Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Wrapping Up: What Are You Seeing take Three




Find the heartfelt and honest way you can cross the threshold this day into Visio Divina.  I pray your words, or the still small silence of the sacred, would center, calm, and call you into God's presence.

So, breathe and be.


Reflection....

What do you see in the photo above?

What made your list of insights and ideas literally?

What was stirred within you metaphorically?


What thousand words might start to pour forth from you in this one picture?

May what is stirring within you be more than a trace of God's grace this day as we cross the threshold into 2020.

Blessings ~~

Monday, December 30, 2019

Wrapping Up: What Are You Seeing take Two




I invite you again to come up with your own invitation to breathe and be.  Find words that will help you to prayerfully ponder and gaze.  Maybe you will use the same words as yesterday or test and try out different words to center and calm your soul.  Take a few moments to enter this holy time of Visio Divina.  Write down what you are seeing, what stories are springing forth, and what is stirring within you.

So, breathe and be.




Reflection....

What do you see in this photo above?

What do you see literally?

What might be stirring metaphorically?

What thousand words might start to pour forth from you in this one picture?

May this holy time cause more than a trace of grace.

Blessings ~~

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Wrapping Up: What Are You Seeing take One




I invite you this week to come up with your own invitation to breathe and be.  I encourage you to find words that will invite you to prayerfully ponder and gaze.  You could go back over the last weeks and find one of my invitations that you found meaningful.  I also hope over the weeks you have found your own way to cross the threshold into this practice of Visio Divina and you might start to speak your own words that center, calm, and call you into God's presence woven into every second.

So, breathe and be.




Reflection
I recently shared with you that I took over 1000 photos last summer and I narrowed those down to forty for this project. So, by the end of this week you will have seen 4% of my photos. Don't worry you will not have to see the other 960 photos that didn't make this devotional.

That is, unless you would like to!

This week, I will share some photos that have different shapes and I think can evoke lots of different responses.

There are no stories this week.

I want to share some interesting photos that I pray will spark a dialogue.  Remember, part of Visio Divina can be to engage this prayer practice with others where you can talk about what you are seeing, what she is seeing, and my favorite question, why?

The theme of this week is, what are you seeing?

The question is intentionally open-ended.
The question is prayerfully offered with the hope that you go in many different directions.
May your explorations both now and throughout every moment this week bring you more than a trace of God's grace, evoking within you hope, leading you with love, overflowing you with peace, and cultivating the joy of laughter in your prayerful pondering.

Blessings ~~

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Week Four Joy Summary




Take a moment to breathe and be.

Breathe and be.


Letting the lists that demand our attention be put to the sidelines for a few moments.

Let the promise of joy leap within you for this day.

After a week of images and reflections ends, here is space for you.

No images, except the ones roaming around your minds.

No more words, except these few in front of you.

Enter fully into this space before you and let it open a spaciousness within you.



Maybe this is space for you to create.



Maybe this is space to continue to reflect.



Maybe you want to leave this space empty.



What new insights into cultivating joy are starting to form or be re-formed within you?


Where does joy still seem too distant?


What is within you right now?

Breathe and be in the sea of traces of God's grace cultivating joy right now.

Blessings ~~

Friday, December 27, 2019

Week Four, Day Six Joy


I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who cultivates and surprises us with joy...exhale the need to explain rationally and reasonable everything in life.

Breathe in hope...and then exhale.
Breathe in peace...and then exhale.
Breathe in love...and then exhale.
Breathe in joy...and then exhale.

Breathe and be.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Next, make a list of what captures your eye, the parts of the photo singing to your soul, and sit for a few moments with the question, why?  Ask yourself, what is glowing and glistening with joy in your life - both around you and within you?  Breathe deeply.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.





Reflection
Emerald Lake in Alaska glistens and glows green.  It is alive with color even on a cloudy day.  It is beautiful beyond words.

