There are moments in each of our lives when the world seems to echo the same message for us:
“Your life is your practice.”
Working with people in spiritual direction, I’ve witnessed how many of us want to revert to what now seems like a simpler life. Many would like to be a young adult again when life is full of possibilities. Others look nostalgically at the years when their children were young, work had meaning and they had a vision of where they were going and what they would have once they ‘arrived’.
Looking back may be entertaining and seductive, but more than likely we have forgotten all the challenges life in each of those stages held. And, looking backward can keep us from being present to what needs to be dealt with now in order to move forward.
Looking fondly back at younger days doesn’t help the man whose job held such promise only to find the corporation he had invested his hopes and dreams in was down-sizing. When these hopes and dreams are dashed, how does one live? We live through the practice of life, which is deeply personal on every level – emotionally, physically, financially, relationally, spiritually. We reach interiorly for strength and reach out for support.
I can only imagine the devastation of parents whose child died through a drowning or an accident or even through childbirth. How does one live through such loss? One day at a time, one tear at a time, one movement of love to others in the family and opening to receive love in return is the practice.
Major heath challenges can arrive at any stage of life. We can’t go back before the diagnosis but we can move forward. We can resent the illness and all we now need to do to support our body or we can allow all there is within us and around us to face the illness and its implications. Our life is truly our practice!
The truth through all of life is that no matter what we encounter in living, challenges come to us asking us to trust that there is a new vision that awaits us through perseverance. This new vision is born from love: love of self, love of what we have lost, and love of what awaits us through a power greater than any of us. This power —this love— flows through us into a world that awaits our transformation.
As you move through August with all the challenges you may need to face, may you hear in your heart “I am with you always.” “You are precious in my eyes and I love you.”
Each July, like most Americans, my mind wanders to the 1776 Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I feel my heart well up within me reading those words. I marvel at the belief in the dignity of humanity that they proclaim. I am in awe at such intense passion that the writers declared all are equal, that we are born with Rights endowed by our Creator and knowing something of the subsequent history of our country the willingness to fight for these Rights.
I hear the words of Lee Greenwood’s song “I am proud to be an America” ringing through my mind. It is a dream we are still working toward and struggling to create. As I listen to many speak of their concerns about our country, they echo my thoughts: We want to be proud of being American, but we believe we need to finish the work begun with the Declaration of Independence. We need to create a country where basic human rights are indeed rights for everyone.
My invitation this year, is to cherish what we have right now and to find ways to work toward making this a possibility for everyone. May the God who has endowed us with the Rights of being human give us the grace to extend those Rights to each other.
Happy Independence Day!
In my early adult years Father’s Day was a special day for letting my father know I loved and appreciated him. But in the years since his death I have felt a need to see the day through a different lens.
In my search for more meaning for this holiday, I came upon a note about its origin here in America:
In 1907 the Monongah Mining Disaster killed 361 of which 250 were fathers, leaving around 1000 fatherless children. A Methodist Minister was asked to honor all those fathers on behalf of the grieving children. It took years to spread outside of West Virginia, but as you know, it’s widely celebrated now.
As I pondered this history, my heart went to all the fatherless children of our time and the men whom they called father or dad. Men who were killed through wars or random shootings, through accidents, drug addictions, or illness and their children who still grieve their loss.
My heart also filled with gratitude for the men in our country who are devoted to their children and welcome the expression of love and appreciation those children offer on Father’s Day.
To all fathers, we pray you experience a day of honor and celebration.
Happy Father’s Day!
“Nobody could love me like Tom does” was a remark that set me to reflecting on the miracle of marriage.
As I sit with people who have been married ten, twenty, thirty and even forty years I am in utter awe and amazement. Living with someone day after day, struggling with all the challenges of home and family and profession, leaning upon each other through the hard times and the joy-filled times is to witness something beyond anything that is understood with the mind. It is a miracle!
As I listen to the unfolding story of those who have been married for years, I hear the Spirit within each one. It is the Spirit within one encountering the Spirit within the other that draws the love relationship into existence and sustains it through all the years. I often hear “I want him or her to be what I want and yet I know there is more than ‘what I want’ that is the glue holding the marriage together.”
Marriage is truly a grace. It is the soul of the couple joined together in Love and through all they experience are a witness to others the ‘height and depths, the length and breadth of what people are capable of because of Love.
June — the month of weddings, hopes and dreams, new beginnings and celebrations — is a lovely time to ponder our commitment to live a lifetime of love. May each of our ponderings open us to a re-commitment to the One who calls us into this marvelous dance of loving others out of how we have experienced being loved.
It is a miracle!
In some cultures, placing flowers on the graves of relatives who have died is still part of ‘Memorial Day’. They remember, give thanks and bring beauty to honor them.
But for most of us, it is a custom long abandoned. Ours is a culture of striving toward the future while forgetting that the future is born out of the past.
For me this year, Memorial Day has taken on a whole new meaning. With the thousands of people killed violently and at times buried secretly, I am aware there are no markers for them as in a cemetery. No one has brought flowers to honor their life nor their death.
Yet, the earth receives them and holds them in her heart. The flowers sing of beauty as they blow in the gentle breeze remembering all the years of violence that have marked her face. They did not die unnoticed.
Memorial Day this year is an invitation to transcend our futuristic culture for just a moment. Gaze at the flowers and be reminded that no violence can destroy us ultimately. The God of all creation holds each person and embraces all in mercy.
Please join me in a moment of remembering this weekend as we celebrate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Blessings!
When I began pondering the meaning of this month of May, I kept sensing it is about requesting: “May I…” and giving permission.
