"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thin Places

Thin places. Those places of awakening when God is especially close. They are porous. Permeable. Where the boundary between what is and what isn't becomes soft. Where the walls become thin. Where we can glimpse the realm of the eternal. And where the eternal can seep through and touch us.

A friend told me recently that when she walked into the chapel at Sancturio de Chamayo, she burst into tears. It was a thin place for her. But it doesn't have to be a place.

Like beautiful music and good poetry.

Like the sacraments of holy communion and baptism where we are awakened to mystery. Or like  a common meal around a dinner table when we realize that every meal is communion.

Like when you hold your first grandchild.

Like when the sun begins its ascent in the east -- and God begins pouring out new mercies. Yes, the stillness of God -- presented Tuesday morning in a white woolen blanket of fog. Not to put down paper and pen would have been a sin. An affront to the One who was coming close. Is this how Elijah felt? It was not a time for dancing or singing or even prophesying.

No. Moments like these are for awareness. For being silent. For beholding. For just being.

Thin places. They are everywhere. Let's all ask for the grace to have eyes to see.

The Lord your God is in your midst...
He will rejoice over you with His gladness,
He will renew you in His love...
Zephaniah 3:17a

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking for Lovely in 2016

A friend sent me an email last week stating that I needed to write one more blog for 2016 in order to get off of 13. Yes, I have only blogged 13 times this year. I quickly typed, "Challenge accepted," and hit the send button. So I've been thinking a lot about what I could write that might be more than just words on a page and I was completely "blogged" down (please forgive the pun). In fact, as of this time yesterday morning, I had totally given up. After all, who wants to read, "2016: A Year of Heartbreak"?  And quite frankly, it was just too hard to look at. But three days ago, I picked up Annie F. Downs book, Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter," and after completing it, my mind has been transformed to a new way of thinking.

As I read back through my 2016 journal earlier this week, over and over I had written, "My heart is just so broken this morning." So, yes, the original title, "2016: A Year of Heartbreak," could have worked and been very appropriate. For example, in the first quarter of 2016, my oldest son went through an unexpected divorce. On the Richter scale of my heart, it was a full blown 10. The 2nd quarter saw the return of my brother's brain tumor. Once again, our lives were shaken. August revealed yet another breakup when our daughter did the bravest thing she's ever done and left her husband. And then, October landed my husband in the hospital for several days with what we thought to be a stroke or TIA as he lost his memory. Like it was here one minute and, ZAP, gone the next. I thought I had lost him, too. 

Large heartbreaks with a thousand smaller ones wrapped up inside of each. Not to mention all the other things that go along with just living. Rough stuff. All things that can break one's heart. 

But in reading Annie's book, I discovered that I could either let 2016 be defined by these heartbreaks, or I could do as she has done and look for lovely and collect the moments that mattered. And what I have discovered is that lovely shows up as hope where there's despair; as faith where there's darkness; as love where there's hate; as joy where all else is crying. It shows up in siblings gathering around each other to laugh and support. As friends coming together in grief to encourage and cry. As prayers lifted to heaven -- with numerous tears. As meals given, as meals received and as meals shared. Lovely is found when you are seen; when I am seen. 

One of my journal entries I came across read, "We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our responses." And so as the year draws to a close, I have chosen the latter, for, indeed, there is so much lovely to be seen. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. For Lovely.

Just an ordinary moment...


Monday, November 14, 2016

Would You Like to Dance?

I have always loved to dance, despite the fact that I've never been particularly good at it. For those of you from my area, you might can appreciate that at only 3 years of age, I was one of Sally Stanley's very first students. Whereas I loved it, I also wanted to take piano; and seeing that my body shape was probably more conducive to the latter, the summer I was entering 2nd grade, my uncle Bernie bought me my first piano and my parents signed me up for lessons with Mrs. Bedingfield. But I still loved to dance. 

