Friday, November 30, 2007

Some Thoughts About Advent and Christmas

What I have to say about Christmas has nothing to do with popular culture. No Santa Claus, no store bought presents, no jingle bells, or the bell ringer at the grocery store. Well, maybe him a little. I think the way it is celebrated is flat out wrong.

All the parties are held during Advent, before Christmas. We are celebrating something that hasn't happened yet. Advent is a time of patient waiting, like a pregnant woman, or a farmer waiting for something to sprout in a barren field. It is a time of introspection and looking to one's conscience, asking, am I ready?

It is a time of thinking about Mary's answer to the Angel Gabriel when she was told she would be pregnant by "the holy spirit" I'm sure she could just hear Joseph and the rest of the town say Spirit, my ass! Everyone knows how you get pregnant, and it ain't no spirit! It was a stoning offense, being pregnant by another man after engagement, or even before. So when she said, let it be done to me, she was taking a huge risk, stepping out in faith into thin air, possible death. When God asks us to do things can we say, with Mary, yes, yes,let it be done?

It is a time to think of the darkness covering the earth. To think of war and man-made famine, and social injustice of every kind. Do we realize that with the advent (coming) of Emanuel (God with us) God made man, that the divine is taking the form of a human being? That the creator of the universe has come to share our suffering and our joy, our successes and failures, loving us always? Do we realize that this infant was born into the world to tell us what God is like? What the Kingdom of God is like? Not a bunch of cute little baby angels flying about in the clouds, but a state of being, of being in love with yourself, your neighbors, and with God. That he calls us all to live this way as best we can? Did you know that Heaven starts a long time before you die, and so does Hell. Because God is outside of time, there are moments in all our lives when the kingdom of God breaks through, and we, for an instant, see what love is, what justice is, what mercy is.

The Messiah was expected to be a military liberator, like Cyrus the King of Persia , who defeated the Babylonians, and allowed the Jews to go back to Judah and rebuild the Temple. What people were looking for was someone who would lead them to victory against the Roman occupiers. Instead, they got a child born in a feed trough, who grew up poor, the son of an itinerant carpenter, who was weird growing up- running off to talk to the elders of the temple when he was just 12- and who died the most undignified and most horrifying death, one that only the worst criminals got. That is what the gifts of the Magi represent: gold for kingship, frankincense for his priesthood, and myrrh, which was used to wrap bodies in their shrouds.

The ox and ass are symbols of Osiris and Anubis, major Egyptian gods, bowing down before him. The Maji were astrologers, the scientists of the time, who came from foreign countries with different gods-who recognized that this infant was the Holy One. He came to save the whole world.

The shepherds were the most despised people- they had a bad moral reputation. That the angels announced his birth to the shepherds, and they were the first to adore him, means that he came for the lowliest of us. No one is excluded. So you ask what I think of Christmas? it is Wonderful. God is with us, is made man. The Lord of the Universe made himself so small and vulnerable just for us.

If you ask how it is celebrated, no, it is not OK. It isn't about stuff. Or making money. It is about the ultimate gift that God gave us- Himself, fully human. We should celebrate by our being gifts to others. In our family, we try to make gifts to give each other. I try to do something extra for someone else. That is a gift of love and caring. We should have parties- after Christmas day, coming together to celebrate the gift of the Christ child. That is more in the spirit of Christmas.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Look Back

I wrote this after receiving a letter from a young, enthusiastic campus minister. He told about the baptism of a young convert, about how she longed for the Holy Eucharist, week after week. I remember that feeling. When I was 19, and in college, I became a Catholic. After instruction, I put off my own baptism for six months at the request of my father. I think he hoped I would change my mind. But week after week, I longed for the Bread of Life. I was so in love with God. On fire. More in love than I ever would be again. And I am still in love, but now it is the love of a long relationship.

A Look Back and a Bit of What I Have Learned

I remember how I thought the day of my baptism and first eucharist would never come. When I was young I felt so on fire with love for God. That fire and enthusiasm lasted so long I thought it would last forever. I have learned something, though. After a time, those fires cool, just as in a marriage the honeymoon has to end. That doesn't mean that love ends, just the initial intense period of falling in love.

As time goes by in a marriage, and in our relationship to God, we become more comfortable with each other. We are so sure of our relationship that we don't even need to speak out loud. So it is with Christ. We have learned to be always aware of the other's presence, but don't need to talk. We communicate without words. It is a prayer without ceasing, the practice of the presence of God. That will continue for the rest of your life.

