Within the Christian experience, we’re now immersed in the intensity of ‘holy week’. There are so many themes running through it that it is almost overwhelming listening to all that unfolded in the life of Jesus in just one week.
And as I have pondered all those biblical stories, I recognize they are also our stories.
Who among us has not experienced a celebration and affirmation of our accomplishments perhaps through our work or education, or volunteering opportunities? Each of us knows the exhilaration of praise and acknowledgment that the Palm Sunday liturgy contains. And like Jesus, all too quickly we can be seen in disfavor by people in authority or the very people we have invited into a new way of thinking and relating to the one called God.
Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is to sit with those we love and celebrate a meal together. How often have we invited or been invited to share a meal with family and friends? How often have we looked around the table and gazed lovingly at these people? And often I hear stories from parents about the betrayal of their children and the stories of children needing to ‘get away’ from parents whose values are not consistent with who they want to be. And I hear stories of friends needing to leave friends to find those more compatible with who they have become. These are our stories of Holy Thursday in 2016.
Like Jesus, we too seek nature to restore our souls. In the wilderness we find a level of connection born of silence, of the earth from which all is made. In that space of intimacy we too grapple with who we are and who we need to become. We too learn to yield to a God whose name is as personal as the relationship we have been called into.
Good Friday can only be called that once we have come through the multitudes of deaths our lives have encountered. Some like Mary of Nazareth have sat with loved ones watching every drop of blood flow from their bodies. Some have watched as a loved one is executed for a crime s/he may have been judged to commit. Some have felt agony so deep they too cry out ‘why, why have you abandoned me’!
Is it any wonder that we need Holy Saturday? We need time to sit in silence and solitude to absorb all our life has held. All that being in relationship with others and with God has demanded.
It is indeed a ‘holy week’ because the very life of Jesus is our life too. I hope you will find time to journey through this week and discover anew who you are, who God is and how your life journey continues to be a holy one.
Guest Post by Manning Wolfe
Buckminster Fuller espoused the idea that a strong context is needed to foster lasting content. In other words, in order to display fruit, you need a fruit bowl to contain it. Working with Jean Springer as my Spiritual Director, and living within the Eremos community has supported the development of the context or framework, in which the new content or path, of my life is supported.
I came to Jean over fifteen years ago unable to step into the next chapter of my life. I was searching for a way to go deeper, to unload the baggage of the past, and to move into the possibility of a brighter more vibrant existence. I had grown tired of my career but did not know how to step into another one. I sought stability, peace of mind, and freedom of expression.
Jean’s ability to hold a space for creative possibility allowed me to evolve as a human being and move forward. She walked the talk and provided inspiration through her very being. Her sage advice and investment of time and energy in my individual development allowed me to explore and discover myself in ways I would not have found on my own. My trust in her and her ability to create a safe space allowed for my deeper awareness and growth. Our work in this safe environment for many years allowed me to develop myself.
Jean’s listening and encouragement allowed me to then integrate the learning into my life and her voice provided a strong “inner voice” of guidance that I carried with me into the world and used to find and express my own voice. Her unconditional acceptance, coupled with the sense of belonging in the Eremos community, allowed me to feel trusted and known. It allowed me to more fully reveal myself and therefore, become more capable of taking risks in the world outside the directing room and the Eremos membership.
Jean’s belief in my vision of living the writer’s life was as important as my desire to achieve it. Her gentle challenge to me to evolve as a person provided the inspiration for me to take on even greater challenges and stretch from within. Her non-judgmental respect for the pursuit of my dream of becoming a published author was important, but more significant was her assistance in developing the underlying values to drive the pursuit. She encouraged me to allow for the possibility that my path led outside the writing life. That freedom to choose and explore other possibilities affirmed my desire to continue toward a writing career.
An author friend of mine said to me, “If you are going to be a published writer, you can hide nothing. If you don’t put it all out there, you won’t succeed.”
I felt a bolt of truth when I heard that statement, as I had been working with Jean on this very topic for not months, but years. I had never encapsulated the issue this succinctly, but when I thought back, I had been moving toward my being in the world in this new “exposed” way for some time.
If Eremos is about going in, what does that have to do with going out into the world as an author and speaker? Everything, because the strength that is created through working with a Spiritual Director like Jean, reading and contemplating good ideas and materials, and spending time in quiet contemplation, meditation and moving arts, allowed me to become more balanced and accepting of my inner self. As Rev. Michael Beckwith would say, I strengthened my “spiritual muscle”. It provided the basis for shameless revelation of self to the world.
