is ultimately God's and those who hold fast to God and remain faithful will share in God's victory. All the rest, as they say, is commentary.

This is a book written from a pastoral perspective to people in times of persecution and affliction, a book designed to strengthen faith and give hope, a book that calls us all to repent and turn from the ways and values of the world and hold fast to God.

-- Paul
God wins. With the world (and the earth) facing such horrible calamities today, that's a good thing to know.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The time for contemplation

Here's something Thomas Merton said that I had not come across before today:
"The time for contemplation is the spring that feeds our action, and our action will be as deep as the spring. We need time to allow the spirit to clear the obstacles - the clinging debris and mud - that keeps the spring from flowing freely from its clear, deep source. And we need time for the spring to overflow into insightful and compassionate action."

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Feast of Christ the King

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I have long admired the Jesuit priest, Fr. John Kavanaugh who died earlier this month. Here's something he said in a reflection about yesterday's observance:
In answering Pilate, Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world. It is a kingdom not fought for with old means of warfare. Rather, it testifies to truth. It will not kill for the truth, it will die for it. If Jesus is king, he will be a suffering king. He will not demand ransom. He will be ransom. He will win, not by spilling the blood of others, but by offering up his own.

Over the centuries Christians have had trouble with this new kind of king, so much have we hungered for the earthly assurances of conquest and control. But it is equally true that the centuries have seen men and women who recognized in Jesus a kingliness that summoned nothing less than the loyalty of a free human heart. Something was unlocked in them when they discovered a "lord of life" whose ambition was not to dominate humanity but to save and serve it.
Those words, "the loyalty of a free human heart", are very powerful. If this is what Christ wants from us, how can we possibly justify the oppression of others or even stand by passively when we see that oppression?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day, 2012

"Election Day in Philadelphia"

Did you know that at one time Election Day sermons were customary? Here's an excerpt from a more up to date one by Forrest Church:
But, in the largest sense of the word, neither [candidate] is going to save us. Here the old Puritan preachers were right. The votes we cast for president are much less important than the votes we cast with and in our lives. Then God, greater than all and yet present in each, will save us. God will save us by looking through our eyes, and touching our hearts, and applying our hands to the saving work of neighborly love. Conversely, wherever you see neighborly hate, God is absent. God's love unites us, it doesn't divide us, either within or among ourselves.

If the United States of America is about anything it is about unity amidst diversity. E pluribus unum. Not one for many, but out of many, one.
May we all pray for our nation this night and extend compassion and lovingkindness in our prayers both to the candidates we support and to the candidates we oppose. And let us do what we can to make our nation just and good whatever our personal political outlook may be.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi

Someone gave me the above icon a number of years ago. I have affixed it to the wall just beside my front door so that I see it whenever I leave the house by that way.

Here is something St. Francis said:
Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.
And here's something I found about Francis that I think is quite beautiful:
St. Francis of Assisi fully understood this mysterious relationship between the world and the person seized by God's love. At times, Francis could perhaps seem to us to be too simple, too naive, to content our complicated modern minds. We pass far too quickly over his suffering, his hard and penitential life, his long hours of contemplation, his courage in face of the challenges of his time. What was the fruit of this life entirely given to God? A man that the animals considered their friend; a man who considered the sun and the moon as members of his family; a mendicant monk who gave all to the poor and who called death his sister. Francis dared to plumb the depths of the mystery of creation: everything was created for the glory of God; everything should render God this glory.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What color is an apple?

"Still Life - Apples and a Jar"
Artist: Samuel Peploe

I found this on the Spiritual Literacy blog that is kept by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat:

We always like to keep up with what Robert Fulghum is writing about in his online journal. He has a knack for finding delightful things in the ordinary experiences of everyday life. In an entry for May 31, 2009, he shares an encounter with a group of little children out for a stroll after a rainstorm. One of the children steps out of the line because he's seen a rainbow — not in the sky but in a puddle of water. His act of wonder opens the eyes of the other kids and the teacher to the path of imagination. This teaching story reminds us of the boy who, when asks the color of apples, says "white." The teacher says apples can be red or green or yellow, but the boy has looked inside them.
Wonder. Do you have it?