Of course, I could say in my best scientific and scholarly voice that everyone knows the green color is simply, "Created by sunlight reflecting off a white layer of “marl” on the lakebed. Marl is a white calcium carbonate (CaCO3) clay that forms in the water and then settles, often unevenly, onto the lake bottom. It forms when enough carbonate (CO3), from dissolving limestone), reacts with calcium (Ca) in the water"*

I mean, duh.

But that doesn't tell me why this photo brings a smile to my face.
That doesn't tell me why I stood there in stunned silence trying to soak it all in.
That doesn't tell me why a poem about glistening green waters singing back to God who sang creation into being, starts to be written as I prayerful ponder, gaze not glance, at this sight.

Focusing and framing is about beholding and being held by what we see.  It is about paying attention not only to what we are seeing around us but also to what is going on within us.

The questions about emotions and what you are seeing that started each day of this devotional were not offered to fill space.  They were crafted to help you start to awaken and be aware of what is around you and within you.  I pray you have kept track over these weeks of what you have seen with your eyes, heard within your souls, and the stories from your life that were evoked and re-discovered.  In so many ways what is most important to me in sharing this devotional wasn't whether you liked my photos, but that the images might stir something within you.  I deeply pray that through images and words and sharing this time together, there were many traces of God’s grace.

The point every day was and is your ideas, insights, and questions.

The point is that when we listen to our lives, we open ourselves to the traces of God's grace, feel led by love, and cultivate joy so we might spread and share hope.  Traces of the sacred stirring, I pray, will continue to sparkle and shine like an emerald for you and for the sake of our world.

Blessings ~~


* Taken from Wikipedia, of course.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Week Four, Day Five Joy



I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina in this moment. 

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who colors with every crayon in the box...exhale those voices that say there is only one right color.

Breathe in hope...breathe out what distracts and causes you despair.

Breathe in peace and wholeness so that you can feel God's fingerprints on your life...breathe out what is numb.

Breathe in joy that is being cultivated...breathe out those nagging negative voices that demand all our attention and allegiance.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Have you ever felt like you had to go see or do something, but the bridge was out?  You couldn't get to your destination quickly or easily?  That where you wanted to go or where you were being beckoned would be a tough journey?  Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.




Reflection
You can't get there from here.

Maybe you've heard that phrase from a gas station attendant when you were out driving and got lost.
Maybe you've heard that in your job when you wanted a promotion.
Maybe you've felt that deep in your soul in a relationship where you longed for more, but the other said, "No".

You can't get there from here when the bridge is broke, and the concrete is crumbling.
You can't get there from here when there are too many obstacles and boulders that block your way.

Yet, the promise of cultivating joy is that God who sang stars into creation, parted the seas, wandered the desert for forty long years, and when the time was ripe decided to be born in a stable, our God is known for making a way when there is no way.  When you think, "I can't get there from here,” the sacred keeps stirring, swirling, and singing.

No, I could not walk out on that broken pier to touch the evergreen tree in the photo.
But I could've taken a kayak or waded in the water. 

When I think there is no way, God's creativity comes into my life, swirling through the cacophony or chaos helping me see a new path or a different way and sometimes a different destination.

Joy is finding a way through the fog to get to the place where our souls long to be.  This truth is woven into almost every story and your story is the proverbial parable of the hero's journey.  The hero's journey always starts when she leaves home, taking a leap of faith into the unknown and impossible.  The hero's journey always involves others thinking or saying, "You are on a fool's errand!  You can't get there from here!"  The hero's journey always goes through struggle and setbacks.  Whether we are speaking about Harry Potter or Rey from the recent Star Wars movies or just about any novel you read.  What makes the story interesting isn't that the person went from A to Z in the blink of an eye and the greatest of ease.  It is the persistence, it is the pain, and it is the person keeping on when everything looks like it is against her.