So, here I am with a book that has been revealed to everyone I know, and a lot of people I’ve never met. I am exposing myself in a huge way with inner thoughts and stories that I’ve not shared before. It is significant that my inner critic considered the novel to be inconsequential. It is a fun romp through the life of a fictional character. On the surface, it doesn’t have anything to do with contemplation or Spiritual enlightenment. It took a long time for me to see the value in pure entertainment without purpose because that is its purpose. I did not need to write the story of my inner development because the ability to put the book into the world is the proof of my expanded ability to create and share. It is the evidence that the context is in place to hold the content.
Thanks Jean! I could not have published my first book without your support and guidance. Thanks Eremos, for being in the world as a touchstone. Thanks Great Spirit, for freedom and the sheer joy of creativity.
About the Author:
Manning Wolfe, is a member of the Eremos community and is an author and attorney residing in Austin, where she writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas flavor. The first in her series, featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peak into some hero’s and shady characters’ lives and a unique perspective to spin yarns and tales about their adventures.
You can find her book on Amazon, at BookPeople, and wherever books are sold. www.manningwolfe.com
For so many people, February’s focus seems to be Valentine’s Day. Roses fill the stores and jewelry and perfume are advertised as signs of how much women are loved. The paradox is that Lent begins on February 10th with Christians all over the world focusing on sacrificial love.
Love needs expression! English attempts to convey so much in this one word. The Greeks use four words. Eros: a bodily experience of love; Phileo: affection between people; Agape, a sacrificial form of love unwilling to abandon that which is loved; and, Storge which is love of community and family.
Depending upon what’s happening in your life, the month of February can hold all of those qualities and experiences of love!
For people facing a terminal diagnosis, the waiting, the anxiety, the dizziness that comes from needing to make decisions means they stand exposed before the Mystery of Life and Love. “I am going to live until I die” proclaims a woman with stage 4 cancer and in this declaration she touches the hearts of all who know her. Living each day becomes the focus of Love for people with terminal illnesses. Their days are filled with trips for chemo or radiation treatment, doctor visits, and pain medications. And in the midst of all of this, they gather with family and friends because these connections are important touchstones of love and vitality. To be invited into the journey of people facing death is one of the greatest gifts of love we can be offered —embracing all the Greek words of love in one act of profound generosity.
“He knows me” came from a mother gazing into the eyes of her newborn child. And in that moment came a level of commitment that would transcend all the sleepless nights and worries as the child grew. Her love would be tested, but the bond of love could not be broken.
There are many moments in our lives that may not be as dramatic as both of these examples but the love we receive is profound. In those moments, we know that we are known. A touch, a gaze, a tender embrace or even a challenging word, open us to love and evoke within us a desire to love in return.
But there is even more love available to us: Divine Love! This quality of love contains all the Greek words for love and transcends them. It is a faithful love that says “even if your father and mother forsake you, I will never leave you”. It is a transforming love that says “come, follow me and I will love you into becoming what you can’t even imagine possible”. It is generative love that breathes life within each creation and invites us to continue choosing life.
The love of God is an opus sung to us in the daily rhythm of our lives. May you hear and experience this love this February. May you know how deeply and personally you are loved!
As I sit here on the threshold of a new year, I am reminded of all the people who have supported us. Our Board of Directors, our volunteers and all those who have participated in spiritual direction, contemplative programs, and our fundraising events.
We have felt so supported by all who read and comment about our e-newsletter and blog postings. Because of you Austin, San Antonio, Houston and the world is held in the tender mercy of the Beloved.
Moving into 2016 our prayer is that of St. Paul to the Ephesians:
Out of God’s infinite glory, may you receive power through the Spirit
for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and length, the height and the depth until knowing the love of the Divine, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.
We look forward to 2016 and our journey together.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
A light has shone.” Isaiah 9:1
With these words, our liturgy of Christmas begins. It is a story told for over 2000 years and with each telling, new awareness arises from our life experiences.
This has been a year of darkness through violence in our streets, inequality in our housing, racial and religious fears, families in mourning, abuse of our land and children, and Governors proclaiming “there is no room in our inn for refugees”.
We have looked for a Messiah! So many voices cry out to politicians through the media: “Who can lead us into the light?” And politicians respond with, “I will save you.” “I will keep you safe!”
Has a Light shone upon us? I live a contemplative life and this gives me a sacred lens through which to gaze upon the world. We have ‘seen a great Light’ my soul cries. A Light is shining in the minds and hearts of so many people.