What's inside. Do you look?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Forgiveness as defiance

Artist: Rembrandt

Forgiveness as defiance. Now there's a concept, isn't it? Take a look:
Forgiveness is an embrace, across all barriers, against all odds, in defiance of all that is mean and petty and vindictive and cruel in this life.

Worth pondering. With sincere thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Every bit of love

Artist: Karl Nordström
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Quite a lovely image, I think:
It is good and true to think that every ray of the sun touching the earth has the sun at the other end of it. Just so, every bit of love upon God’s earth has God at the other end of it.
- Mark Guy Pearse

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hidden meanings

Artist: Henri Rousseau
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Today I offer you the following. Make of it what you will!
"Everything in this world has a hidden meaning. . . Men, animals, trees, stars, these are all hieroglyphics. . . When you see them, you do not understand them. You think they are really men, animals, trees, stars. It is only years later, that you understand."
— Nikos Kazantskis in Zorba the Greek

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our challenge

Artist: Ludwig Rösch 
Image from Wikimedia Commons 

I first discovered the recorded talks by John Main back in the early 90s. He was very much a forerunner in the re-discovery, really, of meditative practices in the Christian tradition.
"Our challenge as Christians is not to try to convert people around us to our way of belief but to love them, to be ourselves living incarnations of what we believe, to live what we believe and to love what we believe." 
-- Fr. John Main 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Learning to see the face of Jesus

Artist: Alexander Beridze
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

I read on another blog today, the story of someone doing a pastoral internship who was very frustrated by the need to have patience with a mentally handicapped man who liked to hang around the church. Finally the intern asked the supervising priest how he managed so well.
"Well," [the priest] said, "he’s Jesus." 

Before [the intern] could fall into a deep hole of guilt and pointless shame, [the supervisor] added this... The secret to a successful Christian life, he said, is seeing the face of Jesus in others and also knowing that you are Jesus’ face to someone else.  
I was taught this many, many years ago when I was child. I'm not very good at it at all. And, yet, knowing that this is what it's all about brings me great consolation.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Being itself

12th Century icon 
Image from Wikimedia Commons 

Here's something very, very refreshing by Richard Rohr:
It seems to me that we have made God a being instead of Being itself. Both John Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas said “Deus est Ens,” or “God is existence itself.” That is the first name of God in the Book of Exodus (3:14), which could rightly be translated “I am Am-ness,” or perhaps as Acts of the Apostles puts it: “God is the one in whom we live, and move, and have our being”
God is not A being alongside other beings. To believe that, to assert that, is actually to limit God when you think about it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Knowing when we have fallen

Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder 
Image from Wikimedia Commons 

Oh, I think this is so very, very true. And, if we let it, this realization can help us cultivate compassion for those who have no idea at all that they are in spiritual darkness:
We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.
-- Thomas Merton 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The job of loving

"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy." 
-- Fr. Thomas Merton

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Christ Feeding the Multitude

This is a Coptic icon. I found it over on Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, July 16, 2012

About those troubles

A repost that, undoubtedly, is timely for many.

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Sometimes it's very difficult to counteract the false message of the "prosperity gospel" that is being so widely preached today. As a result, many people "lose their faith" when they are beset by difficulties. I really like the following:
God has not promised to take away our trials, but to help us to change our attitudes toward them. That is what holiness really is. In this life, happiness is rooted in our basic attitude toward reality.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Core contemplative principles

I found the following on facebook:
"In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?" 
These are excellent questions, I would suggest, to be used by spiritual directors today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Resurrection - the real deal

I actually met this man about twenty-five years ago. He's the real thing:
"Wherever we bury Jesus, he comes back to life. We can bury him in the Bible or in stained glass windows, in creeds and formulas and the heritage of our own tradition, in movies and plays and music, in our past. We can even bury him in bread and wine. And each time from each place he rises from the dead. He sheds the words and images and walks right on out into the world." 
–Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Something about love

This is actually quite important, I would say:
"The things that we love tell us what we are." 
-- Thomas Aquinas 