A day will come when it seems that he has abandoned you. Or at least moved to Australia. When that day arrives, remember that it is the next stage in your faith journey, that of the dark night. It can last a short time or many years. Look at Mother Teresa; for her it was 50 years.

The way you will survive it is this: First, you have the memory of these days. Cherish every moment that you are on fire with the love of God. Remember it. Write faithfully in a journal. You can reread it someday when it seems dark. Second, you can see the fruit of your labor- if you are honest, and if you have a good confessor. You can tell that God is there and that your relationship is still strong, if the result of your effort is good. "By their fruit you will know them."

Saint Teresa of Avila said of this time, it is like the infant that the mother once held close in her arms. But when it was time for the child to learn to walk, she stood behind, with her arms open, one on each side, to catch her child If he were to fall. It isn't that God isn't there, God is right there with you, ready to catch you if you begin to fall.

When this darkness falls, don't despair. Remember that it means you are growing in faith. It means that God is using you in such a manner that you can't know of his presence. Sometimes it is our faith in times like this, when we don't feel the presence of God, that is the most inspirational to others, and gives them the joy of consolation that we lack for a time. Most often, we aren't even aware of the affect we have on others, and have to be told, or simply have faith that it is happening. So for today, "Run while you have the light of life" toward God. Follow wherever he leads. Be obedient to whatever he asks of you, even if it is as strange as building a boat in the middle of a dry desert. You will be ready when the flood comes. And later, when everything seems covered in water and there is no land in sight, you will have today to remind you that all will be well.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Letter to a Friend

I've been ill the last several weeks, and in the hospital for eight days of it. It will be some time before I've fully recovered. While I was hospitalized, I got a phone call from a friend I have only known through the internet. I had seen pictures of him, but this was the first time I'd ever heard his voice. As soon as I got home, I wrote the following letter to him.

Letter to a friend:

I am back home again, and what a joy it is! I can eat better, with the good food Steve has made for me today. I am still very weak, but things are looking up. I think getting out of that place was the best thing for my health. Yes, I needed them, but now it is time to heal.

I wish I knew how to express to you that my illness is not what defines me, that I don't feel sorry for myself, or like a victim of bad luck (although my neurologist's associate, who was covering for him, said that if I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all- shows what he knows!!) I've already given you a list of things I have to be thankful for, so I won't do that again. I got a lot closer to God while I was there, and nothing is better than that, even if it didn't feel good while it was happening. So don't feel too sorry for me.

It was great hearing your voice. A voice, like eyes, tells a lot about a person. Yours sounded very kind, and caring, but sad. I wish I knew what to say to give you some happiness, and a realization that when bad things happen that are unavoidable, like illness, There is no point in feeling like a victim. These things are just a part of life, and through them, it we allow it, we grow in wisdom and endurance. Its when we fight them, that we become miserable. That's an idea in both Christianity and Buddhism. The book of Jonah is a good example. Its when we try to run from the inevitable, that we become miserable. There is no escape from sickness and death, and the sooner we learn that and accept each moment for what it is that there is peace inside. In Buddhism, it is the central idea- the cause of real suffering is wanting things to be different than they are. Or as it is usually translated, craving. I wrote about this in another letter, but in a different way. If instead of accepting and giving everything to God, I fight-- in bargaining, in denial, in anger or frustration, all I do is make myself and everyone around me miserable. I'm not perfect at that, but I try pretty hard with God's help. You heard some serious frustration in that telephone call. So now you you know I'm human, but working hard to extinguish the desire for things to be other than they are.

I just had a thought- maybe that was what Jesus was talking about when he said to think about the lilies of the field-they don't worry about what they can't change. Either the rain falls or it doesn't. But while they live, they are beautiful indeed. I can try, with God's help, to be more like that. Every day, as long as I live, is a chance to grow more beautiful inside no matter what happens outside, like the unfolding of a lily. With little rain, they may wilt for a while, or even die. Those that die held their beauty in secret. But when a dry lily is watered, it revives, and once open, they last a long time, and bring us joy with the sweetness of their scent and the beauty of the flower.

There's your homily for the day- sorry. It just seemed to want to come out. I hope it means something to you. And not that its one thing for me to think like this because it is me, but that its a way we all can choose to think.

