Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Alleluia for Life

The rising sun behind one shoulder,
the lingering moon above the other.
A death in the community on Holy Thursday,
Easter Resurrection.
A conversation about all we can do,
and how little we can control.
A sweaty morning run,
In the chilly Erie air.

The call for me during this Triduum and Easter has been to not just accept things as they are, but even more, to embrace them. But, for me, that is often times a difficult thing to do. My mind tries to wrap itself around the paradoxes of life when the best I can do with those paradoxes is live into them. A poem that recently came my way reminds me of this. (Funny by Anna Kamienska)

What's it like to be a human 
the bird asked

I myself don't know
it's being held prisoner by your skin 
while reaching infinity 
being a captive of your scrap of time 
while touching eternity 
being hopelessly uncertain 
and helplessly hopeful
being a needle of frost 
and a handful of heat 
breathing in the air 
and choking wordlessly 
it's being on fire 
with a nest made of ashes 
eating bread 
while filling up on hunger
it's dying without love 
it's loving through death

That's funny said the bird
and flew effortlessly up into the air

This morning, many birds must have been smiling at me, watching me sit on a tree trunk at the lake as they flew effortlessly across the water. It really was a perfect morning gift though, some birds soaring in solitude, some birds flying in flocks, all with a backdrop of purples, pinks, and blues surrounding us.

As I sat there with all the life that has taken place since Holy Thursday, all the questions that I have pondered, and all the prayers that have sprung from these days, I sat, too, with gratitude for what felt like even the tiniest embrace of the reality of things, the tiniest ability to not worry and wonder about what's going on, the tiniest flight into air, the tiniest springing forth into new life. 

And, as for those flowers that were springing through the ground the other week?

Check them out now!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


We offer the grain,
We offer the grapes,
Broken only to become Whole,
Beautiful in their brokenness
because we watch them become
the Body and the Blood,
Made whole by our Savior,
Nourishment for our bodies, our blood.

And do you really think
There is nothing else broken
On this fragile earth
That doesn’t want to be offered,
To be beautiful,
To be Whole?

Let us walk in the holy presence. Alleluia!

(via Google Images)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I Do?!

It's that time of year again.

As we prepare to enter into the Triduum, we are asked to consider the reality of our faith. Not that this isn't what we are called to daily, but during these liturgies the tenets of our Christian faith come to forefront as we are asked to stand and say "I do" to some pretty big stuff.

Do you believe in God?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
Do you believe in the forgiveness of sin?
Do you believe in the communion of saints?

We know that we will stand and say "I do" to these questions on Saturday night or Sunday morning, but what we do not know is how we will be called to live out these beliefs in the year ahead. The Paschal Mystery does not just end on Easter Sunday!

It is so easy to say that we believe what we do, but do we truly comprehend how bold it is to say it? Do we honestly comprehend the enormity? We watch yet another terrorist attack, this time in Brussels. We read about a presidential candidate who would delight in being unwelcoming toward our brothers and sisters. We live in the realities of our own city streets, wherever they may be. And, we are called to find God in all of this.

Before we know what will come, we say, "I do." I do believe in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the forgiveness of sin, in the communion of saints. I do.

When I do, it means that I am called to respond to whatever comes in a very unique way, a way that does not always match the way others respond. I will not respond in fear or in hatred to the events of life. I will respond in trust and in love.

Let us pray with the "I do's" to which we are about to give voice. Let us contemplate their enormity. Let us live into the reality of these words. Let us utter them boldly with faith, trust and love.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Holy Hospitality

This weekend I welcomed in a dear, sweet friend.
This week the community will welcome in many for Holy Week.
This Holy Week may we welcome in the Paschal mystery to our hearts.

As my friend and I took a windy, wonderful walk along the peninsula on Saturday, we spotted some surprise, unexpected hospitality on the sand. Check it out (from many angles)!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Total Freedom

I spent some time earlier today trying to figure out what I wanted to write in this entry. Then, I was laying in bed (after finishing a Netflix cooking show, of course) and I realized: You never wrote on the blog today, Val.

So, my mind starting going again deciding what to write. I had about twenty different ideas pass through my head, and then I realized: You can write about whatever you want, Val. So, I decided I would just write about something completely unrelated to any of my ideas.


On Tuesday night, we were watching as the new champion began his second day on the show. It was very close to Final Jeopardy. The contestant had a little over $19,000, and he landed on the Daily Double. How much did he wager? Well, $19,000, of course.

I was appalled. How could he possibly do such a stupid thing?

But as I think about it some more, how wonderful that he wagered $19,000! And maybe he was just being greedy, but maybe not. Maybe it didn't matter to him if he lost everything because taking the risk was totally worth it. Maybe he felt an incredible sense of freedom, not worrying about what would happen if it didn't work out the way he hoped. Maybe he was giving me an opportunity to watch someone living free of the outcome. Maybe one day I will learn how to do that, too.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I thought it might be nice to take a break from all my reflections to tell you about another part of my life...