It is what draws us into the story.  This is true in the universal sense, but also in particular ways that makes your story uniquely and beautifully yours.  It is, my belief, that in the moments when the struggle is real and even raw, the traces of grace are like threads of love helping us discover joy even here in this moment.  Suddenly, there is a way to there from here.

Blessings~~

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Week Four, Day Four Joy



I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who is our rock and refuge...exhale the moments when the sand is shifting constantly beneath your feet with every wave crashing down.

Breathe in love that wraps around you...breathe out places and spaces that cause you to feel backed into a corner.

Breathe in a joy that is being cultivated and created here and now...breathe out the heavy rocks we try to carry all alone.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Next, try to count the rocks and study each one as showing God’s fingerprints.  What colors capture your imagination? What stories start to stir within you from this one photo?  Write down some of the thousand words that one picture can bring forth within you.  Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.





Reflection
Of the nearly one thousand pictures I took last summer, this is my favorite.  A few weeks ago, I told you about my love of rocks, which this photo has many.  This picture was taken on the last day of the trip when I began to feel my creativity growing. I laid down on the cold ground to focus on the one beautiful rock at the center with its white stripes and the mountains off in the distance.  For me, this photo brings together my love of creation, being close to rocks that have been around for centuries, and the creativity of photography.  On one level sharing this with you on Christmas Day seems appropriate, a gift from deep in my heart.

I could have waited until the last day to share this with you.  But when something brings you joy; it longs to be shared with others.  In fact, some say for joy to be joy it must be expressed.  Joy needs to be given away generously, and in giving away joy, it will awaken joy in someone else.  Joy is generative in that way and will continually create.

What brings you the deepest joy?

Luke says that when Mary heard the tale of angels singing to shepherds, she pondered all these things in her heart.  I picture her pondering the eternity that was dancing in the baby boy she had just named, Jesus.  I wonder if what she felt in that holy moment was beyond words, just as it is beyond words for me to really explain why I love the above photo so much.  When I paint the scene of Mary pondering Jesus in my mind, she is always smiling.  This scene cultivates joy.  Remember, in the both/and truths of life, that in that moment of Mary’s gazing at her new born child, the threat of Rome was still very real.  The fear of having a child out-of-wedlock loomed large.  Life wasn't all chocolate rivers and pony rides.  Remember, the shepherds who showed up with strange stories were not just on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder, many scholars suggest shepherds were not allowed anywhere near the ladder.  The whole strange story from a stable, to two unwed parents, to God entering our world in the form of a vulnerable infant, with only a tiny star shining above announcing, to shepherds being entrusted as the public relations team, this odd story is meant to cultivate joy with every twist and turn.

So, what strange moments bring you joy?
And you could ask that question for a thousand days and each day come up with another response. 

My deepest belief is that where our deepest joy is discovered, there the traces of God's grace will begin to guide us, God's love will lead us, and joy will be cultivated within us for the sake of the world.

May that be true for you and for me this day, this week, and throughout the coming year.

Blessings ~~

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Week Four, Day Three Joy




I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who the psalmist sang out, "I lift up mine eyes"...exhale the times we have tunnel vision or see only perplexing problems.

Breathe in unconditional and unceasing love...breathe out our needs to prove that love to God, ourselves or others.

Breathe in the ways you are cultivating joy in these days...breathe out those voices trying to tell you that this is all just a waste of time.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

I invite you to imagine reaching out touching the rough bark of these trees so you can feel the pulse of time and centuries.  What stirs within you?  What starts to sing within you?  What stories of being beneath the trees start to surface?  Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.




Reflection...
Thuja Plicata.

No, this isn't a typo, although knowing my spelling and editing abilities, I can fully appreciate why that would be your first thought.

Thuja Plicata is the scientific classification for the Western Red Cedar.

See, you already learned something today to impress your family and friends at Christmas Eve dinner party.  You are welcome.

These particular trees you are staring up at are 120 feet tall, 9 feet in circumference, and according to the sign at the park 400 years old.