I have been praying for happiness for you. You were made for it. You are a good man, despite all you have said, and all it takes is noticing that the holy is all around you and in you all the time. That is where true joy lies, not in our trip to India, or in health, or in riches, or security. It is right in your room with you now.

I love you dearly. I've missed you very much. I love your wry humor, and you're not so dumb as you seem to think. I don't know where you got that idea, unless you have a family like mine with mega brains all around- comparing yourself to people that are almost another species. I grew up thinking I wasn't an intellectual because I couldn't follow the conversation of world famous poets and writers in our house. That didn't make me dumb, it just meant I wasn't among the super geniuses I was comparing myself to. It sounds to me like you came from a family of the not so dumb yourself. Not hearing doesn't help. Give all that up, and just be who you are, my wonderful friend in the East. The one who makes me laugh out loud, and reads fun and interesting books, and builds trains. Who even made me my very own green!!! coffee shop. You are a treasure I can't believe turned up on the internet. I'm toasting you with a cup of Uprising, which you accurately said was the best. To ya!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Power of Prayer

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, guru,and founder of the Art of Living Foundation, asked a question about the experience of the power of prayer in Yahoo Answers. It was a question to the world, and has been receiving answers for 5 months. Over 10,000 people have answered with their experience of prayer. I decided to add mine to the growing number. The following is my response.

I have experienced the power of prayer in many situations in my life. Prayer is never ending; I try with God's help to live the practice of the presence of God. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, God is a part of it. My work then becomes prayer, and my relationships with others become prayer when I recognize God's presence within them.
When I experience nature, I am often filled with an overflowing sense of gratitude, joy, and love for God. My first memory of this kind of deep, powerful prayer was when I was younger than ten, and we were hiking in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. I am still overcome with gratitude every time I go back and visit those places. It can happen where I live now, the Mojave desert. The long views on clear days of ancient mountains bring to mind the smallness of each human person in relation to God, but each tiny short lived person is of utmost importance, and loved infinitely by God, and again I am filled with awe and gratitude and wonder.
It can happen when I am ill, and I think of the suffering of Jesus, when he gave his life for us, and when we don't understand his message. I join my suffering with his as a member of His body, and suddenly it is transformed into a good thing, the redemption of the world. For this I am also grateful. My suffering is made meaningful and does good for the whole world. When I feel helpless, I remember that in the long view, in God's time, all will be well, and it only requires that I have faith that God ordered the universe in such a way that each event, even though to a human's eye seems chaotic, is part of the dance of life, and I and my experience is part of it. For me, it is gratitude and an acceptance of things I can't change that is either the beginning or ending of powerful prayer. When I let go and accept whatever is happening with faith and hope, I find myself deep in prayerful union with Love.
It is prayer when I think of all those who suffer in the world from war, poverty, ignorance, illness, misunderstandings, personal and institutional injustice, to the petty meanness or spitefulness of some toward others, bigotry... all the ways that human beings hurt each other; and then I think of God's infinite love and concern for each of these people, and how God loves each of them and you and me so much he became one of us, walked among us, and showed us how to live and love as he does. And then he told us to do the same. When we do, performing works of mercy, that is prayer, and we become the hands and feet of God. It is through following him, having faith, and doing as he did that we find that we are indeed members of one body, brothers and sisters, adopted sons and daughters of God, who has shared his divinity with us. These thoughts and actions are transforming. The power of this kind of prayer is huge- it transforms me and the people I meet. I pray for the Spirit of God to pray in and through me, because without God's help I wouldn't know or do any of this. Again, just at the thought, I am filled with gratitude and joy. I pray that I grow in this every day, and that I can share even a little of it. God is good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


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This Easter season we built a Chartres Labyrinth in the back of the house. It is 90 feet in diameter, and a good long walk. Long enough to wear me out, so I haven't done it yet. It waits out there for me to be ready, and I'm looking forward to my pilgrimage to the Goal. However, it wasn't made just for me- it is available to groups and individuals who would like to take a journey.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why I Often Think of Jesus' Passion - rewritten 12-8-07