We see the Light through those who risk seeking refuge in the values of a country that says ‘come’ ‘we welcome you’ whether this is in Dallas or Canada. We see the Light in the racial and ethnic tensions that have been part of our country forever, but are now revealing the causes and necessary actions we need to take. We see the Light in a child who cleaned a Mosque that had been desecrated by feces. We see the Light in the men and women working toward a cleaner environment. We have seen The Light burning within many people.
As the Christmas story unfolds, it was the birth of a baby in simple poverty, amid the animals and angels that became the Light that would be the source of illumination for “those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.”
The invitation of Christmas this year seems to be: Behold the Light “who has brought us abundant joy and great rejoicing.” Isaiah 9:2
May your Christmas be a celebration of Love and Light. We will hold you in prayer over these days of joy and rejoicing.
May your Christmas truly be merry and bright!
So many questions fill our minds and hearts as we anticipate this celebration of Thanksgiving Day.
I have listened to radio hosts question the Republican Candidates for Presidency asking:
“How can Evangelical Christians respond to the current crisis of immigration from their belief system?”
The answers are as varied as the candidates themselves indicating a genuine struggle between their faith and their desire to protect the people they hope to serve.
I have watched the national news reporters question a father with his young son “how do you talk to your child about the violence he has seen and heard?’ I listened as he focused the child’s attention to the multitude of candles and flowers telling him these were the signs that he was protected.
I have met with a group of concerned women as we partner to look at racism from a theological lens as we ask: ‘how do we listen for a change?” Just having people gather to listen with each other is already recognizing a change in our perspectives.
And within a program we held today I heard questions of ‘how do I find a job?’ How do I decide where I need to go next’? How can I take the gift of this day into the days ahead’? And I heard one person say that it is within community that the questions, the issues we face can be faced.
How do we celebrate a Thanksgiving Day when we are so conscious of the pain and grief that fills our minds and hearts and lives? We celebrate because there is so much to be thankful for. A family will celebrate the life of a woman wracked with pain who passed through death this morning. We give thanks for the many French people who are sitting outside in the café again ‘because this is what French people do!” We give thanks for our young adults who are passionate about working for a better world because ‘it is the right thing to do’.
The list is endless. This holiday is an opportunity to see the beauty that fills our lives and be thank-filled. It is only a day, but if we can each look more often through the lens of gratitude, the essence of Thanksgiving can become a pattern for living.
In the beauty of silence and solitude this Thanksgiving Weekend, I will be embracing each of you with a heart filled with gratitude. May you truly have a
Happy Thanksgiving Day!
Over these past few days, I have been inspired by the voices coming out of Washington!
Joe Biden in his statement to the American people proclaimed: This is what I believe
- We need to work together
- Children and child care is the one, biggest barrier for working families
- Lead more by power of example than example of power
- We need to end the divisive partisan politics that are ripping this country apart
- We need to keep moving forward in the arc of this nation toward justice
- The party is behind him
- The party will work as a team
- He cannot and will not give up family time
- He can be a unifying leader
And Paul Ryan has said he would run for Speaker of the House IF
For me, this is more than politics as usual. Two political leaders are asking for a country of justice, of balanced work and family life and are calling each of us to these high values as well.
We have been so focused on violence and division, on anger and frustration, on wars and extremism. We seem to have lost a reverence for life and the values that empower us to be human. We have needed our leaders to call themselves and each of us back to the basics of being human.
At our essence we are one! And because we are one, we need to care for one another and take care in how we treat one another. We need to find ways of balancing work and home life and of creating systems that respect this fundamental need. With leaders proclaiming it and each of us taking responsibility for creating it, we can mend the rifts in our families, our country and our world.
Mother Teresa once said: “Human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and it deserves always and everywhere to be treated with utmost dignity and respect.”
As we begin November honoring those who have died (Dia de los Muertos) and close out the month with a celebration of gratitude for all life has provided on Thanksgiving Day, may we truly see the hope we can celebrate this month.
For seven years I visited a man in a local nursing home. As my relationship with him grew in those seven years, so did my connections with the leadership and staff who took care of him.
On June 7th Frank died. Last week the nursing home held a memorial service for all of the residents who had died from June – September. It was a very simple ceremony held in the dining room. I was there as a friend in support of the family. But I received an amazing blessing by being present.
Quality of care for our parents, family members, and friends as they age is a concern we all have. How do we care for our loved ones as their ability to care for themselves diminishes? How do we deal with our own sense of limitation in facing their care needs? There are no easy answers, nor is there one answer for everyone.
Sitting at Frank’s memorial service helped me understand something about care. I watched as one of the nurses joined with a family member, embracing each other as they walked. Like a couple at a wedding ceremony, they lit a candle together honoring the person who had died. But they also honored the commitment made to each other, formed through the years of care. It literally took a village to provide the quality of care Frank needed in the last years of his life.