You touch the tree to feel the pulse of centuries and time.
You touch the tree to feel the continued patient, persistent growth.
You touch the tree to feel your own smallness in life.

Nearby this growth of towering trees and was a quote from Hermann Hesse, "Trees are sanctuaries.  Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them can learn the truth."

One of the details of Christmas that stays and sticks with me is how Jesus was laid in a manger.  We often have wooden mangers today in our sanctuaries, even as scholars or archaeologists tell us mangers were most commonly made of stone.  Both parts of creation can hold long spans of time.  They are witnesses to years upon years passing by and piling up.  Both parts of creation played a role in Christ's life (wooden manger at Christmas and the stone in the Garden of Gethsemane).

Rather than staring at a picture or words today, I invite you to go out and touch the bark of a tree in your yard.  Listen to stories the tree tells you and share a story from one of the rings in your life.  Touch a tree to listen to time and share a time from when trees were sanctuary for you.  I pray there is more than a trace of God's grace in that moment for you and it is a holy moment of cultivating joy in these days.

Blessings ~~

Monday, December 23, 2019

Week Four, Day Two Joy





I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina this day.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who scurries around our lives sharing and scattering the sacred in joyful ways...exhale our constantly controlling, clinging, and white-knuckled ways we often live life.

Breathe in hope...breathe out despair.

Breathe in peace and wholeness so that you can feel the breath in every fiber of your being...breathe out stress that causes you to clinch your jaw.

Breathe in love…breath out loneliness and a sense that you must live life all alone.

Breathe in joy of this moment...breathe out the pain of the past or uncertainty about tomorrow.

Breathe and be.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture. There is a story to this photo, that I will share. But before I do, I invite you to come up with your own story.  I invite you to be creative about why I am sharing this picture.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.



Reflection
I know that it is a squirrel.  Perhaps you are thinking that I have clearly run out of interesting photos.  Perhaps you are thinking that it was too ambitious to try to write forty devotionals pages and I am scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Perhaps the emotion you named during your prayerful pondering just a few moments ago was perplexing puzzlement.

This is the squirrel story I promised you a few weeks ago.  We had just finished hiking Capilano Suspension Bridge park.  It was a place of profound beauty.  It had been a good afternoon.  And before I saw the “Hope Street” sign from week one, we met the unnamed squirrel above.  We had just sat down for ice cream and to rest, when this squirrel started scurrying all around us.  She was fearless.  Maybe some child had dropped his cone and this squirrel was hyped-up on sugar.  Maybe this squirrel had found a discarded 5-hour energy drink that still had a few drops of liquid left inside.  But this squirrel was at our feet, hoping on tables, causing children to chase after her, and bringing forth smiles and laughter.

I think about when we take our dog out for a walk, she lurches for every squirrel she sees like she wants to play.  Perhaps, in the moment captured and shared above, my dog and I are not so dissimilar.  We both delight in the playfulness of creation.

Cultivating joy is about framing and focusing on the both/and parts of our lives.  It is about trying to make lemonade out of the lemons we have been gifted in life, and such a way of being doesn't come naturally and normal to us.  Such a way of living isn't something we have been schooled in or have much practice in doing or even encouraged by others.

But part of what I pray is at work within you throughout these last few weeks of gazing at photos has been to see one single second captured in time for the profound richness that is drenching that moment.  Of course, we cannot live our life in such slow motion where we are always pausing every single second.  The questions of what you are seeing and why are you seeing have been offered to you as a way to give you insights into you.  If you have kept a journal of the what and why you are seeing, I invite you today to re-read some of your words from the past weeks.

I would also love to hear the story you came up with regarding Ms. Squirrel above.

Cultivating joy offers us the chance to laugh at a silliness of the sacred stirring.  Cultivating joy invites us to tell stories that bring smiles to our face.  Cultivating joy is another way of saying there are traces of God's grace saturating and soaking every second of this day.