Often, after being with someone I briefly encountered and have touched at a soul level, I will ask “May I give you a hug?” “Oh yes, please” is the most frequent response I hear in return. Within each of us is a deep-seated need to feel respected and cherished. Yet, in our world today this need seems to be superseded by violence, abuse, indifference or exploitation.
Asking ‘May I’ also conveys a quality of gratitude that says: “You have touched my innermost being and I am so grateful”. This makes me recall the profound respect our First Nation peoples have in relationship to all of creation. They thank the plants and animals for their life and for being what was needed to sustain the lives of the people.
We have lost this awareness in our culture. As I watch lands devastated by over-use or by developers building more and more structures, I don’t hear ‘may I’ or ‘thank you’.
Can you imagine how different our culture would be if contractors would bow before the land and ask “may I build new homes upon you”? And can you imagine the earth’s response of “Oh yes, thank you for asking, I have longed to uphold families searching for a home”!
Imagine spending this month of May asking “may I…” to all that touches your soul and imagine being opened to seeing the earth, the people in your life respond by welcoming you into their tender, respectful and familiar embrace.
I smile as I imagine asking the birds: “may I listen to your song of love?” or the trees blowing in the wind: “may I watch you dance today?”
I think this is the way God is with each of us: asking “May I come closer?” “May I share with you the depth and breadth of my love for you”? May I share your life and be with you in all of your daily challenges”?
In this month of May, students will be preparing for graduation into a new moment in their lives. Mothers will be celebrated for all they are and forgiven for all they could not be, new life will be born, others will feel the ebb of their lives fade, and within it all may you hear a gentle voice ask: “May I be with you”?
I hope your heart will respond as mine does today: “Oh yes, you certainly may, thank you!”
One of the most difficult Christian celebrations for many people is Easter. Well, not so much Easter because we have made it a secular celebration with all the candy, Easter eggs new toys etc. But more to the point, the resurrection! It just does not make sense to so many.
I won’t pretend I fully understand it myself, but my experience of life and the lives of people who come to Eremos is that resurrection is a reality!
There is a Life, a Vitality, within each of us that moves us through the myriad of sufferings that we experience. There is a woman who was diagnosed with Cancer. With chemo and then radiation she was told the margins showed her cancer had been eradicated. She was now ‘cancer free’. In the process of months dealing with side effects, treatments and uncertainties she was changed. She looked at the world differently. She looked at people she loved with a level of love that friends and family members could feel. Through her cancer she was ‘raised up’ to a new level of consciousness.
Scripture does not say Jesus rose up from death, but rather Jesus was raised up. So it is for us. We do not have power over our lives, but we have been given a quality of Life that will always rise us up through the challenges of living. We call this ‘New Life’ but in truth, it is the Life of God that has always been there since our conception. It is the Life of Christ within us raising us to a participation in the Life that is Christ that is greater than us.
As you pause this Easter, my hope is that you will experience resurrection through reflecting on all those moments and events that will let you also proclaim: “He is Risen”. As the old Easter hymn says: “I know because Christ lives in my heart!”
Christ Life be yours this Easter!
There is a quote from Ron Rolheiser that puts these ‘high holy days’ in perspective.
Good Friday: is about the loss of life. Easter Sunday: is the reception of a new life. 40 days: are for the readjusting to the new and grieving the old. Ascension: is a letting go of the old and letting it bless you; a refusal to cling. Pentecost: is the reception of a new spirit for the new life that one is already living.
As someone said to me recently, “Our Christian spiritual life does not always follow the liturgical calendar”. How true that is! Our lives, whether Christians or of other faith traditions, are not so neatly packaged. And it is also true that the evolution of our lives is not linear. Rather, it seems we dance from one moment into the next, or perhaps stay stuck in what feels like an eternal moment. Yet as we reflect on the insight Rolheiser offers us, we can certainly proclaim an affirming ‘yes!’
These are as much dimensions of what it is to be human today as it was 2100 years ago when the message was lived out in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Liturgically we Christians are moving toward and through Good Friday. We focus on the loss of life as Jesus had lived it. His relationships with people who professed that they believed in him, the betrayal of friends who ran away in fear of being identified as a friend, and the loss of innocence through the condemnation of the political and religious authorities of his time.
As we contemplate the loss of his life, we are drawn to the realization that condemnation and betrayal continues in our world today. Even in our own country, people are being deported, sent back to their original homeland or forbidden to enter the gates of hope our country holds. They are betrayed and condemned only to face the death they came here to escape.
And these past two weeks Eremos has been touched by the death of family members, of friends and colleagues through illness. We have also heard the cries of injustice when people lose their jobs because of administrative decisions. Good Friday exists very personally for all of us.
As I gaze out my window, I see the brown grass has become green, the trees are now full of green leaves, the sun has returned with its beauty and warmth, and I remember: death is not forever! There is life when the seed breaks through the dry soil and the snowdrop blooms. There is life when strong winds blow away the old branches that can’t rejuvenate allowing new life to flow. This is the dance of the seasons. It is Spring!
We face the ‘Good Fridays’ of our lives and the life of Jesus knowing there is Life with us and within us in living and dancing through each moment. May you discover your living moment and open to the Life that sustains you, supports you and calls each of us into the dance of Love.
“So many challenges and confrontations have come at me this week” said a young pastor as she sat down in the Eremos glider. “I can’t see what I am needing to do or where I am going” said another. And “We just don’t have the funds to keep our Nonprofit going” said a member of a board of directors with tears in her eyes. And still another looked down in shame and said “the fear I have around my studies has broken my covenant with God”. So many stories this week of confusion, loss of centeredness, and of anxiety have broken my heart as I listened.
In his book entitled Confessions, St. Augustin of Hippo wrote the following:
What does love look like?
It has hands to help others.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others.
That is what love looks like.”