May 30, 2010

Ordinary Time

“Ordinary time” someone once called the time between Pentecost and Advent. Summer is a time to let some things go, like the school year routines. Many of us head off for vacations in an effort to reconnect with our families. Others may have to work out different arrangements for child care while they are at work. A friend of mine is taking a summer long Sabbatical to do some study, some reflection, and some writing. Ordinary time is a time for sitting with our Lord and learning new things. To these goslings everything is new and exciting. The same can be true for us, if we take time to stop and look and listen to God.

Summer can definitely be a time to reconnect with God in new ways. Many churches change their service schedule, have fewer (or no) choir members to assist with the singing, maybe even have a parish picnic or meet outside one Sunday. Some of us don’t like the changes. I would suggest that they are opportunities to experience God and worship in new ways. If you are like me, you get stuck in a rut-sitting in the same pew, next to the same people, Sunday after Sunday. But when things are changed, someone else may occupy ‘my’ pew and I might have to sit in a new location. If there is no choir, we all have to praise God more loudly. ‘Make a joyful noise,’ the psalmist says. God doesn’t care about our tunefulness, but about our joy filled hearts.

Ps. 37:4-5 says: “Trust in the LORD, and do good…Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Maybe this summer, this ‘ordinary time’, will give you time to think about living into God’s desire for your life, which is the very thing that will make you fully who you are meant to be! Our Loving Father gives us all we need for each step and fills us with the grace to accomplish those things that will make you & me more fully the Child of God we are each created to be. From now through August, we’ll look at the lives of some of known and unknown heroines of the Bible to see how God’s love gave them the desire of their heart.

I invite you to join me throughout this ‘ordinary time’ on my blog for a look at some of the ways God interacts with them, because it is the same way God interacts with you and me. Perhaps through this blog you can find a bit of a weekly Sabbatical of your own and experience God’s love in a new way.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day. Thanks to our troops currently serving and all who have gone before. Memorial Day photos like this always brings to mind the WWI John McCrae poem In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

My husband and I are off to Colorado (speaking of a vacation) and then to the Chama Book Fair next Saturday. If you are in the area, come up to lovely Chama, NM to meet a bunch of authors from NM who write everything from children’s stories to westerns to sci-fi and any other genre available! We’ll be at Cookin’ Books in Chama on June 5 from 11-3!

See you next week for our Ordinary Time Excursion with some of our faith ancestors this summer.

May 23, 2010


Pentecost was a feast of Judaism that occured 50 days after Passover. It is mandated in Leviticus as one of the major festivals that are holy to the Lord. "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath." (Leviticus 23:15-16).

This feast is also called the Feast of Weeks or Feast of Harvest in the Old Testament. The name "Pentecost" is from the Greek word for 50, but it is the same Festival that was observed from the time of the Exodus when the 'first fruits', the early harvest, was brought before the Lord in thanksgiving.

For Christians Pentecost takes on a whole new meaning. Jesus promised, at his Ascension, "you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." The events recorded in Acts 2 come to life in this art from

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’" (Acts 2:1-13)

The Jews in Jerusalem for the Festival were astonished and confused. Peter, who only 7 weeks earlier had denied knowing Jesus becomes the spokesman for his fellow Christians.
"‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”" (Acts 2:14-21)

Often we focus on the 'speaking in other languages' after the Holy Spirit was given. However, I think that a more important occurence was the new First Fruits--a harvest of souls!

"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:37-42)

The Holy Spirit is still active and inspiring us today. Our vistas and opportunities are as broad as this view at Canyonlands, UT. As you celebrate Pentecost this year, I suggest that you meditate on Peter's words to the Jews in Jerusalem 2000 years ago:
"This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:32-36)

What response is required of our faith now, to inspire a new Pentecost and a new harvest of the first fruits of souls?

Pentecost marks the end of the season of Easter and the beginning of the liturgical season of Pentecost. It is the longest of the seasons of the Church year. Between now and Advent we hear again the stories of Jesus earthly ministry. Sometimes called 'Ordinary Time', these next few months will be a time for you and me to explore how God is found in our Ordinary, Everyday Life. I hope you will join me.