I was asked, by a good friend, why I had mentioned that I often think of Jesus' Passion, and why I didn't make an effort to think of happier things. It is because I find it a joyful thing to be a part of the redemption of the world. There is so much suffering in it, we middle class people in North America can't even imagine. It makes my suffering look like nothing. I have a house and a bed with nice clean sheets, and a housekeeper to change and wash them, and a pantry full of food that can be refilled any time, and medical insurance that gives me access to literally the best medical treatment in the world, and a husband who loves me, and children who also love me and respect me, and I have the resources to build a huge labyrinth in my backyard, with a stream and many flowering plants, and cactus wrens nesting in the front window, and 3 cats that love me and take care of me when I am alone, and many friends, and two paid for cars and all the fleece for spinning I could use in a year, and the same for sock yarn and knitting, and a million books... and a custom red wheelchair that is very comfortable, and a brand new iron to iron my closet full of nice clothes, and a new vacuum cleaner, too, not to mention a washer and dryer with hood ornaments that are in a laundry room, not a garage or down at the local "Sudsy Tub"....More than 90 percent of the world doesn't have half these things. They are being torn out of their homes to run into the desert without anything, hoping they might find some of their family, and if they are lucky they might find an international aid food station, where, if they are lucky they might get a bowl of cereal before it runs out, and if they're lucky they won't get any of the diseases of people who are suffering from malnutrition and stress, and are living too close together with inadequate hygiene...Or they are living a mile away, and mom and dad have lost their jobs to outsourcing, and the car has broken down again, and there is no money for groceries, and they've already been to the local church for the once a month food allotment, and because the family is intact they aren't eligible for AFDC, and the water and electricity are being turned off tomorrow for non-payment, and the youngest needs new glasses, and the teacher sent a note home requesting $25 worth of school supplies, and they have no idea how they are going to pay the rent in two weeks...You catch my drift. I think about this all the time. And all the other ways that people suffer through injustice, personal or societal.

If, as we are taught, and I choose to believe, my suffering, that I can't prevent and didn't ask for, is redemptive if I unite it with Christ's, how can I help but be happy about it? If my suffering makes a difference in this sorry world, then I will suffer, and be glad for the opportunity. I've been asked why I think about Christ's Passion and not something happier, for instance, the Resurrection. Thinking of Christ's resurrection is a very happy thought, and an important one, and I do think of it often. Every day that I feel a bit better is a resurrection day.Every day that I can get out of bed and do something useful around the house is a resurrection day. It makes me very happy, because it is what follows the suffering. If I hadn't had the pain, I wouldn't appreciate the absence of it nearly as much. The ability to be useful is the outcome of having had the surgery, or put up with the leg binding, or had the chemotherapy. Jesus could not have overcome sin and death if he hadn't suffered on the cross, giving himself for us out of unimaginable love. United with Christ in suffering, I am also, through my baptism, united with his resurrection. “For if we have grown into union with him, through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” (Romans 6:5)

We all should be able to unite our suffering to Christ's on the Cross. That's the whole reason he did it! He became human like us, experienced joy and sorrow, illness and wellness just like us, adulation and humiliation, love and hate, gentleness and torture, and finally died, just like we do, even though he was God. He did it so that we would not only know how much he loves us, but so that we would know that he understands, and is with us when we suffer. Only a God who became small and vulnerable like us could bring us to believe, no, to know that he understands how we feel. We never suffer alone. He did it to conquer sin, which is the absence of love, and death.

When bad things happen it is so easy to despair, to wonder why it has happened to us, especially if we've tried to do all the right things. We've gotten good grades in school, we've worked hard, we've been faithful to our vows to our spouse and to God. We've gone to church, we've donated to good causes and volunteered our time. Why, when we've done what everyone said would keep us safe in every way, is this terrible thing happening to us? We become angry. Sometimes we blame God, and our anger is directed at Him. So many people have lost faith, or worse, begun to hate God, because they have had sickness, death, tragedies in their lives, through no fault of their own. I have heard from many doctors and nurses that they see this all the time. This is the real sickness. But if we really have faith, and have listened to what Jesus said about those who suffer, we will know that it is not because God is punishing us, or is gratuitously cruel. The poor and victims of social injustice are often thought to have done something to deserve their misery. This false belief has been around forever. Today it is found in people who believe that good people, those that have the blessing of God, will be prosperous and healthy. There is a similar New Age belief that our thoughts are real, and that as children of God, divine beings, we can create the life that we want if we are spiritual enough..It makes it easy on the conscience, because these ways of thinking blame the victim. Why should we help someone who either deserves what he got, or won't help himself? That homeless guy on the corner must be there because he's irresponsible. or an addict, or unspiritual.. But Jesus made it very clear that this isn't how it is. Before Jesus cured the blindness of the man at Siloam, he was asked by the Pharisees what sin the man or his parents had committed, and “Jesus answered, neither he,nor his parents sinned, it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” John 9:3. We know that God isn't punishing us, or hurting us, or intentionally inflicting pain. These things happen because they have to, for reasons far beyond our ability to understand. As God said to Job, “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding... who laid the cornerstone, while the morning stars sang in chorus...” We can't understand the ultimate truths of why and how the universe works the way it does. But when we persevere in faith and hope, when all around us is ruin, we “make the works of God visible” to those around us. We become hope and inspiration for others.

