Sunday, June 24, 2018

God Moments

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, and one of the participants (from Australia) asked to come along. I got to show her Wegman’s and actually pay attention to that small souvenir section which I’d never done before. I had heard her say that she wanted to take a photo of a boat, so we stopped along the bayfront, and we finished by picking up some fresh strawberries from the farm. It wasn’t that she came along; it was the rich conversation that we shared even though we have only known each other for a week, less at the time. We connected about on the topic of faith, mentors, and life in general.

What a God moment it was.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


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 2013. The writer talks about how he spends his time during retreat:

As I left my room for a stroll, I wondered what God would have me see. So I prayed, “God, help me to see what you want me to see.” As I walked the garden, I had several “aha!” moments when an ordinary tree or flower or shoreline seemed to be filled with meaning for me. Ever since then, when I’m on retreat and go for a walk, I say, “God help me to notice what you want me to see.”

Here are some moments of beauty that I believe God wanted me to notice as I’ve gone a-meanderin’ this past week.

May we make space in ourselves to pay attention to the moments of life that God wants us to see, the moments of our conversion.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


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...

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 rocks. Where these had, oh, such shyness, this
one had none. When I moved a little, it turned and clamped
its eyes on mine; then it jerked toward me. I jumped back
and watched as it flowed on across the road and down into
the dark. My heart was pounding. I stood a while, listening
to the small sounds of the woods and looking at the stars.
After excitement we are so restful. When the thumb of fear
lifts, we are so alive.

How eager we are to be alive. Today I was in conversation with some wonderful women, and one reminded us, “We must keep saying ‘Yes!’ to life.” Look at the way nature teaches us.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Delighting and Drawing

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,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

I had a wonderful experience of the delight for which I am happy to risk everything on Friday evening.

We have gathered on the first Friday of the month for a game night a few times now. Last night we played a game I hadn’t played before, Telestrations. Sort of like “Whisper Down the Alley” with illustrations, you had to draw a picture in a notebook after choosing a word to illustrate from a card. Then, you passed the notebook and the person to receive it had to guess with words the illustration you drew, alternating drawing and guessing while passing along the notebook until it got back to you. (A bit complicated to explain, super fun to play.)

I noticed that even though I am a highly detailed person, I am not a highly detailed illustrator. My sports car and my tractor looked quite similar. Others though, were rather impressive. Here was a favorite illustration. Can you guess what this player was illustrating?

A delightful evening, indeed!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Prophets of Peace

We spent this weekend celebrating the Feast of Saint Scholastica, Benedict's twin sister. Each year the community gives an award called ...