We’ve been on retreat this past week with Abbot John Klassen from Collegeville, MN as our presenter. His conferences on the parables and the reign of God have been top-notch, offering some insightful and some uncommon takes on these well-known stories. My favorite conference was on the Prodigal Son. Perhaps because it’s one of my favorites, or perhaps it was because of his reflections, or perhaps it was because of both, I left the chapel “wowed.” I especially liked the reminder about conversion: “Grace is in the small steps.”

Besides his challenging reflections, this week has been one of renewal and refreshment, as it should be. (I must not lie—it’s also afforded me an opportunity to watch some of the World Cup when I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance!) Yesterday morning I went into my old journals looking for a poem that I thought I would use in this entry, but I came across these appropriate words from an old morning reflection I received in my inbox from the Upper Room back in…


I feel like nearly any Mary Oliver poem could apply to this time of year, when everything is bursting forth.

But, I chose one.

Feast your eyes on early summer. Feast your heart on Mary’s poetry.

A happy mushroom family...

The snake we encountered...

The chipmunk who cannot resist the bird food...

The peonies and daisies brightening my room...

The trees filling in where I rest in my hammock...

The first rose in bloom...

And the first lily...

The fawn living and finding rest on our grounds...

The plant I’ve been reviving who greets the sun with open arms...

What lay on the road was no mere handful of snake. It was
the copperhead at last, golden under the street lamp. I hope
to see everything in this world before I die. I knelt on the
road and stared. Its head was wedge-shaped and fell back to
the unexpected slimness of a neck. The body itself was thick,
tense, electric. Clearly this wasn’t black snake looking down
from the limbs of a tree, or green snake, or the garter, whiz-
zing over the r…

Delighting and Drawing

My current poem of choice is A Brief for the Defense by Jack Gilbert. I first heard (parts of) it in the episode of On Being where Elizabeth Gilbert was the guest.

I looked up the poem in its entirety, and I cannot resist sharing it here.

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while sodmebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

Here, There, and Everywhere

Last year when we had a guest living with us from Australia, she described the spring and summer seasons as a “symphony” because there were different flowers and blossoms playing and popping up all the time—much different than what happens in the Australian climate.
The other morning I read this line from Wislawa Szymborska in a poem:
No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way.

Both of these are reasons why I change my normal routine during the warmer months. One has many options to get from the northeast part of the monastery to the southwest (or vice versa) on the first floor. (Through the chapel, or past the administrative offices, or up the steps and through the “west wing,” or down the steps past the garden room.) For me, though, the only way to travel right now is through our inner courtyard. It provides you about thirty more seconds of sunlight and outdoor time each day, double that if you are returning, too!

When I was walking throu…

Our Deepest Vocation

Henri Nouwen said—
My deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.

I have always loved that quote. Here are some examples of my living out that deepest vocation.

Last weekend I traveled home. They are a bit ahead of us spring-wise. The irises and peonies were already in bloom. The beauty was stunning.

I went home because we celebrated the baptism of my first godchild (my cousin’s newest baby). A pretty obvious example!

While I was at home, I got my first hummingbird window feeder. Not only have I attracted hummingbirds, but orioles, too!

I must admit, my life has been going pretty non-stop this entire Easter season. This weekend is the first weekend that I have had a chance to catch more than just glimpses of God, but also a breath! (Thank you for that gift of the Spirit, Pentecost weekend!) I re-read Mary Margaret Funk’s wonderful book, Into the Depths, which recounts her near-death experience during a catastrophic flood in Bolivia. She, too…

Beautiful Liminality

Why can’t liminality look this good in human life?!

The other day I looked out the window, noticing the forsythia bush had begun to push some green through those wonderful yellow blossoms. I noticed it, too, in the magnolia a few days later. I figured I should go on a walk around the monastery and find some more examples.

Witnessing this in nature reminds me that liminality is quite a beautiful thing, no matter how much tension and discomfort seems to take hold in your life at the moment.

May I continue to let nature be my model, that dear teacher of wisdom, conversion, and life.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Between Two Trees

The other evening I enjoyed my first “hammock sit” of the year.

I hadn’t started to use a hammock until June last year, once the trees were already in bloom, once the mosquitos were already “out for blood.” So, when I looked up at the trees this time, I was a bit thrown off. And then I noticed them: the minuscule buds on the branches. (Still not visible here)

Nature, it seems, naturally obeys Benedict’s call in the Prologue: Run while you have the light of life. The trees are off and running for another year. I sat, pondering the trees, on my hammock in good company: with Mary Oliver. After a busy couple of weeks, with a few more ahead, this was just the solitude I needed to re-center myself.

Mary offered her wisdom:

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
The world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the b…