Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Being and Doing

Ah, the great challenge...balancing being and doing within one self.

I just finished reading Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber. (Yes, it took a while, but it was worth the lingering. It felt like I was reading just the words I needed just as I was reading them.) Being/doing is a major theme in the book, an account of Ken Wilber's walk with his wife through cancer.

His wife, Treya, comes to learn the balance, to appreciate the being that is so difficult in our world, to share with others the wisdom she gains from being, to live "both/and."

That summarizes her entire life. Grace and grit. Being and doing. Equanimity and passion. Surrender and will. Total acceptance and fierce determination. Those two sides of her soul, the two sides she had wrestled with all her life, the two sides that she had finally brought together into one harmonious whole.

So, I have been thinking about this being and doing a lot lately.

On Monday we began a transition at daycare, my ministry. As the season ended for families in the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program, classrooms were joined together. My group of 18-24 month-olds came together with the infants, babies between 6 months and 12 months. Well, there is a big difference between those two groups. Today I was able to identify it: being and doing.

The infants just are. The toddlers just do; they have entered the world of exploring, running, jumping, and playing. The infants will simply and peacefully sit with a toy just so long as they don't get hungry or sleepy. No wonder it can get a bit challenging with both age groups; I can barely manage the balance myself!

Then, because everything connects, someone sent me an email with a quote and a reflection today. The quote is from Pablo Picasso:

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

And the accompanying reflection:

Sometimes life seems like a never-ending battle between doing and being. If I wish to be present, I need to turn my attention toward myself, but most of us lose our connection with ourselves as soon as we go into movement. Yet as we watch great dancers, great athletes and great actors move, we can't help but see how deeply connected they are with themselves, seemingly listening to themselves while giving a superlative performance. What's their secret? It clearly has to do with attention, with focus. They offer hope that it's possible to do and be at the same time.

Clearly there is a call to sit more deeply with this balance in my life!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Lingering signs from yesterday's vigil in support of the children and DACA.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Loco(a) for Coco

This really is the time of year to go to the movies. Because the race for the Academy Awards begins, all the best movies premiere around this close to the qualifying deadline as possible so that they will be fresh in the memory of the voting body.

Such as it is, I used to spend a lot of time at the movies around this time of year. Seeing two movies in one month is a lot for me now. I saw Lady Bird over Thanksgiving weekend, and I was supposed to see Coco on Thursday night. But, with a measurement of 10.3 inches of "the white stuff," we held off until yesterday instead.

I would see anything that had the names Disney and Pixar attached to it, and on top of positive reviews, I was quite excited to see Coco.

While there was definitely quite a bit of darkness in the storyline for a children's film, like Lady Bird, this is another one that I'd highly recommend. With themes such as family, vocation, life, and death explored through the story of Miguel, a young boy whose greatest passion is music, the creators focused on the interconnected spirit celebrated during Día de los Muertos as a context for that exploration.

But perhaps my favorite part of the film was the "Spirit animals" of the strong, passionate women in the movie! For a thoughtful piece about women, our broken sexual culture, and all the reports of sexual abuse, read what Courtney Martin has to say on the On Being blog.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Already dreaming of warmer weather!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pondering Nature

I remember being told how critical I was by my seventh grade teacher. I had just rendered my judgment on some project, and I most definitely had my opinions that needed to be vocalized. I have been told that this critical nature of mine will be with me, like a dear friend, most likely for the course of my lifetime.

That isn't to say that I cannot and do not take this part of myself to prayer, or that I haven't learned to keep my mouth shut a bit more frequently than I could when I was 12, but it's part of my nature, and I might as well embrace it.

I was struck by today's gospel and the reflection in Give Us This Day. I started to think about how Jesus's nature was bearing witness to the fullness of God in humanity--the unlimited potential of what the Divine can do through flesh and bones and emotions and earthly life.

So, what does it mean when...
Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, goes up on the mountain, and sits down there.

Great crowds come to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.

Jesus summons his disciples and says, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way."

He takes the seven loaves and the fish, gives thanks, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples, who in turn give them to the crowds. 

They all eat and are satisfied.

They pick up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

Pondering this passage is part of my preparing during these Advent weeks. In the reflection, written by Chris Anderson, he reminds us that we too easily write off the miracles of Jesus as metaphors, but it is these miracles which we must find in the ordinary.

Being a critical person often makes doing this quite a challenge for me. I hear a story of "Spirit at work," and I hesitate to believe. I hesitate to believe in the fullness of God's possibility.

May my Advent journey open me up to the Divine ordinary and the Divine possibility, to the miracle found in the abundance of enough, to Jesus sitting down with us in the daily. May your journey do the same for you.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


I was talking to a dear friend of mine who happened to be opening Mary Oliver's Thirst for the first time ever! What a life-changing moment for all of us, I'm sure! So, I picked up my copy, full of many memories used as bookmarks over the years (some Scripture, an answer key for grading a fourth grade test, a Google map print-out from 2012, and quotes scribbled down from Dorothy Day's journal, among other goodies). I started to list my favorite poems by page number for her. I just read selected lines from some favorites, too.

