Saturday, January 13, 2018

We Belong Together

Even though our food remains plentiful throughout the winter, our four-footed and feathered friends don't experience the same abundance. So, we bundle up, slip (or forcibly pull) our boots on, and head outside.

Justice does not only extend to our fellow humans, my friends. This morning I was listening to an episode of On Being with Br. David Steindl-Rast as guest. What a beautiful description of our interconnectedness I heard:

Br. Steindl-Rast: I remember, the grace that Buddhists pray before a meal starts with the words “Innumerable beings brought us this food. We should know how it comes to us.” And when you put that into practice and look at what’s there at your table, on your plate, there is no end to connectedness. In the end, for instance — most people don’t think of it, but in the end, we always eat earth. We eat earth, not in an abstract way; in a very concrete way, this humus is what we eat. Or crystals: when we eat salt, it’s pretty obvious that comes out of the earth. That’s earth, directly. When we eat vegetables, well, the vegetables were nourished by all the nutrients in the earth, and then now we eat them, or the fruits of these plants. If you eat meat or fish, then they were nourished by vegetables, and they were nourished by the earth. Always comes back to earth.

But that is only one aspect. Most of it was grown, so people had to work on sowing it and harvesting it, packaging it, transporting it. There you have already a couple of thousand people whom you will never see, never know by name, never meet, and yet, without them, there wouldn’t be anything on your plate. [...] So all the farm workers, they have been working on getting this food to us, horizontally, with our people, our animals, our plants, the earth, and vertically, with the great mystery in which we are embedded, which those who use the term correctly call “God.” It’s not somebody up there. It’s more personal than it would be if there’s somebody up there. It is this tremendous mystery that — to which I am, as a human being, totally directed, totally related to, that makes us human. We are related to that which we call God. It’s tremendous reality.

Ms. Tippett: And this inextricability from — or this connection between gratitude and dependence and interdependence…

Br. Steindl-Rast: Interdependence.

Ms. Tippett: That any complex experience of gratitude would make us aware of that.

Br. Steindl-Rast: Well, the main thing is to think it — I think the beginning is — the starting point is to think it through. The moment you speak of independence, I can just say, what are you talking about? What is anybody talking about who says, “I’m independent”?

Ms. Tippett: Even from one’s enemies.

Br. Steindl-Rast: From every point of view, it is always a “Yes, we belong together,” a lived “Yes, we belong together.” So it’s a decision. It’s something that has more to do with the will than with your emotions or with your thoughts. It is the clear will: “I say yes to this embedding, to this connection with all, with all. I say yes to it.” And when I say yes to it, not just with my mouth, but I actually live that “yes.”

Let us say "yes" to all life, to all people, to all creatures, to Mystery, to all. Let us not exclude other people, other creatures, and especially other countries from our circle of compassion.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Changing Landscape

I was gifted with a weekend of silence and solitude across the road at the lake this past weekend. While it was probably the coldest weekend so far this winter, I wrapped up and did some adventuring to explore the winter stillness.

Here is some ice that caught my eyes. The first one because of its size, the second one because you could see water trickling down.

This was Saturday at the lake. In the early afternoon, there was no sun, but you can see how it tried to make a comeback on a later walk.

And, by Sunday...sun!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Resolute Love

Like a caring parent, God receives our childlike painting of a tree--usually an unrecognizable mess--and delights in it. God doesn't hand it back and say, "Come back when it looks more like a tree" or tell us how to improve it, God simply delights in us.

This quote, from Greg Boyle's new book, Barking to the Choir, gave me pause. The teacher in me thought of all the artwork I have received from children throughout my few years in the classroom so far. Each piece delightful in its own way. In fact, I still keep Michael's drawing framed in my bedroom: the cover of The Giving Tree that he made for me. Another student once asked me about my favorite things and gifted me with a precious paper full of sunshine and a river. Yet another drew me St. Benedict after we read The Holy Twins in religion.

As I sat with these lines from Boyle, the Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries, I thought about the "mess of myself" that I present to God. I don't mean it in a bad way...I just mean that I am still incomplete...the journey continues.