(Image from Wikimedia Commons

Friday, June 22, 2012

About not crushing people with truth

Artist: Cornelis Pietersz Bega 

Many, many years ago, I came across a quite wonderful little book entitled The Laughter of God: At Ease With Prayer by Sister Miriam Pollard. Here's something in the foreword, actually, that caught my attention then and remains a guiding principle for me to this day:
Anguish is not healed by crushing its victim under the weight of every truth you know.  It is healed, or at least assuaged, by listening, by time and acceptance, and often by giving to the other the sense that you also have lived without answers.
I commend the book to you if you are able to acquire it. (I think it's out of print.) I may share a little bit more from this work over the next few days.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Something important about love

Artist: Friedrich Friedländer (1825–1901)
Oh yes:
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
-- Thomas Merton from No Man Is an Island

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The importance of meditation and contemplation

Do stick with this, folks. It's short (less than three minutes). And Fr. Rohr ends up making a point that articulates very skillfully how the meditative approach supports Christian commitment.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

In honor of Trinity Sunday

Oh. This is amazingly beautiful. Truly. (Do listen all the way to the end for the tenor entrance.)


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost and economics

I know I've blogged before on the sermons of Lutheran pastor, The Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York. I'm very, very impressed with her. Here's an excerpt from one of her Pentecost sermons:
Pentecost often ends too soon. The first part of the story is thrilling. The sound of a mighty wind. The tongues of fire. People from all over the Roman Empire hearing their own languages spoken by ordinary Galileans. The promise of the Spirit poured out on young and old, including slaves, both women and men. Pentecost means all of that. As the story goes on, Peter stands up to preach, and he preaches such a powerful sermon that over 3,000 people are baptized. Pentecost means all of that too. But Pentecost ends too soon if it has nothing to do with possessions, with wealth and poverty, with what we call economics. Economics is from the Greek word oikos, which means household. How do we live together in God's household? Well, I know economics is a subject so complicated that our eyes glaze over at the mention of the word. But God is very interested in economics, about what we do with our possessions and portfolios.

* A Pentecost church will reach out to people of every language and tongue.

* A Pentecost church will call young and old, women and men to prophesy.

* A Pentecost church will preach and baptize, but the story always ends too soon if a Pentecost church isn't concerned about economics.

A few years ago I talked with a friend of mine who's a pastor in New England. "How's your building program going?" I asked. "Oh, we ran out of money before we got to the worship space," she said. I thought to myself, "What could be more important than the worship space?" But I kept my thoughts to myself. "We renovated the basement," she said. "You know, we have a shelter there for homeless men. We put in new showers and renovated the old kitchen. The basement was so drab, and the showers-well, there was only one shower and it was lousy. On the Sunday before the shelter opened, the worship service began as usual in the sanctuary. When it came time for communion, the people carried the bread and the cup downstairs to the basement. The whole congregation gathered around the empty beds. They passed the bread and the cup around the circle. The body of Christ given for you. That night the shelter beds were full, and the worship space still needed a lot of work." The church calendar still said it was the first Sunday of Advent. But people in that congregation knew that Pentecost wasn't over. Pentecost shaped their life together, and it had everything to do with economics.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Something for Ascension Sunday

As  you can tell from the tree in the background, this particular video recording was intended for Christmas, however, "Thou are gone up on high" is often considered appropriate for Ascension. Please do listen. This is a glorious voice and a masterful performance.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

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.

This, truly, is divine encouragement.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Something about receiving

A book has just come to my attention called The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve by Amanda Owen. (Mind you, I'm not very fond of the subtitle but the excerpt I read just now is quite wonderful.)