Now, let me begin by telling you how confused I used to make my students when I told them I didn't have a television at my house. Of course, I have no idea how many televisions live in my current home, though it would be an interesting fact to research.

Besides the news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!, my TV viewing is confined to Netflix, and mostly cooking shows at that. Two weeks ago I came across a Netflix original called, Cooked. Given everything I just wrote, you can tell that this show was right up my alley.

In the series, based on a book by the same name, Michael Pollan (also the author), explores four different elements of cooking: fire, water, air, and earth. And, he highlights four different people who are cooking well with those elements. (Side note: In the earth episode, the showcased person happens to be a Benedictine nun with a Ph.D. in microbiology making cheese.)

What I most loved about the show is that it wasn't about the food, while being completely about the food. More than anything though, it discussed our current food reality where we process so much of what we eat and do not pay attention to the entire process involved in getting food to our plates. Pollan gets a vegetarian to try (and enjoy) sustainably raised roasted pork, and he shows how the current techniques used to make bread do not allow gluten to break down as fully as a slow fermentation process, which could be leading to the gluten intolerances that we see everywhere today.

Pollan reminds us that cooking consciously and well is an act of nourishment, of love, and isn't that what matters?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(from Google Images)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Fountain of Youth

I try to consider all of life a teacher, but if I haven't gotten the point across yet, children hold a special place in the classroom of my world.

Sometimes I don't know what I want to write on the blog, but eventually an idea comes together. On Friday, I read a few lines about kids in a book I am reading. I have had some great encounters with kids at daycare, and then I went to a running list of ideas that I keep for the blog, and one entry I saw was this poem. (You Should Avoid Young Children by Claire Keyes)

Because they fill their diapers
with reliable ease, sitting on your lap
or spread out on your best mattress.
Guilt is as foreign to them as vichyssoise.

Because they spread sticky fingers
over the piano keys, looking for you
to hoist them onto your lap. They slam
the ivories for the racket they can make.
Re-think your nap.

Because they are blank slates
on which so much waits to be written,
their eyes opened wide to take everything in,
including the lines around your eyes,
the pouches under your chin.

Because they manipulate the controls
on the TV, finger the holes in the electric socket,
stomp the cat’s switching tail only to smile
and gaze at you as if you held the keys to joy.

Because you can embrace them, but
you can’t bind them. Because they have nothing
to give you—and everything. Because
something loosens when they come around.
Something opens you didn’t know was shut.

I knew I would be writing about kids today. This week we end our winter season at SBC before the migrant season begins again after two weeks of in-service. We will say goodbye to a few kids in our classroom and welcome in some new faces.

The book I am reading is called The Four Agreements. The author uses Toltec wisdom to describe how we enter into the dream of the planet, which humans have created and which separates us from the true nature of life. In this dream we make assumptions, take things personally, use words to hurt, and settle for less than our best. But, the author, Don Miguel Ruiz, says that children are examples of what it looks like to live free from the dream.

If we see a child who is two or three, perhaps four years old, we find a free human. Why is this human free? Because this human does whatever he or she wants to do. The human is completely wild. Just like a flower, a tree, or an animal that has not been domesticated - wild! And if we observe humans who are two years old, we find that most of the time these humans have a big smile on their face and they're having fun. They are exploring the world. They are not afraid to play. They are afraid when they are hurt, when they are hungry, when some of their needs are not met, but they don't worry about the past, don't care about the future, and only live in the present moment.

I have much to learn from the children. One of my favorite things to witness is how they bounce back after being upset. You simply hug them, give them a new toy, and their attention is diverted. If only it were that easy! So, if you'll excuse me, I will be busy rolling around on the floor with some little beings this week, learning so, so much about what it means to truly live as a human.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Dynamic Duos, continued

Don't you love it when you are reading some words, and then you open up another set of words only to find that not only are the ideas complementary, but they also speak to the very thing on which you are reflecting?

On my retreat this past weekend, it happened. Here is the duo:

From The Universe is a Green Dragon (as Thomas explains how relationships and interactions form new entities):
"This [conversation] reveals our cultural bias for analysis - the dynamic is as real in the life of the seas as it is in the realm of elementary particles. Each realm has its own integrity; the ocean can not be reduced to elementary particles. If you decompose the ocean into elementary particles, the ocean disappears."

From John Polkinghorne:
"Science treats the world as an object, something you could put to the test, pull apart, and find out what it’s made of. And, of course, that’s a very interesting thing to do, and you learn some important things that way. But we know that there are whole realms of human experience where first of all testing has to give way to trusting. That’s true in human relationships. If I’m always setting little traps to see if you’re my friend, I’ll destroy the possibility of friendship between us. And also where we have to treat things in their wholeness, in their totality. I mean…a chemist could take a beautiful painting, could analyze every scrap of paint on the canvas, would incidentally destroy the painting by doing that, but would have missed the point of the painting, because that’s something you can only encounter in its totality. So we need complementary ways of looking at the world."

To try to not pull everything apart...a dynamic duo for this analytical mind, indeed.

Let us walk in the holy presence.