Sunday, October 30, 2016

One Will

This weekend the community and oblates heard reflections on the theme of mercy during our community weekend. One of my favorite bits for reflection was the idea that mercy has a lot to do with our unmet expectations. When someone else doesn't live up to your expectations, how do you react? How do you treat that person? Are you bitter and resentful? Or, do you channel God's mercy and shower that person with compassion?

For me, so much of that has to do with letting go of my will, which is not always the easiest thing. As I reflected, I remembered a reflection that I wrote in response to a part of Macrina Wiederkehr's book, A Tree Full of Angels. In it, she writes about finding nourishment in the "crumbs" of our lives and our hesitations about embracing God's will.

Here are her words:

O Most Powerful One, O Indwelling One,
I have no words to bring you into my heart;
for already you have emptied yourself into my life.
You came uninvited. You are here.
But I am afraid to reach out and touch you.
I am afraid of falling in love.
Don't you see that if I fall in love
I will have to surrender to your embrace.
I will have to let you love me as I am,
with all my imperfections.
I will have to give you my will.
O God, I love my own will!
I am not ready to give it up.

And here is a part of the response I wrote:

My will, God?
My will is to be impressive,
My will is to be right,
Usually in someone else’s eyes,
Not in the One’s eyes,
Your eyes,
The only eyes that can truly judge me,
Which judge me with love, always,
Which judge me with mercy, always.

And, You,
You have ideas for me, God,
Great ideas –

Because your will?
(Not that I need to be right about this,
But I think I’ve listened enough to know.)
Is to reassure me
that I am impressive,
in your loving, merciful eyes,
That I am enough,
in your loving, merciful eyes,
That your will is what is right.

Help me fall into your will
In every moment,
Your will of love and of mercy,
Let your will be my true crumb,
So that I might recognize my loaf as Yours.

Let us fall into God's mercy.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

One White Lily

found one white lily
remaining in the courtyard
waves the last goodbye

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

It has been dreary and windy here for about the past four days. The willow tree even looks like it's been turned on its side because of the strength of the wind blowing!

In spite of all of this, there is always Dr. Seuss!

Follow this link to enjoy some true and bright wisdom.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

You Are Here

Our weekend at St. Benedict's Monastery in Bristow, VA afforded us a chance to spend some time in Washington, D.C. It was a quite a treat, and all those memories of childhood visits came racing back as we took in the Smithsonian museums.

I didn't realize that this blog post was writing itself through the pictures I was taking, but suddenly I realized a similar theme, which then became the title of this entry.

We began our adventure at the Air and Space Museum, which is my personal favorite, and you would know exactly where I was by plugging in some coordinates.

We also saw the first GPS from 1995. I didn't know that they even existed then, and I am sure that without a brightly-colored screen helping me, I would still be lost if I used this! (This one was used for flight.)

I also didn't know that farmers use GPS to help them for "precision agriculture."

Moving away from Earth, something that I found fascinating was a projection of very recent video on the surface of the moon.

We moved over to the Museum of Natural History next, where we saw a great IMAX about our national parks. Then, we were off to American History, where we were reminded how far we've come with technology over the years.

And, as we journeyed back to the monastery, I got to see a feature on Google Maps that I hadn't seen yet - notifications when you reach a new state - the GPS equivalent of honking your horn!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


The novitiate can be a time of a great growth in self-awareness, for better or least it has been for me during this first month. Yes, I am learning some things about myself where there is plenty of room for growth, but my gifts are also coming into fuller view. Yes, I am learning how critical I can be as an overthinking perfectionist, but I am also seeing where greater patience is paying off when I am able to catch myself first.

It will be interesting to return to Bristow, VA for a formation weekend tomorrow like we did last October with another year of life in the books. Perhaps I will gain some more self-awareness and perspective on the ways I have grown and changed since our last visit.

This morning I received some wonderful and wonderfully appropriate words, words which more-than-adequately describe my present moment:

I assumed whatever happened would be an opportunity for greater expansion of my life. There was never any question about each day being anything other than an unmitigated gift, a daily occasion holding countless possibilities of growth and newness. (Joyce Rupp)

How can we hold an attitude like this throughout our entire lives? Awareness seems pretty important! Here are a few things that raised my awareness of the nature world on recent walks.

(I could hardly believe my eyes! I could see the eyeballs on this praying mantis!) 

(The clarity of the lake water gave me pause.) 

(The colors of the morning sky never cease to amaze me.)

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Synchronous Poetry, Part II

A while back I wrote about "synchronous poetry" in my life; well, it happened again. While I was on retreat before entering the novitiate, one poem upon which I reflected was Covenant by Sr. Margaret Halaska, OSF. A few weeks after that, I came across it again in a book on the Enneagram as I paged through the section on Ones, my Enneagram number.

     The Father
     Knocks at my door
     Seeking a home for his son: 

     Rent is cheap, I say.

     I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.