Yes, I know Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive and he is certainly right, of course, with regard to our responsibility for and to the poor and brokenhearted.  But just think about the following:
"Receiving is much harder than giving. It can be emotionally risky; it requires opening up to a possibility or desire that may not be fulfilled. Giving is easy. Not only do you get to showcase your more saintly qualities, but also your ego enjoys the reward — the payoff of giving....  Have you experienced the pleasure of giving to a grateful recipient? Isn't it obvious in that moment that receiving and giving are flip sides of the same coin? ...  All of the help, information and abundance in the universe cannot get through to you if you have a negative belief about receiving. Nothing can get through that distortion. That energy is strong! It is like an energy wave that pushes away the very thing that is trying to assist! Perhaps you know people who reject again and again offers of assistance, of love, of connection. Perhaps this is you."
Yes, I do know people like this. And it can be very discouraging, even painful, when such a person rejects a gift.
UPDATE:  I just found the following over on the Amazon page for this book:
"I've been one to give until I'm depleted, yet feel embarrassed when someone gives to me; my energy and resources were painfully out of balance." 
I would definitely say that people in this category truly need to become acquainted with the skill and virtue of receiving.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The laughter of God

Artist: Scott Kiche

The following is by Teresa of Avila. To me, the idea of laughter coming from bricks is a truly marvelous one!
Just these two words He spoke changed my life, "Enjoy Me."
What a burden I thought I was to carry - a crucifix, as did He.
Love once said to me, "I know a song, would you like to hear it?"
And laughter came from every brick in the street and from every pore in the sky.
After a night of prayer, He changed my life when He sang, "Enjoy Me."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Conjuring love

Artist: Andrew Stevovich

Oh, my. Please look at this. A friend of mine over on facebook posted it and it is quite wonderful:
Today I will conjure love from the empty air. I will call it out from thin places where people walk without breathing, from dark places where they stumble without seeing. I will find love in those I do not like and let love appear in the faces I avoid. I will make room for love in my life even if I feel overcrowded with worry. I will offer love without restraint even if I have not received love in return. I will dance with love in innocent pleasure. I will sing love as though my voice were a new discovery. Today I will be the love God made me be when God called me from the empty air.
It is by Bishop Steven Charleston who, these days, lives right here in Oklahoma.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A new consciousness

Artist: Lorenzo Lippi

I have valued the website entitled Spirituality and Practice for a good many years now.  I found the following quotation there today:
"Only a renewed consciousness of the worth of each and every one of us can provide the beginning of a new politics and of community that could bring us together. To create such a new consciousness will be a formidable spiritual and political task." 
— Jim Wallis in The Soul of Politics 
To Practice This Thought: See the image of God in every person you encounter today.
Election year in the United States can be a very stressful time for anyone and it can be difficult for some of us to maintain the kind of spiritual outlook we truly want to have. The recommendation above can help, I would suggest.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My apologies

Sorry I haven't posted for a while, dear people. I've been down with a very unpleasant cold and cough.

Be back soon!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The futility of declaring sin illegal

This is a re-post from a while back. It really does seem pertinent for right now:

Artist: Francisque Millet

Today's religious right could sometimes be seen to be promoting a new puritanism. But, you know, it really doesn't work to impose one's belief system or moral code on other people:
Two thousand years of failure have not taught some reformers that you can't stop sin by declaring it illegal. Two thousand years have not taught them that you can't save a man's soul by force -- you can only lose your own in the attempt. Drunkenness and gambling and secularism and lechery -- various hopeful churchmen have earnestly tried to outlaw them all; and what is the result? A drunken nation, a gambling nation, a secularist nation, an adulterous nation. And, often, a ruined Church. 
In case you don't recognize the name Joy Davidman, she wrote a number of books including Smoke on the Mountain (from which the above passage is taken) and was also married to C.S. Lewis.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Something about Resurrection

I continue to mourn the much too early passing of this wonderful writer and speaker:
“When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday

Somehow, this seems appropriate for today:
“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

WITH Jesus on the cross

I offer you the final paragraph of a sermon preached this day by Diana Butler Bass in Alexandria, Virginia. I do love what she says here about "God's dream of love and justice for the whole world."  May these words truly speak to us in our own reflections of what it means to be with another.
"The Cross isn’t a contract between God and sinners; the Cross is God’s definitive expression of kinship and love—that everything, everywhere, through all time, is connected in and through pain and suffering. We are with Jesus on the Cross, not at a distance from it, standing by, watching safely from afar; those are our hands and feet nailed, our blood dripping, our voices crying out “We thirst.” And Jesus on the Cross, naked and mocked, is with us all on every broken-heartened, betrayal-laden, blood-soaked day of human history. That is God’s Passion; that is Jesus’ Cross. And, in the tortured Christ, we find the hope to endure, a love for others and creation, the power to enact God’s dream of love and justice for the whole world. We are with God. God is with us. This is why the Cross should cause us to tremble, tremble. We tremble at the fearsome with of God."
Artist: Stefano di Giovanni (15th century)
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 5, 2012


