Monday, December 20, 2010

The Manger- from Our Father's Eyes

Jesus, memories of your birth are accompanied by predictions of your death. Life and death. Good and bad. Joy and struggle. I get distracted by thoughts of death/bad/struggles; sometimes focused on them. Some other times trying to ignore them. That’s one of the life lessons I’ve learned. Somehow we have to learn to experience and accept them both. But it doesn’t seem to be the instinctive way- at least not for me. I want the good times to last and I don’t want my balloons burst so to speak. I want to go to baptisms, not funerals. I want to be a saint (small s) and not a sinner. But I am BOTH. Sadness is followed by joy. Life is followed by death. Darkness is followed by LIGHT.

So this Christmas is different. Life is not all about blinking lights, jolly men giving away free gifts or even babies in mangers. The full picture includes the denials, the scourging and the wood of the cross. Joy- but tempered with wisdom and not only fantasy minded. Enjoy the decorations completely but somewhere in my mind must be the acceptance that they are only up for a season. The Chu8rch calendar makes it seem that one can focus on the manger scene and ignore the 6’ cross hanging above the main altar. I can’t do that this year. My brain’s efforts at compartmentalizing must give way to emotional flexibility. Dare I say vulnerability?? Reality vs. fantasy. Joy tempered by wisdom. Youth melting into maturity but with equal parts of both. Then I can appreciate the manger scene as God the Father must have. They myrrh wasn’t just a nice birthday present. It was at the burial as well. The mother didn’t just kneel at the foot of the manger. The manger wasn’t the only creation made from the tree.

To appreciate Christmas fully and really say THANK YOU for this indescribable gift I have to read the whole Gospel and look at the scent from God the Father’s eyes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

a christmas poem

I Feel Chosen and Special

A dumb animal they call me.

They mock and use my name as a curse.

But I was the one grazing in the field that day when Joseph came.

He traded a carpentry tool for me and we began our long journey.

They were very kind to me on that trip to Bethlehem.

I didn't realize who the child in Mary's womb was.

But I felt chosen and so very special.

Three walls and a simple roof were all I had to offer.

No heat, no light, not even a door to protect them from the cold

But they seemed to be glad to find me and to rest here.

And I felt chosen and so very special.

All I really am is a container for food.

My name means "to eat".

Cows, horses, lambs - their mouths push into my center while they eat.

I wasn't clean. And I'm not very sturdy.

I had never carried so precious a bundle!

People were calling the baby boy an Infant King.

And I was his first throne: a manger.

I felt chosen and so very special.

None of them felt as unworthy as I.

I am the hay -course, cold and damp.

I am only good for animals to eat.

I was not the soft pillow or bed that a baby should have.

This infant has a rough beginning.

I wish I was softer, more supple and I smelled sweeter.

But I was the closest to his skin.

I felt chosen and so very special

He could have chosen a smarter, more faithful person.

He could have chosen a wiser, calmer,
more loving soul than mine.

But I am the one he calls the apple of his eye.

I am the one he holds in the palm of his hand.
I am the reason that his last throne was a crucifix

.I feel chosen and so very special

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Heaven I want to See-

When I die I don't want to be greeted by a stranger and spend eternity with that person. Then - of ALL times- I want to be met by Someone I know and know well. I want to feel welcomed and be hugged tightly. And when we walk and talk together I don't want to feel scared and out of place as happens many times on earth when you go to a new place with lots of people. It needs to feel more like Home, more like a returning that a first visit. I want to feel like I fit in, like "Finally! I belong!" I hope it feels like its perfectly natural to be there with whoever is around me. Like returning Home after a very, very long journey with lots of strangers in a different country. I want to be able to completely relax, be at peace and be known fully but still loved, appreciated and enjoyed. I want to have a Go To person as my friend; One who'll show me around and answer all my questions (I've had so many for so long). I would be great if it was a place where I can look forward to being, like every day is a count down to That Day. It's The Day when the veil will be lifted from my eyes and I will see clearly what I could never really see on earth.