On several occasions, neighborhood friends and I would hold shows on my parents' front porch or in the carport. We performed skits (my friend Jeannie received a pie in the face) and told jokes, but there was always singing and dancing involved in the midst of it all. In fact, I specifically remember doing a dance number to Doris Day's "Que Sera, Sera." And on one such occurrence, "Miss Sally" herself was sitting in the crowd. I was very young. She was very gracious. 

As time waned, so did the shows, but never my love for dancing. Unfortunately, my dance card never filled up. It seems I was always the last to be invited to the school dances, and even then it was often by the guy who had depleted all of his other choices. I even went with a distant cousin one time. I caught some grief for that one. Then my future husband came on the scene and not only did I have dates to the proms but I also got to go to his college dances! We still laugh at our different dance styles. And, yes, after I married him, we joined a local square dance club and literally danced circles around everyone else.

Today, most of my dancing is done through my fingers at the keyboard. Or vicariously through Dancing With the Stars which is the only show I have set to record on my DVR. And if truth be known, I can be caught twirling through the kitchen while I'm baking. Like I said, I have always loved to dance. My body tends to want to move when I hear a good beat. 

Throughout the Scriptures we are told to "rejoice." The Psalms are particularly filled with such charges. But if we delve a little deeper into the true meaning of the word, we will see that it's more than just to be glad. The Hebrew is gyil which means "to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion)." Wow, that's a lot different than just smiling and clapping our hands. Sounds a little bit like dancing to me.

But here's the cool part: whereas we are told over and over to "gyil in the Lord," there is a Scripture where God says HE gyils over us. Zephaniah 3:17 -- The LORD, your God ... will rejoice (gyil) over you with gladness..." Do you hear that? Our God twirls around over us in violent emotion. In other words, He passionately DANCES over us. How can we not get caught up in that kind of rejoicing? How can we not enter in to such a divine dance? 

Yes, we are invited. Not as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice, but as His first. His desire is for you. For me. All of us. Fully accepted in the Beloved, with His name written on every line of our dance card. Why not accept the invitation to join in? Kick up your heels. Tap a toe or two. Move back and forth in rhythm. Or swirl violently. But know that regardless if you choose to or not, He's still dancing over YOU with much joy ... and a whole lot of wildness.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bread Given

The light tap on the door revealed my darling, young friend standing there with a warm loaf of bread in her hands. Laura Carroll. It's what she does. It's one of the many ways she loves me. She informed me that it goes stale fast; that I might want to slice and freeze it. But no need for that. Bread disappears quickly around here; especially hot, homemade bread. In fact, I had already had two slices before the dinner hour arrived -- and then another with my meal. 

But by far my favorite partaking has been at breakfast. These last 2 mornings I have sliced, buttered and toasted a couple of small slices and brought them out here to my sunroom where I could enjoy them in the quietness of the breaking day. A candle is lit -- and breakfast becomes communion.

What grace. What gift. A young mother TAKES some wheat and mills it herself; BREAKING it. The BLESSING comes in her act of mixing, forming and baking. It's her spiritual act of worship. Her spiritual practice. Baking bread. And then she GIVES it, which just might be the hardest part of all. Sounds an awfully lot like Jesus to me. Like God. 

Henri Nouwen wrote, "As the Beloved of God, my greatest fulfillment lies in being bread for the world. I am chosen, blessed and broken so that I might be given." Yes, that's my young friend.

Toast and coffee. Bread and wine. Communion. Just me and Jesus -- and Laura.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Psalm: O Living Flame of Love

There has never been a day I didn't love You,
     Though often times the embers barely glowed;
     Nor could the heat be felt by anyone but me
          And even then only faintly.

But I have always longed for You,
     A built-in yearning not of my own;
     Often searching in the wrong places
          But longing and looking nonetheless.

Today I ask for a fresh breath of Spirit oxygen --
     "The enkindling of love, wherein the will of the soul is united,
     And it loves most deeply, being made one with that flame in love,"
          As John of the Cross so beautifully put it.

Yes, be rekindled in me first,
     O Living Flame of Love, and then
     Radiate Your love, Your peace, Your warmth
          To an ice-hardened world that so desperately needs Your heat.


Just an ordinary moment...