Do you know the doctrine of the Body of Christ? He is the head, and we are the body. Since the head can't live without the body, and the body can't live or act without the head, what happens to me happens to Christ, and what happens to Christ happens to me. So my illness happens to Christ, and his suffering on the cross happens to me. The same goes for you if you are aware of it. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, said that “As a body is one, though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...” Again, since we are one body I (and you) share in His divinity, as He shares in our humanity. Since I share in His divinity, and am part of His body, my suffering and his suffering are one. My suffering can then become part of what Christ suffered for the salvation of the world. To show the whole world what love is, and what it is willing to endure. “It (love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (Cor. 13:7) I am a pretty happy person. It is in large part because I know all this, and am confident that it is true. My suffering isn't a waste.

There was a day when I felt particularly bad. I was also alone. I thought, with the author of Ecclesiastes, that it seemed that all our effort, even our short lives, are to no purpose. I was lying in my bed, almost unable to move, wondering what days like that are for. I thought of how short our lives are compared to the rest of creation. If you think about the age of the Earth, and then the age of the stars, by comparison, the age of a person is like nothing. We are "like grass, soon to wither.” Who are we, these short lived creatures on a small planet on the outer edge of a minor galaxy? And then I remembered. It is because I am a member of the Body of Christ that my days have meaning. All of them. Even the bad ones.We tend to think that the bad ones are, at best, to be gotten through as quickly as possible. Later in the afternoon, I got a call from a friend. There was trouble. Another friend had been badly hurt. In the same day, first suffering, then the opportunity to help someone in trouble, providing emotional support for that person, first in listening, then in prayer, and lastly in enjoying simple time together. The upset person that arrived left comforted. That day did have purpose. Every day has purpose, whether we see it or not. That day, I was able, at the end, to see.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said that “living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the Head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love.” And also, “As a body is one, though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” ” If I am some essential part of the Body of Christ, and all the parts are essential, what happens to my suffering brother or sister, also essential parts of the Body, happens to me, and to you, and to Christ. I think about Jesus' passion because we are all called to grow into Christ by living the truth in love. And the greatest act of love ever, was Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. We are to be Christ for others, and realize that they are Christ, too. All of us, parts of one body. Me, Christ, all of us. I am never alone. And I have the honor of making up whatever is lacking in His suffering. (“Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” Col. 1:26.) And in this way, I also share in His resurrection. It is something that I can look forward to.

So, I often think of the passion of Christ. I think about how much he wanted to live. Of his agony in the garden. But his love for his people was so great, and his faith in God was so perfect, that in obedience, he went willingly to his death. Remember, he was fully human, and he had fear and an instinct to live just like us. He would have had to rely on faith, not the foreknowledge of the Omnipotent, if he were truly sharing the human condition. I think about that. On the cross, he cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” The cry of the human being who has lost the consolation of the presence of God. And he lost it when he was at his greatest need. Just like us. But still, he never lost his sure knowledge that somewhere God was there. He commended his spirit to God. He ultimately trusted in Divine Providence. It is hard being this sick. It is hard watching my family suffer as they worry about me, and try to deal with each crisis, big or small. No one ever said life was easy. But Jesus did say to take up our crosses and follow him. And that his yoke was easy and his burden, light. It is only easy if we do as he did, let go of our fear and trust in God. If we do this, accepting that which we can't change, we are free to live gratefully with what we have. We are free to be happy. Despite the pain, both the physical kind, and the emotional kind, sharing in the cross, the opportunity to participate in destroying the absence of love, and then loving greatly, I find is a very great grace, and an honor and a blessing, all unasked for and undeserved. So there it is.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tired, tired, tired..........