And most of all I want to see the Face of the Person who loves me unconditionally. The Person who has always loved me despite my flounderings. I want to see that Person who loves me. I want to see that Person. I want to see.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

God Loves Plutos

Just thoughts I've read recently

I am God's patient- not yet cured. C.S. Lewis

Trees bend low with ripened fruit;
Clouds hang down with gentle rain;
Noble men bow graciously
This is the way of generous things. Bhartrihari

We become what we meditate on. Easwaran

Grace is a bursting presence of love at a time when we have the right only to expect condemnation or emptiness or aloneness. It is an unearned, unexpected present. M.Scott Peck

Just keep rattling your begging bowl. Sit like a begger when you go in God's presence tomorrow until he fills it. Refuse to take no or later for an answer. de Mello

Ever felt Plutoed? One day you're in and the next day you're out. God loves all of us Plutos because He chooses to. Not because you or i are big or important. You don't need to win God's love. You have it already. And since you can't win it you can't lose it. Max Lucado

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jesus is my PROTECTOR

Thank you my Jesus! My Savior and Protector! I revel in the title of Protector, Jesus. It brings me great peace. You’ve protected me from both myself and others. A person needs protection when they are vulnerable to someone or thing. When they don’t see manipulation by others to meet their own self serving needs. I was absorbed by the other person – not free, certainly not self-defensive. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t even see clearly or understand what was happening. The person who should have protected me did the opposite. Without understanding it all and without protection I was deeply hurt and in constant pain. I was meandering about, lost and very vulnerable. But you, Jesus, rescued me! When I couldn’t see things for myself you brought LIGHT to the situation. When I lost my way you became my compass and pointed me toward the right direction. I didn’t even know it was happening. You remained hidden. I was thinking you were distant but my pain clouded both my eyes and ears. You worked thru it all and found my hand, leading me thru the woods into the sunlight on the other side. I haven’t reached there yet but I almost don’t want to. The intimacy of our relationship now is special. I need you. I’m vulnerable, lost and almost blind but I have you. I feel very safe because I KNOW – there is not a single doubt- that you are in this very spot with me. So I move forward one step at a time with something that feels like tremendous courage on my part. In truth I know it’s the strength passing from your hand into mine that’s leading me forward. Thru osmosis your grace gives me confidence. I am SO loved! I am special to the Lord God of the Universe. The King calls me his child. The Savior rescued me – again. I have been here before so I recognize his handiwork. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. All I did was get lost – so lost I didn’t even know night from day. But in my pain I called out for help because I thought I was alone. A year later I see I was not. I am not. You are a beautiful sight my Jesus! A beautiful, beautiful and welcome sight. Your face brings me joy- such a precious experience. I love you.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Why you are Valuable

I've been thinking and praying a lot about the concept of having a healthy self image. Was reading a book called Your Life Is Your Message by Easwaran, an Eastern Spirituality type. From it I conjured up the following thoughts.

God is the resident of your deepest consciousness who is waiting to be discovered, calling out to be touched and used. God is Self because He gave Himself to you at your Baptism and countless times after that. God is your heart's home. Even is we've made mistakes God/Self doesn't relocate. Even if we doubt His existence there, God doesn't leave us. He always lives in the deepest part of our consciousness wanting to be touched and used. God/Self is not less in one believer that He is in another. A simple spark of God is enough to fill the world with Light.
God lives in your deepest consciousness begging to be freed by your actions. Your faith in that message is what begins His release. The Savior of the world, who opened the gates of heaven for us all by dying on the Cross is He who has taken up residence in your heart's home- your soul. It is His presence in your very being that makes you precious. It isn't anything you've done or not done, earned or not earned. It is God's generous and selfless gift to you. It's not about you. It's about God in you. He chose you as His Home.
Believe this and live confidently and freely WITH Him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Me and the Guys (Apostles)

Jesus, you were so great with the Apostles. I’m sure you knew what they were like when you chose each of them. Was it despite that or because of that you said, “Come, follow Me”?
Hey Lord, can we sit on your right hand and on your left?
Jesus, let’s build a big Temple here. Isn’t that a great idea?
Of course, we’ll watch and pray with you, Lord. I might just close my eyes for a minute tho...

