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Showing posts from 2018

Our God is Here

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The first step of Benedictine humility is to keep the reverence of God always before us.

For our current formation class, we are diving into Torah. This past week we focused on Leviticus, which while challenging because of all the laws, has some definite richness. Our teacher, one of our sisters, talked to us about the belief regarding the tabernacle present to the community. It was right there. And the people believe that it held God. God was right there. Changed the way one followed the laws a bit, no? God is right there.

This got me reflecting pretty quickly. Do I live from my belief that God is right here? Do I live the first step of humility? In the dailinesss/busyness/quickness of life, I probably don’t do it too well. How easy it is to forget that my call as Christian, and even more so, as Benedictine, is to live the truth that, indeed, God is here. It changes everything, as it should. We sing it in one of my favorite songs at Liturgy, too:

Here in this time, here in this place,…

I’m Back (and grateful)

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Yes, I have been gone for awhile. After wrapping up a lovely two weeks participating in the Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality, I headed out of town to help facilitate a retreat and take a bit of R&R time with a friend.

Between great and profound spiritual reflection with the group of young women at the institute, the experience of facilitating a retreat, lots of support from my sisters, and the gift of time with a dear friend, I am full and a bit unable to put into words what the past few weeks have held for me.

But I have been reflecting quite a bit on what it means to be a woman, in all its complexity and fullness—though part of the reflection came from the seeing the wonderful documentary about Mr. Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I think the thing that was most beautifully and well conveyed in the film was the ability of Fred Rogers to take the complexity and fullness of humanity and simplify them into daily lessons and the call to love. (I did tell some…

God Moments

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I have been given the gift of participating in the first Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality here at the Mount this past week. (We continue through next week, too.) Seriously, what a gift.

We have eight young women here (and for the most part younger than I, which is another eye-opening experience while living in the world of religious life) and they have such a fire to live their faith. Their passion is enlivening; their wisdom and knowledge are rich; their lives are authentic; their beliefs—holy.

One of the first days we talked about prayer, and Joan commented that she would not ask someone, “Did you pray today?” but rather, “Have you had a God moment today?”

I appreciated that question not only because I have had plenty of God moments surrounded by these women, but because it helps me broaden my perspective on what it means to live a truly prayerful life.

One God moment occurred on Thursday when I had an appointment after lunch. I was also going to the store, an…

Retreating

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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…

Yes!

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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...

May
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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

The View From Spring

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This World
Mary Oliver

I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
     pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
     were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
     out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
     beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
     hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
     even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
     and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on t…

Rooting in Joy

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I feel like it is finally okay to post this poem. After another 2" of snow this past week, adding up to a total of 198.5" for the winter, I couldn't care less for that last 1.5" that would give us the 200" record.

The Spring (After Rilke) by Delmore Schwartz

Spring has returned! Everything has returned!
The earth, just like a schoolgirl, memorizes
Poems, so many poems. ... Look, she has learned
So many famous poems, she has earned so many prizes!

Teacher was strict. We delighted in the white
Of the old man's beard, bright like the snow's:
Now we may ask which names are wrong, or right
For "blue," for "apple," for "ripe." She knows, she knows!

Lucky earth, let out of school, now you must play
Hide-and-seek with all the children every day:
You must hide that we may seek you: we will! We will!

The happiest child will hold you. She knows all the things
You taught her: the word for "hope," and for "believe,"
Are still upon …

Creativity

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The Little Boy
by Helen E. Buckley

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,

Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.
“There,…

Fearful, Yet Overjoyed

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Some of my favorite words in Scripture come immediately after Easter. They are three short words in fact: "Fearful, yet overjoyed."

You might know these words refer to Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary's” emotions after encountering the empty tomb. I imagine others might favor these words, too, seeing as they give comfort to the oft-occurring intermingling of fear and joy in our lives. These words remind me that it is normal to experience fear and joy simultaneously. While it might feel a bit weird inside, I am not the only one. (The point being driven home especially well in Disney/Pixar’s wonderful film, Inside Out, by the way.)

While it’s easy and obvious to point out this deeply human experience, I discovered a real-life example this week as we continue to wait for that moment when it finally feels like spring.
How did we get more snow? I don’t know. But we did. For a few days this past week, there appeared yet more white stuff on the ground. The daffodils and croci…