After the candle was lighted, they each returned to their own place – he to his fellow nurses and she to her family. That was the dance that had developed over the years. Frank was entrusted to the care of the nurses and staff who supported his family and friends as well. The family remained family all those years while acknowledging they could not provide the physical care he required.
As I pondered this, I realized that the essence of ‘care-giving’ is truly giving Care. There are so many intimate relationships created as we age. And for most of us, more and more people are invited into the conversation and dance about who will provide the care needed for a loved one.
The question What is the quality of care that is needed now? comes back to us like an echo over and over again each year. In answering this question, our circle of intimacy expands exponentially. More people are invited to enter our lives and the lives of those we love in deeply personal ways.
As the service drew to a close, one of the residents who had shared a meal table with Frank, came over with her walker holding two white roses. “I miss him” she said as she gave us the roses. As she had been part of his life, she too shared in our grief.
In his poem Fourth Quartet, T.S. Eliot writes:
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
As we age and care for others who age, Eliot’s message and the memorial service ring in my heart. Quality care-giving demands moving into more intense, intimate relationships.
May your life be filled with those who deeply care for you and may you share that caring with others.
The cry for peace has filled my thoughts lately as Eremos and many in the city of Austin prepare to focus of PEACE this month.
After two days of excruciating physical pain last week, a morning of calm and quiet gave me a chance to reflect on this intense experience. I began to consider fear as a contradiction to peace. Thinking about the inner turmoil that accompanied the physical pain, I asked myself if I was fearful because I didn’t know the source of the pain. Or, was I afraid of death? Perhaps I was afraid of debilitation. Could this turmoil have been because I felt my body was betraying me? Or, did I think I did something wrong and pain was the consequence? And so my thoughts and questions kept flowing…
None of these questions surfaced in the previous two days. It took calm to let them surface. In pain, there is only a consciousness of PAIN.
But pain can be a catalyst for drawing people together. I felt the love of others who reached out to touch me with their tenderness. “Go and rest, we can handle it” came from the people getting our mailing ready for the postal service. “Let me take you to the emergency clinic” came another response from a friend. Even my Chiropractor showed up at the door unsolicited—leaving only after uncovering a possible diagnosis and recommending that I get to a medical doctor for pain medication and further testing. And, imagine my relief and even delight in hearing the medical doctor say: “I don’t know what it is, but we can give you pain medication and see what happens!”
Here I am now four days beyond the pain reflecting on what the underlying fear really was. “I can’t be an instrument of Love” my soul responded. And quite frankly I believe this is the universal fear each of us holds. Pain turns us inward upon ourselves whether this is physical, mental, emotional, cultural or spiritual. We each experience how deeply personal our pain is and we cry out in fear. Peace shows up in the midst of pain when we are touched by Love!
Now, having been loved through pain, I understand in a new way the words of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. It is not as the world gives that I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid.” John 14:27 Peace is a gift of Love that is as personal as the pain through which we have been loved.
How I pray that each person has someone who loves them into peace.
“When we find our vocation we begin to live from this place inside us, deepening our personality, our unique way of being in God, and therefore incarnating our unity” wrote Rory McEntee and Adam Buck in their book The New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Living.
Pondering this thought generates excitement within me. As a spiritual director, people often ask how they can live a balanced, more integrated life in the midst of busy and often demanding schedules. One little word sums up my response: vocation! In other words, live who you are from your heart. If you have a gift for teaching – teach, for parenting – parent, for designing – design, for creativity – create, and so forth. Love who you are and do what you love!
In our younger years we are so busy being what others want us to be. Parents impose upon us unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Employers demand 60 – 80 hours a week to meet our work commitment to the corporation. And so we tend to live from the outside to achieve, please, and accommodate others in order to ‘make it’ in this world.
As we mature, we discover there is a ‘still small voice’ within that has a wisdom and attentiveness from which we can give our time and attention. That is our vocation! Deep within is the call to be true to our essential self – the Mystery of God indwelling us. Experience of this ‘place’ propels us to engage life differently. It is not ego driven but empowered by the Spirit, the Holy One who will touch the world through us in healing ways. This does not imply that life is easy, but rather that it is meaningful, it is compassionate, and it is generous.
McEntee and Buck offer the world a new invitation and a promise: if you find your true self (your vocation) you will begin to live from this place within you. Oh that we may each discover this and open to the possibility of living this out daily in our world.
What hope! What joy! What a different world this would be!