So Jesus you actually chose these specific guys to pass on your job after you died. That’s really surprising. But even more surprising is that they did. I’m writing 2010 years after that fact and we’re still talking about them and you. So the fumbling apostles got it together with your grace and the Holy Spirit. They managed to tell the whole world about you and to establish the Roman Catholic Church.

God’s will will be accomplished.

That’s good, because I could sure use some help! I’m like a Van Gogh that’s been damaged. I’m a great design because of You. But I need restoration to get back to the original version. So I place myself in your hands Great Artist Lord! O Great Designer, adjust my emotional colors please. I trust you. Take out whatever tools you need and do what you have to do. I know I have nothing to fear. I only want your will to be done in me and through me.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Can Prayer Be That Simple?

Dear God,
When I’m with other people I don’t fill every moment with prescribed conversation. I may think of some few points I want to discuss with them and the rest of our time together flows as it may. We may go somewhere together , eat together or be silent together. Prayer time can be like that too. The longer I know you the fewer words that are needed to be said.

There’s no pressure to produce gifts for you, no need to review our past, no need to schedule every moment. I don’t do that with my real life friends. We do discuss our daily lives, problems and relationships and I hear their advice and input. I listen. We enjoy being in each others presence and when that time is over we hug and schedule a next visit. Where will we meet? What time?

At that time approaches I become happy as I anticipate our visit- the expectation of our time together, my friend’s actual arrival. And so the relationship evolves. We just enjoy being together because we have the same interests and values.

That’s what our prayer life together is- just that simple. Thank you Lord for the gift of time with you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

change involves risk

As an infant we crawled and something inside challenged us to stand and to walk. A risk for sure but one which benefited us as we literally stepped into the unknown. No one guaranteed there’d be no falls. And those falls hurt- stunned us. Yet, in our innocence we took the risk again and again until the unknown became the familiar. The change brought us into a new vision of the world which we enjoyed.

Now, many years later Jesus challenges us to spiritual growth. But years of falling and getting hurt remind us of the pain involved with change. We don’t hear Jesus’ instructions or we thing the message was made up in our own minds and so not to be trusted.

I’ve also noticed how much of a creature of habit I am. I repeat the same behaviors simply because they’ve become my pattern. Before time for thought even seems to go by I’ve repeated my usual action or response. Only afterwards does the regret come. Like St. Paul, “I do the very things I hate.”

Jesus please help me to change my behaviors before I do or say them. I don’t need or want to gossip or complain but I do. I don’t mean to be impatient, but I surely am. I don’t want to do the right things. I want to be the right person – the one you created me to be.

Monday, May 31, 2010

It says: "Be not Do perfect".

Which is easier? Doing things perfectly is much easier than being more like God than your human nature inclines you to be. It’s much easier to clean the house than to be a patient spouse. It’s easier to go to Mass every Sunday than to always tell the truth. It’s easier to help at the local food bank than to hold your anger and accept when things don’t go your way. Doing is much easier than being.

God is love. To be perfect we strive to be more like God and still be our very best self. God created the design he calls YOU so he does not want us to destroy that. He enjoys how we put our own twist on becoming God-like. So it’s not about denying our core selves, our very personalities. Let that flourish and grow because that IS God. What we must deny is the selfish sinful part of our humanity that wants its own way.

That does not necessitate that we concentrate on our sinfulness. Let it just whither away from lack of use, like an unexercised muscle. We need to BE. That is concentrating on the pure, the honest and the simple. 1Cor 13 describes it well: patient, kind and humble. It’s not about being jealous of another’s good fortune but about genuinely rejoicing for them with no envy or bitterness. To be loving (instead of just doing acts of love) you do not look to have your own needs met- perhaps the hardest of all the love definitions. A person who loves perfectly is infinitely calm, forgives and forgets and welcomes criticism. That person never gives up hope and trust in God and is, therefore, a joyful person who daily and faithfully perseveres.