An excerpt from a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedus:
The word “Maundy” does not have any meaning in and of itself. It is one of those exotic Episcopal or Anglican terms we sooner or later all become familiar with in our church. Scholars are not even sure of the word’s origin, though most now believe it to be a Middle English corruption of the Latin word mandatum – “commandment” – which appears in an ancient antiphon assigned for this day: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”

This antiphon, taken of course from today’s gospel account, is an apt summary of what this day is about. And Jesus’ commandment to love is as much a new commandment today as it was in his own time. The command to love is, after all, always new – as is love itself. And the lesson of this day, Maundy Thursday, applies equally well to last Thursday and next Thursday and to all the Thursdays and other days yet to come. It is a lesson or mandate we, as followers of Christ, dare not forget.
And yet, we do forget. Sadly, tragically, inexcusably, we forget.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Thoughts by a great doctor of the Church

Artist: Ernst Hanfstaengl

I found myself thinking today of the first of the quotations I'm offering here by Teresa of Avila. Then I decided to add a few more for good measure!
“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass; God never changes." 
“To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that.” 
“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” 
“The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.”
Of late, that last one has become one of my favorites. It seems that Teresa was an early process theologian.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How you see anything

Artist: Franz Marc

I know I've used this quotation before but I can't remember where right now. It's by Richard Rohr and I think it is truly wonderful:
"You cannot earn this God. You cannot prove yourself worthy of this God. It is simply a matter of awareness. Of enjoying the awareness. Deepening the awareness. There are moments when we believe it. Then it all makes sense. Once I can see it here, and trust it, even in this piece of clay that I am, in this moment of time that I am, -- then the compliment is also passed onto you. I am able to see the divine image both in myself and in you and eventually in all things. Finally, the seeing is one. How you see anything is how you will see everything."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Letting go of attachment

Artist: Rembrandt

It was the great mystic, Meister Eckhart, who said the following:
"... we should learn to see God in all gifts and works, neither resting content with anything nor becoming attached to anything. For us there can be no attachment to a particular manner of behavior in this life, nor has this ever been right, however successful we may have been."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Deeply lovely

Beautifully, beautifully performed.

This is one of the most well known traditional chants. It has been often quoted by a number of great composers.

You will not be sorry you listened!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The mirror of awareness

Artist: Karl Pavlovich Bryullov

I have long admired the work of Anthony de Mello, the Jesuit priest, retreat conductor, psychotherapist, who died in 1987.  Today I have been spending reflective time in his little book The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello. Here's something toward the end that is very powerful and worthy of much thought:
Holiness is not an achievement, it is a Grace. A grace called Awareness, a Grace called Looking, Observing, Understanding. if you would only switch on the light of awareness and observe yourself and everything around you throughout the day, if you would see yourself reflected in the mirror of awareness the way you see your face reflected in a looking glass, that is, accurately, clearly, exactly as it is without the slightest distortion or addition, and if you observed this reflection without any judgments or condemnation, you would observe all sorts of marvelous changes coming about in  you.  Only you will not be in control of these changes, or be able to plan them in advance, or decide how and when they are to take place. It is this nonjudgmental awareness along that heals and changes and makes one grow.  But in its own way and in its own time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A turning of the soul

Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder

This is by Samuel H. Miller from his book, The Dilemma of Modern Belief. I do agree. Glory. Glory.
"In the muddled mess of this world, in the confusion and boredom and amazement, we ought to be able to spot something — an event, a person, a memory, an act, a turning of the soul, the flash of bright wings, the surprise of sweet compassion — somewhere we ought to pick out a glory to celebrate."