May 16, 2010

Living the Way of the Heart

These Eastertide meditations have been inspired by a quote from Henri Nouwen that I used in my Footprint News e-newsletter in April  “For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.”

The Way of the Heart is a path to reclaiming “your identity as a free self.” e.e. cummings wrote: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

In order to be yourself—a beloved Child of God—we, you and I, have to find the solitude and the silence to be with the Father who loves us. We also have to be in conversation, call it prayer, with our Father. Perhaps that conversation is the most important part of all into the Way of the Heart. As Paul reminded the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thes. 5:16-18) Like the goslings are dependent on their parents, we need to keep our eyes fixed on our Father.

Anyone who has ever tried to live authentically and in a true relationship with God knows it’s not something we can do by ourselves. We need one another and we need our God to encourage us. As “You Raise Me Up” says, “You raise me up, to more than I can be.” In our ministry to and with one another we lift each other’s burdens and point them to the One who can truly “…raise me up, so I can stand on mountains…to walk on stormy seas.”

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.


In another of his books (Out of Solitude), Nouwen offers advice on how to be in true relationship—a true friend. "To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow the other to come close to us. It means to take away the many barriers which prevent us from entering into communion with the other. When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts…By the honest recognition and confession of our human sameness we can participate in the care of God who came, not to the powerful but powerless, not to be different but the same, not to take our pain away but to share it. Through this participation we can open our hearts to each other and form a new community…When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

It is not easy to give up being a “pleaser”. It is something that many theologians and mystics have noted. CS Lewis warns “We must get over wanting to be needed: in some goodish people…that is the hardest temptation of all to resist.” (Mere Christianity)

To be part of the “Way of the Heart” is to give up our need to be affirmed, supported, needed and simply sit on our Father’s shoulders where we become, “more than I can be.” In this week before Pentecost, I encourage you to look back at your journey since Easter through this blog. Immerse yourself in the God who calls to our heart with such a great Love that the only response we can offer is to lay our lives at the foot of the Cross. Remember your experience of the solitude and silence we explored as ways to enter more deeply into the “creative and re-creative power of God’s own Word.” If it was of help, use the ACTS method of prayer to be with God in a time of refreshment. Then, do it again and again until the disciplines become a way of life—the Way of the Heart.

By walking the Way of the Heart, we can, like St. Francis, ‘rebuild the Church.’ (As a young seeker, Francis heard a voice in the Chapel of San Damiano telling him to ‘rebuild My church’. Thinking literally, Francis set about reconstructing the building. Later he determined that God meant renewal of the people of God.)

Pentecost is one of the great feasts of the church. See you next week.

May 9, 2010

Fervent Prayer Availeth Much

Since Easter, we have looked at the discipline of solitude and silence with Henri Nouwen in Way of the Heart. He reminds us that these are not escapes FROM life, but means to ENTER more deeply into life WITH God. The way to do that is the third discipline-prayer. “Solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer…solitude [is] being alone with God. Silence [is] listening to God.”

“For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God,” says Nouwen. “…[another] viewpoint restricts the meaning of prayer to thinking about God…How can we possibly expect anyone to find real nurture, comfort, and consolation from a prayer life that taxes the mind beyond its limits and adds one more exhausting activity to the many already scheduled ones?”

Prayer can easily become one more thing to check off our daily to-do lists.
‘Went to the bank’—check
‘Led a meeting’—check
‘Said my prayers’—check.
‘Took a bath’—check
‘Wrote a thank you card’—check

How do you and I move past looking at prayer as simply one more thing to do? Nouwen says, “The literal translation of the words “pray always” is “come to rest”. I think that puts a different twist on prayer and praying and opening our hearts to God.

The way to “come to rest”, according to Nouwen, is found in the words of the Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse: “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.”

At first glimpse this sounds like a difficult and even frightening thing to attempt. And truly “such prayer transforms our whole being into Christ precisely because it opens the eyes of our soul to the truth of ourselves as well as to the truth of God.” So how can we dare to be that vulnerable with and before our God?