Blessings~~

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Week Four, Day One Joy



I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina with your heart, soul, and life wide open.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who is found in the still waters...exhale those crashing, chaotic waves that wash over you today.

Breathe in hope...breathe out despair.
Breathe in peace and wholeness so that you can feel the breath all the way to the soles of your feet...breathe out stress sitting on your shoulders.
Breathe in love...breathe out indifference and intolerance.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

How does creation sing to you?  When was the last time being in creation brought you joy?  Breathe deeply.

You are invited to make a list of all that you are seeing and settle into the question of why those parts of the photo capture and captivate your attention?

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.




Reflection
We were at the Shrine of St. Theresa in Alaska.  It was a rainy day and we were trying not to let that dampen or drench our spirits.  We were trying to make the best of it.  Finally, for a few moments, the rain let up as we got out of the car.  You might even be able to see in the photo above a few rays of sunlight trying to peek and peer through the gray clouds.  Remember the rock stacking from a few weeks ago?  One of those photos was taken at this site.  As we were walking around, I looked out over the water to breathe in the beauty and I noticed that the top of the evergreen is the shape of the cross.

Creation singing out God's story who is with us in all times and places.

Richard Rohr says it this way, "For some sad reason, the thoughts that seduce or attract you are mostly the negative ones.   Neuroscience now can prove this.  If something isn’t as it should be your problem-solving mind takes off.  If there is someone to blame, you go there.  Pure praise and gratitude emerge much less frequently and much harder to sustain over time."*

To cultivate joy is a prayer practice worthy of our souls and whole lives.

Yes, I get that we would rather let our dualistic minds keep thinking that life is either good or bad.  Or that this day is either the best day ever or what just happened to us was the worst thing ever!  I get that we have been taught and told to delay joy or let the pain of the world diminish our joy or think that we don't deserve joy.

Then, I think that some of the folks who are the most joyful and the quickest to laugh, are those who have known deep struggle and pain.  Such folks have found ways to not let the pain have the final word.  They cultivate joy as a daily prayer practice.

To cultivate joy is my prayer for you this week.  I invite you in your focusing, framing, and beholding to let your gaze linger over not just the rain clouds, but the beauty of an evergreen tree, rocks just calling out to be stacked, and being with people who reflect God's creative imagination.

May our willingness to live in the paradox of the both/and parts of this life - both concern and celebration holding hands side-by-side - offer us traces of God's grace this week like an evergreen proclaiming God's story.

Blessings ~~

*Quote taken from Just This by Richard Rohr page 71

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Week Three Love Summary



Take a moment to breathe and be...

Breathe and be...

Letting the lists that demand our attention be put to the sidelines for a few moments...

And letting that imagination of hope, peace, and love draw new possibilities for this day.

After a week of images from glass to glaciers, trees, fog and lighthouse; as this week closes, I want to offer space.

No images, except the ones roaming around your minds.

No more words, except these few in front of you.

Lots of space....



Space for you to create.


To reflect.



To fill in with thoughts or leave empty.

What new insights into love movement within as well as around you?

What questions still sit silently within you?

What is your soul saying to you right now?


Breathe and be in the sea of traces of God's grace and love right now.



Blessings ~~

Friday, December 20, 2019

Week Three, Day Six Love


I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina this day to center on your breath.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who is a light to the world...exhale the dreary darkness that can be like a thick curtain on life.

Breathe in the One who can break through the fog...breathe out moments of confusion that keep us constantly spinning in all directions.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Now, imagine a moment when the beam of a lighthouse powerfully broke through the fog of your life helping you decipher, discern, and decide where to go.  When was the last time that happened?  The metaphorical lighthouse might have been a kind word or hug or nudge or affirmation from someone who cares about you.  Remember and retell yourself that story.  Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.

You are invited to make a list of all that you are seeing, what seems most important, and why that resonates in your soul today.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.