Dorothy Day's words marked one of my favorite poems that I use to accompany me through the winter months: The Winter Wood Arrives. (Page 14)

I think
     I could have
          built a little house
               to live in

with the single cord—
     half seasoned, half not—
          trucked into the
               driveway and

tumbled down. But, instead,
     friends came
          and together we stacked it
               for the long, cold days

that are—
     maybe the only sure thing in the world—
          coming soon.
               How to keep warm

is always a problem,
     isn’t it?
          Of course, there’s love.
               And there’s prayer.

I don’t belittle them,
     and they have warmed me,
          but differently,
               from the heart outwards.

     what swirls of frost will cling
          to the windows, what white lawns
               I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
     as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard
               and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts,
          bundle by bundle,
               to be burned.

By the way Dorothy Day, whose Feast we celebrated yesterday, writes, "One's spiritual life takes three hours a day at least." According to my notes, that was on page 298 of her diaries!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lady Bird

I had the good fortune to see the movie Lady Bird last night. I had seen some great early reviews of the movie, and it now scores 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I use as a pretty accurate guide since it averages many individual movie reviews to create a score for a particular film.

Lady Bird tells the story of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a high-school senior who deals with all the usual high school "stuff": friendships, love, college applications, parents, dreams, idealism, and identity. Nothing happens in the story that we might characterize as "over-the-top" or "unrealistic;" there is nothing to really give away with spoilers, yet it totally captures you and invites you in because it is so true-to-life. And while she is dealing with her coming-of-age at 17 or 18, I think the movie would resonate with most people at some level because it tells a very human story.

The film was funny, yet heartbreaking...just like the teenage years. The relationships were tender, yet complicated...just like all our years. Lady Bird attends an Immaculate Heart school in Sacramento. As she struggles with all those things I wrote about, she talks to one of the sisters at the school. It was this exchange that I particularly loved:

Lady Bird: “I don’t know that I love it, I just pay attention that’s all.”
Sister Sarah Joan:  “But aren’t they the same thing, love and attention?”

Yes, they are. They are the same. Just as Mary Oliver also says, "Attention is the beginning of devotion." So, if you cannot tell what I am getting at...go see Lady Bird! Pay attention; I hope you'll love it, too!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

a unique church we stumbled upon during a walk the other day...still open? unsure. love the blue doors? sure do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks

Right now I am particularly grateful for this prayer from Hosffman Ospino that showed up in Give Us This Day on November 13 as the gospel reflection.

Lord, grant me your wisdom.
     Wisdom to learn what I must know to love you more and contemplate the depths of your mystery in the everyday.
     Wisdom to trust in the work of your Holy Spirit in my life and in the world, so I can walk with the confidence that in the end all will be well.
     Wisdom to listen to your Word with an open mind and a willing heart, making it the norm of my journey.
     Wisdom to long for you with the desire to be consumed by the power of your transforming and generous love.
     Wisdom to cherish your life-giving presence in a world charged with your grandeur.
     Wisdom to recognize you in my sisters and brothers, especially those most in need, starting with those who live closest to me.
     Wisdom to be conscious that I am but an earthen vessel sustained by your grace despite my sins and my limitations.
     Wisdom to forgive as many times as it takes, mindful that you forgive me infinitely with your abundant, merciful love.
     Wisdom to thank you for loving me into existence and, in light of that love, calling me to be with you, now and in eternity.
     If anyone ever sees a glimpse of that wisdom, may they know that it is you in me. Amen.

Isn't that beautiful? Doesn't that pretty much cover the bases? It is definitely one of the reflections that I tore out to save. May you be blessed with wisdom inside and out this holiday season.

By the way: Today I was grateful that I could hold a child in my arms in the rocking chair for twenty minutes without him squirming out! Small joys!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

"Gobble, Gobble" from the kiddos!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

In Equal Measure

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability. 
Then he went away.

As I sit with today's gospel, I am pondering the numbers for the first time (at least for the first time that I can remember!). This is odd given my proclivity for quantitative reasoning, but I usually end up focusing on the cultivating versus squandering with this particular reading.

More specifically than just the numbers, I am spending time with the fact that each of the first two servants brings back the same number of talents as were entrusted to them.

What would it look like to use all the gifts God has given me? Not just the ones I feel like using that day, or the ones that are easy to harvest. Not just 1 of the 2, or 3 of the 5--50% or 60%, if we are talking numbers. What would it look like to live totally and completely, 100%, out of the love that God has poured inside me? What would it look like for you?

Mary Oliver reminds us of our task in one of the first poems of hers that I loved, When I Am Among the Trees:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
     but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

May you go easily through this world. May you be filled with light. May you shine. In equal measure to God's unique love for you.

Let us walk in the holy presence.