Paul encourages the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thes. 5:16-18) Rejoicing, thanking, and constant prayer are very different from listing our demands, needs, wants, and desires. The type of prayer Paul and Nouwen encourage is “to stand before the face of the Lord”—and simply BE with the same sense of expectation that Tony sings of in West Side Story:

Could be!
Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannon balling down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great! ...

Nouwen is quoted as praying "Lord, that my life might become simple enough for me to be able to say "yes" when Jesus looks at me.” This week, let us try to look at prayer as exciting, exhilarating rest and renewal time with God instead of a task to check off our lists. The acronym ACTS is sometimes suggested as a way to deepen prayer time. Our first focus is Adoration of and Confession to the Living Lord, followed by Thanksgiving. Only at the end do we come to Supplication for our needs and/or Intercession for others needs.

Next week will be the final one with Nouwen and Way of the Heart. How does living into the three disciplines help us live more fully into our Call as a Child of God?

May 2, 2010

Finding Charity (Love) in Silence

Have you ever stopped to think how much noise there is around us? I’m not just talking about words-spoken and heard. The sound of traffic, sirens, and even the noise of the phones and conversations around us is a form of noise. We become immune to the drone and don’t consciously hear it. On an even more subconscious level there is the electronic hum that pervades our lives. If you have ever had a power outage, one of the first things you notice is the quiet. The hum of the refrigerator and the lights is suddenly absent, even though you never really hear it on a day-to-day basis.

There is visual noise, too. Signs and poles and antennas and buildings are just a few things that distract our eyes. When you drive out in the country or into the mountains, suddenly the occasional power pole or cell phone antenna seems out of place and distracting. Even the wind farms springing up to provide power, are a visual distraction to the beauty of the open spaces.

Smells can create yet another kind of noise in our lives. Have you ever been in traffic beside a diesel truck and found yourself gagging? Or walked past someone drenched in perfume? Even good scents like a bakery or flower shop can create sensory overload. After working in a bakery, I found that I did not desire sweet things because of being surrounded by the smell of sugary things all day. The same is true for our souls when we are overloaded by all the 'noise' around us. We can become desensitized to the call of God in the silence.

Nouwen asks, “How [do we] practice a ministry of silence in which our word has the power to represent the fullness of God’s silence…to make our ministry one that leads our people into the silence of God?” He admits, “Silence has become a very fearful thing…empty and hollow…a gaping abyss which can swallow [us] up.” Nouwen suggests that there is a “converted silence” in which we can encounter the God of Love.

Simon Garfunkle’s song Sounds of Silence reminds us that amid the noise of “People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening” there is a silence that speaks truth. “The words of the prophets are…whispered in the sounds of silence.”

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

What are some of those prophetic words? Maybe not the ones Garfunkle says are 'written on subway walls and tenemant halls, but the real prophetic words that all speak of a God who loves us immeasurably. Real prophets call us to share that love in return with one another and with God.

Jesus himself quoted Isaiah 61 as the definition of his ministry (and ours as his followers) “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.”

The Spirit of the Lord, as we saw last time, is the inner fire to be guarded and nurtured in silence so that it can make us truly whole. When that happens we understand more fully Isaiah 12:2, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.”

It is true that we are surrounded by the “neon gods” Garfunkle sings of. With and through the Spirit we can speak “words that I might teach you” and hold out “arms that I might reach you.” It is not an easy calling. When we feel overwhelmed by the noise and needs around, Paul’s words to the Corinthians are encouraging. He is talking about the ‘thorn in his flesh’, but is true of any concern or fear we have. “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10)

To share in that grace, love, and power we have to be OPEN to God. Nouwen says finding our center in the silence of God means coming “away from the fragmenting and distracting wordiness of the world to that silence in which we can discover ourselves, each other, and God…Silence is primarily a quality of the heart that leads to ever growing charity (love).”

Every person has the Spirit within—for some it is slumbering and unknown, for others it is alive and burning, for many it is acknowledged and ignored. Certainly the Spirit is not something we can contain or control, but we can learn to be open to the Spirit through our practice of solitude, silence, and (as we will explore next week) our prayer.