Reflection...
The most important reflection today is the invitation above, the moment you can remember and retell yourself a story of when the beam of a metaphorical lighthouse broke through the fog of life like a beacon of love showing you were to go.

That story matters, makes a difference, and is a trace of God's grace in the world today.

Yesterday, we spoke about the fog and ways we might daily walk through those moments when we don’t see clearly.  I suggested a few ways of prayer or talking with others as beams of light shining bright.  Here are a few more lighthouse moments for you to ponder.

Sometimes the lighthouse is a hug from someone I love.
Sometimes the lighthouse is the words that at first seem harsh, but are really calling me back to who and whose I am.
Sometimes the lighthouse is the still silence of sitting with God.
Sometimes the lighthouse is a beautiful carol that calms my soul.
Sometimes the lighthouse is the glimmering of lights on the Christmas tree or holding in my hands at the store a gift that feels like it is humming because the one who receives this gift will love it.
Sometimes the lighthouse is the taste of a warm cookie from the oven alongside a mug of hot chocolate.
Sometimes the lighthouse is seeing and hearing the Christmas story re-told by our children and youth.
Sometimes the lighthouse is hearing and seeing the Christmas story re-told musically by our choir.
Sometimes the lighthouse shines brightest by writing and sharing parts of my soul with you, both through images and words from my heart.

The list is not complete.

I welcome hearing the traces of God's grace and love that are a lighthouse shining for you right here and now in these December days.

Blessings ~~




Thursday, December 19, 2019

Week Three, Day Five Love


I invite you into the prayer practice of Vision Divina noticing the mystery of each breath.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One whose loving wisdom day-by-day helps us navigate life...exhale that is cloudy, unsure, and uncertain.

Breathe in the beauty of not knowing everything...breathe out the perfectionism that says you have to be Super Spiritual woman or man.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Next, imagine what would happen if the fog suddenly lifted and you could see behind what is hidden there just out of our sight?  What would happen if the curtain was lifted? Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.

Ask yourself, where is there metaphorical fog in my life right now? 

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.








Reflection
Loving people can be like trying to steer a ship through the fog!  We get glimpses of where to go and what to say from our navigational equipment (usually called our mind, heart, soul, past experiences, and prayerful hopes).  But God knows that equipment can go on the fritz and isn't always dependable.  We sometimes think we are heading the right direction, only to suddenly realize that something was off, and we were heading north when we thought we were going south.  In those moments when the sailing is smooth and we can see for miles, there is unmistakable joy.  Then, there are the moments we wake up to cloudy conditions that cause us to feel cut off from others, even from ourselves.

Loving people can be like trying to steer a ship through the fog.  And a good place to start is to realize love wasn't any easier or simpler in the 'good ole days'.  It just seems that way because we are gazing at the past into the rearview mirror of our lives.  We look back to where we have been and what we have already come through, from that vantage point what we see looks different.  In the rearview mirror we can spot the obstacles we avoided.  But sometimes we forget the ways we navigated the past pitfalls of life.  There was a time when we were not fully sure what was waiting around the corner. At least we thought it was a corner.  We couldn’t see, because of all the fog!

So, inch-by-inch, we try to navigate forward seeing only a small part, pieces, of what is around us.  Or in the words of Thomas Merton's beloved prayer, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself."

The fog isn't only between us and another, Merton is saying, that is within us.  We are foggy to ourselves.  We are constantly discovering new things, growing, and learning.  Sometimes such insights come by doing it right, getting the "A", and soaring with the eagles.  But more often, at least for me, I gain insights by stumbling, bumbling, and basically just trying to get through the thick fog of life.

Jesus entered our world through the thick fog of militarism and authoritarian Roman government.  Jesus entered our world through the thick fog of fear that kept people apart.
Jesus entered our world through the fog of religion that said, "This is the right way and just ignore all other ways."