Love is patient and kind. When my mind feels confused and I’m waiting for clarification from God I’m not very patient. I like my T’s crossed and my i’s dotted preferring not to live in ambiguity. It’s an uncomfortable place to be….out of a job, waiting for a diagnosis, in the midst of a conversion experience of some kind. That’s when I need to be patient and, while being patient, also be kind. Not easy for me! Impatience brings with it an unsettling sense of aggravation, not kindness.

Jesus suffered at the agony in the garden and found his best friends asleep during it all. I’d have said “Look, I asked you to watch and pray but you’re all sleeping! Go. I don’t need friends like this!” Jesus certainly wasn’t happy with them but he held his tongue and asked them once again to pray for him.

Love is not self seeking. I believe that humans are instinctively self-centered. I am. Our primary thoughts are about ourselves. Hungry, tired, thirsty, angry, sad. Those things seem to preoccupy our minds over thoughts about others. If I’m really tired I am usually insensitive to the apparent needs of others. I don’t seem to be able to find the energy or the desire to go outside of myself to focus on them. Yet that is exactly what God wants and what Jesus did while He was on earth. Indeed 1 Cor 13 says “if I give all I have to the poor but have not love, I gain nothing.” We do, give and act but that’s not the love St. Paul describes. That’s not being Jesus. It’s only mimicking his actions.

Christianity is not for the feint of heart. It is not easy to be like Jesus. It’s a lot easier to put on an act. Yet acting is only the first step toward heart transformation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

John the Baptist Application to Life

Among you stands one you do not know.”
John 1: 26

Jesus had been living on earth for 30 years yet no one recognized him for who he was. Even after that statement, Jesus still had to present himself to the world through John by asking to be baptized. I’m struck first by the humility of our Lord and Savior. Jesus lived with his mom then conformed to the expected norm by being baptized by his cousin. Jesus didn’t even introduce himself. In his humility Jesus lowered himself into the water before John to be baptized. His Father, however, couldn’t contain himself and burst thru the clouds to say, “This is My Son!”

Life Application
Protect your family.

Follow appropriate societal and religious rules

Look for Jesus. He is standing right in front of you.

There is no need to announce your talents or good qualities to the world. Just use them.

If you heavenly Father (maybe thru another human being) chooses to applaud you just allow it neither stopping it, egging it on nor falsely denying it.

He spent 30 hidden years with his mother. She’s had more time with him than anyone on earth ever could and that’s my second observation. Surely I should cultivate my relationship with Mary! How much more could she tell me about his personality. They lived together for 10 times the number of years that Jesus spent on earth revealing himself to the entire world. She knew his daily schedule, his moods. She knew his favorite foods and his likes and dislikes. Mary lived with Jesus while he developed both his prayer life and his talents. Given that their world had no TV, iPods or cell phones Mary and her son must have genuinely communicated on a daily basis. Imagine being a fly on that wall!

Life Application
Family is important

Contemplate the intimacy of the relationship between Jesus and Mary

If Mary was so important to Jesus that he spent 30 of his 33 years of life on earth with her, then I should spend time with her also.

Search the Gospels, listen to others, read and pray so as to get to know Jesus as well as Mary does.

“I would not have known him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me…that this is the Son of God.”
Jn 1:33

John the Baptist speaks the truth. On his own he would not have recognized Jesus Christ. Hundreds of people sought John daily to be baptized. He performed this mission daily, baptizing person after person.

Life Application
Whether its mission work or making widgets we wake up every day to do our job. After a while we develop routines and the monotony begins. But, John had his ear to the ground and kept his heart open to listen. Because of that he was able to receive the Father’s message. Be quiet in your soul and receptive every day.

John kept saying it wasn’t about him but about the “One whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” It is not about me. I am only the Lord’s unworthy servant.

Announce the Lord when you meet him. Look for and greet Him in others. Boldly reveal Jesus to the world in your own unique way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A broken heart...