Today is one of those days that always reminds me of Ecclesiastes. Hot. Tired. Everything takes too much effort. It all seems such a struggle For what? Another hot, tired day. Every effort seems a waste. Tiredness, exhaustion of body and soul...... ."All day long they foil my plans. Their every thought is of evil against me. They hide together in ambush. They watch my every step. They lie in wait for my life.".......I am too tired to go outside to the garden, so I lie on my bed with a cat or two and my laptop. Even though I explain to the cat that laptops go on laps and he could have my legs, he will have none of it. So the cat sleeps on my lap and the computer becomes a legtop. I write for a while, tire of that, check my email-nope, just letters from lawyers and ministers and dying widows from West Africa, wanting my assistance with large sums of money. Friends are still at work. Hands and feet hurt, they are so swollen. They feel like they might burst with ripeness in the heat. I massage cream onto the stretched skin of one foot, holding on to it so it won't fall onto the bedspread all covered with expensive cream. It may be precious, but not on the spread. At first, my feet feel cool and comforted, and then the burning starts up again, and I can see from the gleam that more oil won't work. I lie in the bed, too tired to move to get the phone that's a foot away from my hand. I think about how I want something to drink, and that I should have turned the overhead fan on before I climbed in. Hot and thirsty, and all I have to to is get up and turn on the fan and then get a diet soda from the fridge, or do I want iced tea? or Italian orange soda? I lie there a while, I don't know how long. To tired to turn and look at the clock. Thomas walks in, all cheerful. Just back from work. He asks me how I am. All I remember is hot and thirsty. Thomas brings me an icy glass of Italian orange soda, and closes the windows-I was too tired to walk from room to room, much less reach to close the windows. Tired tired tired. But not sleepy. What are days like these for? I've noticed that the ringing in my ears now includes Tony Bennett singing his heart out on one note while the percusionist drums away, all the drums and the cymbols, too. If only the one note would turn into a song. Go somewhere. Then I could say I have my own personal radio station that plays jazz in the afternoon.....evening......still singing that note, Tony. You gotta improvise. Help that poor drummer out, he's exhausted. The phone rings. Now I find I can reach it. Trouble, she says. Steve has come home, a friend has come over. Steve helps me out of bed and on to the couch. I am seeing double, I still hear Tony and the drums. I ask the friend to sit on the coffee table so I can hear. We talk about Trouble......."You scandalous liar. All day long you plot destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you skillful deceiver".....what to do. Love. Love is the answer. Even though the deceiver grows stronger, only love, love. We pray together-"thy will be done".
Steve and our guest go to the back to look at the garden. I want to see it too. I get up, the world spins spins spins. I don't have any shoes. I spin my way to the back door in time to the drums in my head, and Tony's one note. I go outside and stand with them, looking at the sliver of a moon. Fingernail moom! my daughter used to say in wonder. We talk about the phases of the moon, the trees to be planted tomorrow. We stand together in Love. We will trust in God's faithful love forever and proclaim before the faithful "God's love is good!"The friend leaves, Steve goes to the kitchen to scrounge up a dinner deferred. Tony still can't sing that tune, and the poor drummer...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Making Light: Salwar kameez

I have been carrying on a conversation at Making Light: Salwar kameez
for some time. There are several of us that enjoy wearing Indian clothes, because they are so comfortable and attractive, as well as being good for lying around in. Three of us started wearing them because of illness. Who wants to open the door at 1:00 PM in their pjs ? Actually, salwar kameez is where we get pjs. They come from kurta pyjama, the men's version- a long loose shirt over loose pants. We like wearing the daytime version. The discussion is about experiences wearing them in public, online stores where we have had good (and bad) experiences, and a side discussion about having illness that causes chronic fatigue. We are finding that lots of people are reading it, including salwar kameez manufacturers. It amazes me that 3 disabled housewives can have an impact on the industry.