     I’m not sure I want to sell, but you might come in to look around.

     I think I will, says God.

     I might let you have a room or two.

     I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more some day.
     I can wait, says God.

     I’d like to give you more,
     but it’s a bit difficult. I need some space for me.

     I know, says God, but I’ll wait.
     I like what I see.

     Hm, maybe I can let you have another room.
     I really don’t need that much.

     Thanks, says God, I’ll take it. I like what I see.

     I’d like to give you the whole house
     but I’m not sure –

     Think on it, says God. I wouldn’t put you out.
     Your house would be mine and my son would live in it.
     You’d have more space than you’d ever had before.

     I don’t understand at all.

     I know, says God, but I can’t tell you about that.
     You’ll have to discover it for yourself.
     That can only happen if you let him have the whole house.

     A bit risky, I say.

     Yes, says God, but try me.

     I’m not sure – I’ll let you know.

     I can wait, says God. I like what I see.

I cannot imagine a time in life when this poem wouldn't be a good reminder and reflection. It feels especially fitting in these beginning weeks of the novitiate - a reminder of God's infinite love for me and an opportunity to reflect on the call to return everything to my Creator. Noticing God at work in my life always leads to new questions arising in my heart.

Do I live out of a response to God's love for me?
Am I living a life in which I am answering my call?

I imagine I'll be encountering this poem a few more times down the road!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Home Furnishings

I am not shy about the fact that I have rearranged my bedroom six times in the year since I moved into the monastery; last week was the most recent shift. Abba Moses said, "Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything." I just happen to like to change my cell around frequently; it has pretty much always been that way.

This week I challenged myself to go for a run "around the block" each morning after morning prayer. The block is not quite your typical block, and it is just long enough that I feel happy when I reach the end. Today, as I worked against some strong winds, I spotted a table/shelf of sorts "on the curb" for the taking. It caught my eye enough to stop and take a look, but considering I was running, I figured I couldn't tote it along with me. As I thought about it some more I said to myself I would drive back once I finished running. If it was still there, it was meant for me. I had just the spot in my mind where it would fit in my new arrangement.

Now, I'm sure you're dying to know: Was it still there?

You betcha! But, there was a problem. The table had a third short shelf on the other side making it symmetrical. And, as you can see, I couldn't open my desk drawers with it there. I realized that I could remove that side because of the way it was assembled. Off I went looking for a screwdriver. When it wasn't the size I needed, I found one of the wonderful guys who works for us, and he had just the tools I needed to help me out. After a nice wiping off, it is a welcome addition to my monastic cell!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Little Mercies

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Thérèse, the Little Flower. Yesterday was also the last retreat in the SOS series offered here at the Mount. Sister Carolyn has been leading them for 32 years!

I was grateful to participate in a few of Carolyn's SOS retreat days since I arrived here last year, and in fact, it was one of her Holy Week retreats that was a big part of my beginning the discernment process with this community.

The theme of the day yesterday was mercy. We reflected on having mercy for ourselves, for others, mercy's connection with nature, and with justice. I am never less-than-amazed at the wisdom that fills the space when participants begin sharing their own experiences.

The fact of the matter is that Carolyn has been leading these retreats longer than I've been alive. Imagine all the wisdom and spirit that has entered the world as a result - certainly a force of love to be reckoned with. I reflected on just the mercy shown to me throughout the day yesterday, and I was overwhelmed.

St. Thérèse was so overwhelmed by God's love and mercy that she knew her calling before the age when we can legally learn how to drive here in the U.S. She knew that the path to God was found in little ways of embracing God's will over her own. She knew how boundless God's mercy is. And, another fact of the matter is that we most often experience mercy in little ways rather than big ones: someone holding a door for another, a friend making sure you are okay after a long day, finding just the right words to fit a situation, a cup of hot coffee on a cool morning - the list is just as boundless.

Even when I am in the worst of moods, which, yes, does happen from time to time, I am grateful that it doesn't often take long before I am able to recognize God's mercy working in my life again. That is grace at work. Another grace yesterday was Carolyn's reminder: "Mercy, forgiveness, and justice all fall under the umbrella of compassion." Ah yes, the ever-important compassion.

I have been reading some Thich Nhat Hahn recently, and I came across this fitting quote this morning:

When your mind is liberated your heart floods with compassion: compassion for yourself, for having undergone countless sufferings because you were not yet able to relieve yourself of false views, hatred, ignorance, and anger; and compassion for others because they do not yet see and so are still imprisoned by false views, hatred, and ignorance and continue to create suffering for themselves and for others. Now you look at yourself and at others with the eyes of compassion, like a saint who hears the cry of every creature in the universe and whose voice is the voice of every person who has seen reality in perfect wholeness.

These words were a bit of mercy today, and I carry them with me as I continue the journey of liberation from everything holding me back from communion with the universe. I pray that you, too, will experience some little piece of God's mercy that will free you in a big way.

Let us walk in the holy presence.