Friday, March 9, 2012

The center of the home within us

Artist: Ferdinand Dorsch

Today I found myself pulling from my shelves a book I've actually had for a long time that's entitled Coming Home: A Handbook for Exploring the Sanctuary Within by Betsy Caprio and Thomas M. Hedberg. Here's something I found in it today that I'd really like to share with you:
Becoming the spiritual detective is an acquired skill. When we first begin the explorations of the psyche, we may feel in a strange place -- just as any new home feels strange at first. Then, with time, we learn our way around just as we are soon able to find our way around a new home in the dark. And the spiritual seeker learns how to let the inner and the outer worlds in which he or she moves become two  parts of one whole, so that they are continually informing each other. This is how we find our way to the center of the home within us, the place where God lives and waits for us.
I first acquired this book during a period of my life in which I didn't really have a home. Oh, I had a place to live but my presence there was resented and so I really didn't feel at home. Learning to rely on the knowledge that I had a home within was a big, big help.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Taking proper care of one's own soul

Artist: Charles Sprague Pearce

Here is a very wonderful passage from the works of Thomas Merton:
"The deep secrecy of my own being is often hidden from me by my own estimate of what I am. My idea of what I am is falsified by my admiration for what I do. And my illusions about myself are bred by contagion from the illusions of other men. We all seek to imitate one another’s imagined greatness.

"If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become what everybody else seems to want to become. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seems to admire, I would really begin to live after all. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think and of acting in a way that betrays God’s truth and the integrity of my own soul."
This is truly a very important observation because so many church people make a huge effort to be what the Church wants them to be. And that is a soul-destroying enterprise, I would assert.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A bit of a nuisance

My friend, MadPriest, posted the following:
"Blogger is messing us about again. Recent changes to the comment facility has resulted in the disappearance of the ability to subscribe to a comment thread if you have your comment settings set to pop up window. However, it is still there if you set your comments to "embedded beneath post."

"I strongly suggest that we all change our settings to embedded. Otherwise there will be no conversations on our blogs anymore and a drastic reduction in visits.

"Thanks to Grandmère Mimi for sussing this one out for us."
So, I'm off to change all those settings right now.

(Image above from Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Silence and laughter

Artist: Salvatore Rosa

The following is from A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker Palmer:
"The soul loves silence because it is shy, and silence helps it feel safe. The soul loves laughter because it seeks truth, and laughter often reveals reality. But above all, the soul loves life, and both silence and laughter are life-giving. Perhaps this is why we have yet another name for people who can share silence and laughter with equal ease: we call them soulmates."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why a rule of life can be so valuable

The Society of St. John the Evangelist is an Episcopal monastic order for men. This particular monastery is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Keeping a holy Lent

Artist: Margret Hofheinz-Döring

Hmmm. Has anybody ever thought of giving up hurry for Lent?
"To be impatient is to be hooked on the future."

All of the great spiritual teachers I've ever studied have emphasized the importance and, indeed, the holiness of the present moment. May I suggest that we use whatever Lenten discipline we may have chosen as a way of helping us be truly mindful of the here and now.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spiritual reflection on Downton Abbey

Artist: George Hendrik Breitner

Today I happened to come across a short piece by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, the authors of the outstanding website entitled "Spirituality and Practice".  Do take a look:

10 Spiritual Takes on Downton Abbey

Here's a sample:
6. The series as a whole provides a poignant and diverse presentation of the dynamics of emotional literacy as played out in the lives of the upstairs aristocracy and the downstairs staff.

7. We realize that the web of life revolves around our relationships with others and that we should see others not as adversaries but as fellow-travelers on the path of wisdom and insight.
9. The variety of characters in the drama show us the irrational and disturbing aspects of our behavior and give us glimpses of our hidden shadow sides.
There is material for our spiritual lives and for doing our inner work absolutely everywhere.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The importance of mystery in a person's life

Artist: Heinrich Tomec

Do pardon the repeated use of generic masculine language in this passage by G. K. Chesterton and consider the times in which it was written. (It is just too good, in my opinion, not to it use it for that reason alone.)

From what I can discern, by "the ordinary man", Chesterton is referring to the person who is not particularly sophisticated in the sense, perhaps, of being thoroughly up to date in some regard. He seems to contrast this with "the morbid logician" to which he refers toward the end of this passage:
As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus, he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus, he believes that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Really believing that we are accepted

Today, I'd like to share with you a couple of brief excerpts from a sermon I preached some time ago. I stumbled upon it this morning while looking for something else.