Monday, May 7, 2007

here I am in my favorite sari

I'm not exactly the most svelte person, but the sari is beautiful anyway. Half my wardrobe is now either saris (which I wear rarely) or salwar kameez, (which I wear often). I think I'm a bit too large to carry off a sari right now, but that will change. This sari is a handloom ikat. Part of why I like it is that it is handmade, the work of human hands. It amazes me, the beauty and delicacy of handloom fabrics, that we can make things like this with practice and persistance. In this country we have, for the most part, lost the notion that we can make beautiful useful things ourselves. We run out and buy a wooden spoon. But what if we spent a couple evenings with a knife and made our own. Wouldn't it have more meaning to us? It's no longer just a spoon, its the spoon that I made. I learned to weave a little before I got too sick. I wove a table runner as a first project. I feel very different about it than machine made runners in my drawer. I have something approaching the same feelings towards the two hand woven runners I have. This kind of handwork is something that makes us truly human. We create something, from beginning to end and see that it is good. It is an act of co-creation with God. Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 6, 2007

Miscellaneous Musings:Salwar Kameez, Fatigue, Cooking

I've been thinking about all sorts of seemingly unconnected things. Being tired, and how to handle it emotionally and spiritually. New recipes- I want to cook like mad, and being tired doesn't stop me. One of these days I'll just keel over in the kitchen. I'm trying new things- new foods, learning about new ideas, places, skills. And thinking about how maybe its time to face reality, whatever that is. All these thoughts rolling around in my head are my way of adapting to disablility- I push myself to the limit and don't give up unless my body just says no. Maybe that's not such a good idea, healthwise, but emotionally it works. I'm not sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I'm learning a lot, making good food for everybody, and in general becoming more eccentric by the minute, becoming fixated on whatever the new fun idea or pastime is.

Everyone here is sick of me talking about salwar kameez, but to me, they are fascinating. A whole new aesthetic to learn. Shapes, colors, patterns, all the different ways the same basic design can be altered without losing its essential character. A style of clothing so comfortable and practical and flattering it hasn't changed much in hundreds of years. I can spend hours just looking at them. Deconstructing their design. Designing my own. While I'm doing that, I'm not thinking about how tired I am, or that I have aches and pains. I'm in a whole different world.

Same thing with learning a new cuisine. It requires learning a new vocabulary, new taste combinations, new techniques, and in the case of desi khana, a whole new understanding of what and why we eat what we do. While I'm thinking about that, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I''m thinking, if I keep at it, I'll figure it out. There isn't anything I can't make if I practice enough, and follow directions. I can do anything in the kitchen, given enough time and repetition. And I become so involved, I forget how tired I am and that my back hurts, and keep working at it until I get the new skill mastered. Then I'm surprised when I finally sit down and it all hits.

All of a sudden, one day I got the idea that we could go to India. So I started to look into it. New passion. I get lost in making plans, learning about places to visit, history, culture...and again, I don't feel sorry for myself or think about how bad I really feel. Am I well enough to go to India for a week? I have no idea, I don't think I'm well enough to do what I have been doing. I just do it anyway. In the process, I'm really living, instead of losing myself in daytime TV, or silly novels, or morose introspection.

Some might think I'm going from one obsession to another. Maybe I am. But look at the results. Its much better, in my opinion, to be a happy eccentric than to be a realist who lives within self-imposed limitations. Its when we are pushed hard, by ourselves or our circumstances that we find out what we are really capable of. And we are capable of far more than we think.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Few Words About Lectio Devina

Lectio is what we do when we aren't doing something else.

lectio is a way of thinking, of finding God in experience.
lectio is a way of relating to and loving God as God loves us.

lectio is like poetry...
like nature when we really stop to see it.

Traditionally, there are 3 inspirations for lectio: scripture, nature, and interpersonal relationships.
Lectio in NOT preparation for prayer- it is prayer.

Allow the Word the freedom of your mind and heart

We are disciples for whom it is more proper to be silent than to speak.
There are times to sort out thoughts, speak about problems, and put into words what we feel
towards God. This is NOT that time. This is the time to be still, to wait, and to listen. God's
word invites us to listen with THE EARS OF THE HEART.

Have an attitude of expectancy.

Approach lectio without an agenda, without planning what we hope to achieve or experience.
When we do that, we remain stuck in our own thoughts, and aren't open to hear God.

LECTIO- reading. a slow, contemplative praying of scripture which enables the Bible to become
a means of union with God.
Read out loud- it slows us down,
involves more senses,
makes it different from other reading,
helps you remember.
Find the word or phrase that most speaks to you to your heart. It does not have to be in
context. Allow it to interact with your inner world of memories, concerns and ideas -it leads to:
MEDITATIO- Meditation
musing, ruminating... Mary pondering all these things in her heart. Luke 2:19...
cry of the prophets in the Sh'ma Hear O Israel! ...Gospel of John IN THE BEGINNING WAS
THE WORD... First word of the rule of St. Benedict LISTEN...