A broken heart is a compassionate heart. Maybe my heart has turned stoney as a defense mechanism. God never asked me to be perfect tho. He never asked me to move mountains. He has asked me, by allowing my heart to be broken, to live simply and humbly- to be less complicated. Amazingly, this is a lot harder than it sounds.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Death Won't Get in MY Way!

Jesus, did you just sort of “wake up” lying in that tomb?

Your eyes flutter open but your face is covered. To move that covering, your hands have to reach up. But your fingers and your nose tell you other things cover your body. Instinctively you try to move your hand up toward your face to move the cloth. Now you smell the myrrh – a smell your life began with 33 years ago. Your hand moves the cloth and fragrances away from your eyes and mouth. As you do that your hand feels tightness to it and to open your palm fully requires a stretching motion. Finally you’ve cleared your face with the help of your second hand. That hand too required that you stretch your fingertips wide to relieve the tautness of the spread.

It’s dark inside the tomb so you don’t see the scars on your palms but as you begin to awaken you also begin to remember. You remember the smell of those same fragrances from your visit to Lazarus’ tomb. Your now outstretched hand brings the scene back. The darkness that covers you confirms the memory. I was dead.

As you lie there you try to collect your thoughts.

I was dead.

The nails went through these same hands. I remember the hammer coming toward my hands and feet. The memories are all rushing back now.

The spear went through my side, Jesus recalled. Instinctively he reached to touch it. A healed scar replaced the torn flesh. And as he tried to lift his head, a smile began to grow ever so slightly on one side of his mouth. I was dead.

No crown of thorns on his head now as Jesus tries to hoist his upper body into a seated position. Buds, plants and flowers all trickle and fall away and Jesus removes the cloth that had once covered his face and body.

Seated upright his eyes try to focus and he turns his head to see where they placed his once lifeless body. The tiny smile begins to broaden into a grin. “Oh Father!” He had been buried and placed in someone’s tomb. It was someone else’s tomb because Jesus never had one for himself. Did he think he’d never need one?

“Father” Only one word. After all the experiences of the past three days the only word Jesus could bring himself to speak was “Father”. In that word alone was the full realization of what happened. The union of the two in that one word was like a meteor hitting the earth. The Father, who had been watching his Son’s body return to life as closely as he watched him be scourged, crucified and die, spoke his son’s name. “Jesus!” The strength of their love for one another was spoken in those single words. It was as though a huge surprise party was about to take place and only they knew about it. Jesus’ heart began to pound. He was suddenly anxious to remove himself from the tomb entirely. (Did Lazarus feel like this?”) He place two scarred but strong feet on the ground and reached his head and arms to heaven. He couldn’t wait to meet his beloved Father. He wanted to hug him, give his Abba a big, hearty pat on the back and say, “We did it! It’s done!” Instinctively he knew that would have to wait.
He looked for the entrance to the place where he had lain. Feeling around the walls which surrounded him, Jesus came upon the big stone that stood in the way between him and The Revelation. He would not have it. He could not have a stone between himself and his disciples, his mother, redemption, his Father. No stone would do that. No simple earthly stone was going to stand in his way.
Facing the stone Jesus looked up to heaven and repeated the same word, “Father!” He places his two scarred hands on the boulder blocking Jesus’ entrance into new life and it moved, slowly at first, out of his way.

No stone.
No nails.
No devil.
No death.
Nothing could stop him.
Nothing did.

As the stone rolled away so did the night. The stone was gone, darkness and sin were gone, evil and death were gone. Day broke through and with it Light, Salvation and Redemption. It was a moment of celebration for Father and Son. The grin on Jesus’ face was replaced with a huge smile. The smile erupted into a hearty laugh. “We did it. It’s done!” Jesus tilts back his head and laughs into the sky. “Father, we’ve won! Heaven has come. The doors are open wide so all can join us! Yeah!”

Jesus catches his breath, his heart pounding with excitement. He looks around one last time before he begins the final phase of his journey. Not too far away he sees the image of three empty crosses. Although it was a sobering view, his gaze then turned to the empty tomb behind him. Empty. Cloth on the ground. Stone rolled away. Empty.