I feel as strongly about this today as I did when I first preached it.

I'd love to hear some response about Tillich's great "acceptance" passage if anyone is so inclined!

Here you go:
“Sometimes… a wave of light breaks into our darkness and it is as if a voice were saying, ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you… Do not seek for anything…; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’” 
The great theologian Paul Tillich said that. And as far as I’m concerned nothing else he wrote comes close to the power, the startling, staggering, perfect truth of this famous “acceptance” statement. If I were the rector of a Church I think I would be tempted to repeat this quote to the same people every Sunday for a year, I think it is so important.
Can you accept the fact that you are accepted? It sounds so simple – perhaps too simple. But this acceptance is exactly what Paul is talking about when he says, “if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”
What an extraordinary a gift it is to be accepted! How dare we think it is too easy! Surely there is something else we have to do! Do you think Tillich’s statement is too easy? “Accept that you are accepted?” I did. Until I tried it. Anyone who has spent much time in silent meditation knows how difficult it is to be completely aware of our own thoughts and feelings and then to accept them – unconditionally. I cannot sit for five minutes – probably not even one minute – in such a total acceptance. Yes, the way of acceptance is a crucifixion. It hurts. It kills. And what it kills is that which must die if we are ever to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
In case you want to know, this part of the sermon was referring to Galatians 2:11-21.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Something about happiness

Artist: Gerrit van Honthorst

I found this wonderful little paragraph by Thomas Keating over on Inward/Outward - a website hosted by the forward thinking Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.

Keating's observation is very much in line with the meditative principle that suffering arises from grasping and attachments. I also really like his compassion in recognizing that one reason people are caught up in grasping is because they've been deprived. We can truly benefit from giving a like compassion to ourselves:
"We are made for happiness and there is nothing wrong in reaching out for it. Unfortunately, most of us are so deprived of happiness that as soon as it comes along, we reach out for it with all our strength and try to hang on to it for dear life. That is the mistake. The best way to receive it is to give it away. If you give everything back to God, you will always be empty, and when you are empty, there is more room for God."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A living and vigilant silence

Artist: Olof Hermelin

Oh, this passage by Thomas Merton is so, so beautiful. As much as I once wished for it, the life he describes here has not turned out to be my year-round, routine, life vocation. But I've had enough extended periods like this to cherish its value very deeply indeed:
"To deliver oneself up, hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hill, or sea, or desert: to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. This is a true and special vocation. There are few who are willing to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Something about understanding the universe

Artist: Joseph Mallord William Turner

Here are two very interesting quotations taken from an interview of the mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme:
The more I learn about light the more I realize, man, we don't know anything about light... It's just bizarre... a particle has it's own proper time which slows down as you speed up. But at the speed of light... there's no time. That's bizarre ... that we can, right now, as you know, see — interact with the light that has come from the birth of the universe. So ... from our point of view, that light traveled for 14 billion years but from the point of view of the light it's the moment of creation.
So I do think I do think absolutely that ... there will be a flourishing of religions, not a withering away. And they will flourish to the degree that they will move into the context of planet and universe. I even think that as a matter of fact that ... some of the central insights of the religions are more powerfully presented by what we know about the universe now then when they were first formulated.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Something about self-pity

Artist: Henri d Toulouse-Lautrec

One of my Facebook friends posted the following today by Inayat Khan. I do think it is a very insightful observation:
"If one studies one's surroundings one finds that those who are happy are so because they have less thought of self. If they are unhappy it is because they think of themselves too much. A person is more bearable when he thinks less of himself. And a person is unbearable when he is always thinking of himself. There are many miseries in life, but the greatest misery is self-pity."
Now, I want to hasten to add that self-pity is not the same as self-compassion. It's very important that we have compassion for ourselves because (among other reasons) if we don't, we are likely to project that lack of compassion onto others.

Self-pity is not only unattractive, it is profoundly dis-empowering.

When you think about it, Jesus was never given to self-pity. But he certainly had compassion on himself as well as on others.