ORATIO- prayer. We allow the word or image to penetrate, touch, change our deepest self. How
do I respond? Speak to God;
use words ideas or images or all three.
Give what you have discovered about yourself to God.
Experience the word or phrase that God has given you as a means of blessing...
as a means of transforming ideas and memories into new insight...
Give to God what you have found in your heart.

CONTEMPLATIO-contemplation. rest in the presence of God. Anyone who has been in love or
been loved knows that there are times when words are unnecessary. simply being in the presence
of the beloved is enough. We cease our interior spiritual DOING and simply learn to BE. We
simply ARE in the presence of God.

Don't be afraid of distractions-
memories or thoughts that rise up during contemplation are simply parts of
yourself that are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self.
When they come up, commend them to God and then let them go.

God and Pain

Why does God allow pain? This is a question that can
never be fully answered by anyone but God. We know
some things that God said about pain from scripture,
and we know something from our personal experience of
pain. We as human beings are limited in our ability to
understand God's reasons for what he does because his
ways are so far above our ways. We can't possibly see
the big picture as God does. When Job asked God about
suffering, God's answered out of the whirlwind "I will
question you, and you shall declare to me... Where
were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell
me if you have understanding....Have you commanded the
morning... and caused the dawn to know its
place?...(Job 38:1-41:34)
Suffering and pain has many sources. There is the
suffering and death that results from natural
disasters. When there is tsunami or hurricane, we ask
why God allows such things to happen. These events are
the results of the laws of physics, laws that God
wrote before the universe began. He knows that the
universe has to be ordered the way it is for it to
function and for life to exist. That sometimes the
result is a rockslide when you are driving Hwy 18 is
very sad, but somehow necessary it the very large
scheme of things. We think in terms of our personal
experience and from the point of view of a very short
lived creature; God sees how everything works together
throughout all of time; and knows how and why those
rocks must fall at that moment.
There is pain inflicted by others. War, violence of
any kind, physical or emotional abuse, hard words all
are acts committed by individuals or societies that
Christians define as sin. God gave us free will. We
can choose to harm or help. When suffering is caused
by a free choice, God did not cause the suffering to
occur. The pain was the result of the actions of
others. Jesus walks with us in our suffering; he
himself was the victim of physical abuse and painful
death at the hands of others.
Pain is a gift. It signals us that something is wrong,
and we need to take action. Without pain I wouldn't
have known that my hand was burning, and taken it off
the hot iron before I was seriously hurt the other
day. It tells us when we have injured ourselves and
need to rest to heal. When we are sick it forces us to
stay in bed so that our bodies' defenses can fight off
infection. There is also pain related to illness that
seems pointless and cruel- the suffering of a cancer
patient, or of chronic conditions. This pain can
destroy us if we let it, or lead us into a deeper
appreciation of what is important in life. We can live
our pain in anger or denial, or bargain with God to
take it away, which leads to more suffering. besides
the bad feelings in us, it pushes away our friends and
family and isolates us just when we need them most. If
we abandon ourselves to Divine Providence, and accept
our reality, which is pain, it offers us the
opportunity to appreciate the small things, and
reflect more deeply on what is important in our lives.
It can cause us to reach out and tell people we love
them. It can help put things in perspective and allow
us to have more compassion for others, more
understanding for other's weaknesses, and allow us to
forgive when we couldn't forgive before. In this way,
it makes us more mature emotionally and spiritually.
People who have lived charmed lives with little pain
or worry to overcome tend to be much more shallow and
intolerant than those who have had to overcome
Pain provides contrast. If we don't know pain, can we
really know joy or gratitude? At Easter, Catholics
pray in thanksgiving for the "necessary sin of Adam",
because without sin and death we wouldn't know how
great God's love for us is; he wouldn't have sent his
Son to suffer pain and die for ring. He sent his
Son, Jesus, to live as one of us, fully human,
experiencing every kind of pain that human being
experience, emotional and physical. What an amazing
thing, that the Lord of the Universe made himself so
small that he knows, from experience, what it is to
suffer as a human being. He shares our pain with us.
As members of the body of Christ, we can unite our
pain with his, and it becomes redemptive.
There is no complete answer to the problem of pain.
What is important is how we live it. The more we
accept our reality, live as well as we can within the
limits of that reality, and have gratitude for the
small things, the experience of pain can be what makes
us fully human and an inspiration to others.