Jesus then begins to walk toward his future and ours.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Most Horrible Crime

The most horrible crime in history was committed by those men who crucified Jesus. But Papa says, "In my relationship with those men I will never bring up what they did, shame them or embarrass them. "
What a great God we have!

Wm Paul Young: The Shack p. 225

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Do not be afraid

John Paul frequently said "Do not be afraid" when he visited countries. When asked to explain he said "We should not fear the truth about ourselves. Even Peter, the first Pope, was a sinful man! We all are, including Popes. We are imperfect and our hearts are anxious. Christ knows our anguish best of all. Do not be afraid of God, but instead invoke Him. Call him Father. He himself became a man in Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid of God who became a man. (Italics are John Paul's)
John Paul the Great

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On my own....I fail

"You must be born from above." I cannot be reborn from below, that is with my own strength, with my own mind, and with my own psychological insights. There is no doubt in my mind about this because I have tried so hard in the past to heal myself from the complaints and failed.....and failed until I came to the edge of physical exhaustion. I can only be healed from above, from where God reaches down. What is impossible for me is possible for God. "With God everything is possible."
I cannot forgive myself. I cannot love myself. I cannot leave my anger. I cannot bring myself home nor can I create communion on my own. I can desire it, hope for it, wait for it, pray for it. But my own true freedom I cannot fabricate for myself. That must be given to me. I am lost. I must be found and brought home by the Shepherd who reaches out to me.
by Henri Nouwen The Return Of The Prodigal Son

The Clay by Ron DiCianni ©

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Favorite One

The younger son said, "I started to walk home slowly and hesitantly, hearing ever more clearly the voice that says: "You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests." It is a light-giving voice that keeps calling me 'my favorite one.'

Monday, February 15, 2010

i am a little church

i am a little church by E. E. Cummings
i am a little church (no great cathedral) far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities- i do

not worry if briefer days grow briefest, i am not sorry when sun and rain make april my life is

the life of the reaper and the sower; my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving

(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children whose any sadness or joy is my grief or

my gladness around me surges a miracle of unceasing birth and glory and death and
resurrection: over my sleeping self float flaming symbols of hope, and i wake to a perfect
patience of mountains i am a little church (far from the frantic world with its rapture and

anguish) at peace with nature -i do not worry if longer nights grow longest; i am not sorry

when silence becomes singing winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to merciful Him

Whose only now is forever: standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence (welcoming

humbly His light and proudly His darkness) .

Friday, January 01, 2010

Death and Life ...Again

Last year (see post on 12/12/2008) on 12/5 my 30 yr old nephew died. This year (2009) on 12/13 my dad died. How does one integrate death with the Christmas season? It is a natural part of the cycle of life we all know. But when it hits home its not such an intellectual discussion. I actually contemplated the manger in Church and I could feel the joy of Jesus' birth. Our church has a very large crucifix suspended from the ceiling. I couldn't focus on that b/c the pain was too much. It was much more comfortable to look at a newborn baby... a smiling Savior.

Jesus, be born in my heart please so that I may gently give birth to you in my world.

Psalm of an Emerging Emmanuel

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,”
I pray with upraised eyes.
Drop down, O Dew of Heaven,
That God might walk and talk on earth,
Might heal and feed our sin-soaked world.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
My prayer like searchlights
Comb the starry winter skies.
Descend from the black hole
of some neighboring galaxy
to green with your grace
our barren earth.
Such an Advent waiting prayer
can be a lifelong profession of patient longing,
unless I know, with all my heart,
that Emmanuel not only comes down
but also comes forth and emerges.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
Come forth from deep within me
With Christmas luminous beauty.
For my heart has become the sacred crib,
The birthing place of God-among-us.

Peace on earth and justice for all
Will only become manifest in our lives
When enough of our sons and daughters
Awaken to your divine design
That has made each of us
an emerging Emmanuel.
From Psalms for Sacred Seasons