I think the word "incomplete" often has negative connotations when it comes to being human, which is the problem, I guess, because it's just reality. (And I've had to journey a bit myself, mostly through my novitiate, to write those words on my own free will.) Reality is that, like a child's painting, God doesn't ask me to come back when I look more like my True/whole self. God takes me here and now; I just have to choose to make that reality the real focus of my life.

I know better than to make a New Year's resolution given the odds stacked against them, but I also know I want to be resolute in living from that stance of the reality of God's delight in each of us this year. I want to be resolute in my belief that there is a force of Love at work in this world that meets each of us where we are--in our messiness of being human--and calls us forward, not because we have to improve ourselves, but because we are called to become Love ourselves. I want to be resolute in my call to recognize that I am not the only one presenting my painting to God. I want to be resolute in loving the way a child loves--with reckless abandon--just like God.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Art of a child.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

From Mary Oliver

Stanley Kunitz

I used to imagine him
coming from his house, like Merlin
strolling with important gestures
through the garden
where everything grows so thickly, 
where birds sing, little snakes lie
on the boughs, thinking of nothing
but their own good lives, 
where petals float upward, 
their colors exploding, 
and trees open their moist
pages of thunder -
it has happened every summer for years.

But now I know more
about the great wheel of growth, 
and decay, and rebirth, 
and know my vision for a falsehood.
Now I see him coming from the house -
I see him on his knees, 
cutting away the diseased, the superfluous, 
coaxing the new, 
know that the hour of fulfillment
is buried in years of patience -
yet willing to labor like that
on the mortal wheel.

Oh, what good it does the heart
to know it isn’t magic! 
Like the human child I am
I rush to imitate -
I watch him as he bends
among the leaves and vines
to hook some weed or other; 
I think of him there
raking and trimming, stirring up
those sheets of fire
between the smothering weights of earth, 
the wild and shapeless air.

May we all engage fully in the "great wheel of growth, and decay, and rebirth" as we enter the new year.

Happy 2018! May it be full of blessing.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What Else?!

I mean, really, what else would I blog about right now?

If you visited Lake Erie on Friday afternoon, this is what you would have seen.

If you visited Lake Erie today, this is what you would have seen.

Yes, it's true we are setting records. This was just the beginning out my bedroom window: Christmas morning, 10:35am.

And, this was the latest adventure: A walk right before evening prayer today, 4:30pm.

Here is a true community effort: cleaning off the cars the first time. (Tomorrow will come.)

And, having some fun while doing so.

We ventured out for a late afternoon walk. See the depth!

Here are some sights along the way.

Then, we arrived at the lake. Reminiscent of last year's adventure!

We had to stop for a break on the way back due to exhaustion.

Stay warm everyone!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Or, as Erin says, "Let us trudge through banks of snow in the holy presence."

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Where Am I?!

If you were to visit our chapel here at the Mount today, you would find many different scenes.

The chapel is one of the most essential places in the monastery where we practice our vow of stability, but with the fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve falling on the same day, today's a bit unique. Take a look:




Kudos to the team who made this all happen! Great work! Tonight's Liturgy will certainly be unique, too! And note our lovely Christmas tree (quite unique), with arms extended upward, welcoming all who come to celebrate Christ incarnate.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Experiencing Incarnation

Last night I was sitting at the front desk on "Bells," as we call them, while in the chapel the handbell choir very audibly practiced Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Glory to the newborn king!

Yes, we aren't there quite yet, but we are so, so close. You know how at some point during the final days of Advent...all of can feel Christmas? I felt that feeling while listening to that song being practiced.

Hail the Flesh, the God Head see;
Hail the incarnate Deity!

On Monday morning, one line from the gospel reflection in Give Us This Day read:

"What is worth beholding is astonishment at what God can draw out of each experience."

I shouldn't be surprised by how much I loved these words; they are truth. But, I am still quite stuck on this contemplative line; God packs each experience with the potential for sacred awe. Benedict, too, reminds us that all time is holy. In particular, by marking the hours of the day in prayer.

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere...beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office. (RB 19)

May we pay attention, even during those "little hours," to the ways God marks all of life as holy. May we hear the music.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Someone started decorating the tree early!