Jesus still enters our world because the above three sentences are as true now as they were two thousand years ago. We cling to might makes right and gravitate toward power. We cast fear of the other as the way to convince people that we alone can steer you through the fog of today.
We promote membership in the church so we can say we are growing, at least in numbers, maybe not in soul.

But to grow through love.
To grow in love.
To grow with love.

How do you do this?  The ways we get through the fog can be as unique as the person reading this sentence.  Too often we want someone to be proscriptive, tell us what to do, rather than descriptive, telling us how she got through the fog.  I know I get through the daily fog by taking one step at a time.  Also, the breathing we have been doing where we inhale to the count of three and exhale to the count of six or seven has been shown scientifically to reset and even re-wire our brainwaves.  I take time to pray, listening for God’s nudges.  I read authors whose words nourish and nurture my soul.  I admit when I stumble and try to learn from my fumbles.  I look for moments of love and joy that can be like a beam of light cutting through the fog.  Perhaps some of this is helpful for you as you try to move about your life.  You may need to talk to others if you are an external processor who needs to speak your truth out loud in order to hear it for yourself.  You may need to go on silent retreats.  You may need to close your eyes and listen to music.  You may need to have other prayer practices to open your heart to the traces of God’s grace. This is the faithful and foggy way Jesus' life responding to the nudges of the Spirit and the traces of God's grace.  But, for me, such love is the way that compels my heart and calls to my soul as I prepare the stable of my heart for God’s entry this year.

Blessings ~~

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Week Three, Day Four Love



I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina with one big, deep breath that reaches all the way down to your pinkie toe.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One who tends and mends our lives...exhale that which seems cut off or even broke.

Breathe in the promise of new growth...breathe out places where the fresh bark of life hasn't hardened into a deep, rough dark brown exterior of a tree.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on the one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Now let your focus slowly survey and surf from the big parts of the photo that capture your attention to the smallest details.  Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at as many parts of the image as possible for a minute or so.  You may want to make a list of all you are seeing, all that is stirring, and perhaps why you are drawn to these parts or have these insights.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.


Reflection
It's broken!

At some point when we risk vulnerable love in the world, something will snap and we will reveal or expose the vulnerable part of our hearts just beneath the exterior bark of the tree called, "Our lives."

Like the tree above, the roots of our lives extend deep into the soil of our souls and the dirt of the earth.  We are born as an offshoot of other trees around us, grow up in a forest called a family.  The roots of our relationships connect us, nourish us, and sometimes even transmitting dis-ease from one generation to the next.

Like the tree above, we grow through the years adding rings within our souls.  We have moments of growth when we reach toward the sky.  We have moments of expansion when we spread our branches.  We have times of sharing when we sprout leaves and bear fruit.

Take just a moment to ponder prayerfully the metaphorical connection to our life and the growth of a tree.  How many rings are within your soul?  When and where are you growing?  When and where are you expanding to new places, even if it is millimeter-by-millimeter?   When and where are you bringing forth good fruit in these December days?

As we behold and are be-held by that truth, we also acknowledge the times when the winds of life start to howl, the winds whip up breaking off branches, scattering the leaves, and causing us to bend over prayerfully crying out the ancient words of the psalmist, "How long, O God?!"  Sometimes in moments like that we break.

It's broken.

Love, like a tree in the forest of life, sometimes snaps in response to the windstorms of life.
Love, like glass, is fragile.
Love, like a glacier caving, sets pieces to sail in the water around, piece that are no longer connected.

It's broken.

Jesus knew that when he heard stories from his parents how they fled the wrath of Herod to save his life, going to Egypt, when he was just an infant.  (Matthew 2)
Jesus knew the brokenness when his disciples, the very ones he had chosen, called, preached and taught, demanded to know who would sit at his left and right (places of honor) in God's kingdom. (Mark 10)
Jesus knew the brokenness because the inclusive and expansive love he embodied ran afoul with Caesar who didn't want anyone else claiming to be the Son of God.  (Mark 14)

It's broken like a glass Christmas tree ornament we thought we stored so carefully last year.
It's broken like a chip in the hands of one of the figurines from your creche scene.
It's broken like a love willing to risk being shared with others in this world today.

And when we are broken open it can either leave us bitter believing we will never do that again.
Or we process the pain out on the growing edges of life.

I am not sure that tree above will be able to regenerate or be restored.  It will take time.  The same is true with love when we are broken open.

But I am convinced at the heart of Christmas is a trace of God’s grace and love that can heal our world.  I am convinced that same spirit found in a stable during this season continues to move day-by-day in the coming year.  I am convinced that God is always entering anew and afresh around our lives.  I pray you might encounter such restoring and regenerating love in these days.

Blessings ~~ 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Week Three, Day Three Love



I invite you into the prayer practice of Visio Divina letting the light of your heart, the cool streams of your soul, and fire of synapses in your mind focus on your breathing.

Breathe in to the count of three...exhale to the count of six or seven.

Breathe in the One whose breath, fire, water created galaxies of stars shining over our heads...exhale those fragile or cracked parts of our glass-like-life.

Breathe in the truth that we share DNA with star dust...breathe out the disconnection and discord that stirs within you.

Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture.

Next, try to name five things you see.  Write down images, insights, or ideas that are evoked in this moment.  Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that the whole image for a minute or so.

Ask yourself, what do you see on this close-up photo that you might have missed from the one taken further away yesterday?  Reflect on the image for a minute or so.

Consider the following questions:
What emotions does this image evoke in you?
What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.

Reflection
A tiny star.

Yesterday, we prayerfully pondered and gazed at the large glass sculpture of which this one tiny star is a small part.  Maybe yesterday looking from afar, you thought of the sea in that big sculpture.  Maybe you thought of Genesis 1, the story of creation, where God's breath, fire, and watery chaos create all that is seen/unseen.  Maybe you thought of the movement of breath, fire, and water as metaphors for your daily living.  My hunch is you saw something in the sculpture yesterday I might never see unless you share your thoughts with me.

But one tiny star doesn't seem that significant in the scope of such a massive work which is made up of thousands of pieces of glass - each carefully constructed by an artist.

One tiny star maybe didn't seem that significant in the scope of such a massive movement of people when Caesar said, "Go" with the census, and people left skid marks in the sand scurrying to their homelands.  Unlike modern times where we are much more mobile, most people in Jesus' day didn't really move too far from the family homestead.  You didn't pick up and go as much as we do today.  You were tied to a land - either because your family needed your labor to help make ends meet or because you physically were no longer able to travel.  Some people were tethered to land as indentured servants unable to repay a loan from a wealthier person.  Into such a scene, a tiny star starts to shine.

I often imagine that star accompanying Mary and Joseph on the 80-mile trek from Galilee to Nazareth.  We have carols and Christmas cards that show a single star (sometimes very large) shining over a stable.  But for me, I do not see the star as a big spotlight beckoning people to come and see God's entry.  For me, the star is not a neon sign blinking brightly proclaiming, "Look here".  For me, on the first Christmas there was one star in a galaxy full of stars which many did not really notice.

But that is how vulnerable, holy love works.  Holy love moves not in huge displays or demands.  Holy love wiggles and works in our lives not in speeches or tweets.  Holy love enters not with power, privilege, or prestige.

Rather, holy love, like a tiny star of a massive sculpture, is one light illuminated with breath, fire, and water.
Holy love is one life of a tiny baby who was illuminated with the breath of God, the fire of Spirit, and a water of renewing grace.
Holy love is still one promise we draw near to see our own reflection in the stardust of one called, Jesus.

May the holy promise of this season illuminate your life with traces, even as small as one star, of God's grace this day.

Blessings ~~ 

God's Calling - We don't have it all figured out

  A few weeks ago, I offered the analogy of the Slinky as a serendipitous example of the ways calling can go off course and still end up in ...