Thursday, December 31, 2009

Midnight Prayer for New Year's Eve

Midnight Prayer
by Richard Rohr

God of the seasons, Lover of the ages,
Master of every moment:
You who are beyond time yet within all time.
We return to you what you have given to us —
the moments, the minutes, the hours, the days,
the weeks, the months, and the year of  2009.

Time has been gracious to us again,
and we thank you for freely giving us these human bodies,
these events, and these relationships.
We have lived another year and we have died another year,
and now you are granting us the beginnings of another.

We now hand over to you the blessed year, 2009,
with all that it gave us and all that it took from us,
knowing that both are necessary, just like our breath.
We trust you in both the givings and the takings,
the inhalings and the exhalings.

May every breath of 2010 be a breath of the Holy Spirit,
joyfully received and joyfully returned,
beginning with this one right now.

here is my suggestion for a new year's resolution:
subscribe to Richard Rohr's daily meditations for more great prayers.

(artwork is available from Inkslinger Art.)

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

6th Day of Christmas - Jesus & Women

"Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were
first at the Cradle and last at the Cross.
They had never known a man like this Man -
there never has been such another.
A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them,
never flattered or coaxed or patronised:
who never made arch jokes about them...;
who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension;
who took their questions and arguments seriously;
who never mapped out their sphere for them,
never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female;
who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend;
who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious.
There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel
that borrows its pungency from female perversity;
nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus
that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature."

(Dorothy Sayers, as quoted in the book "Freeing Theology")

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

4th Day of Christmas

Just when I'm starting to feel all warm and cuddly with the Baby Jesus in his manger, here comes the 4th day of Christmas and the Feast of the Holy Innocents to truly put a "harsh" on my Christmas "mellow."

If you recall this horrific tale, Herod slaughters all baby boys under 2 in his vile effort to kill this new king that the Wise Men were seeking. Jesus is born and blood is shed. Innocent blood....Baby blood. I don't like it and I doubt that I'm supposed to just turn the page to the next more "pleasant" bible story - so I'll act like Mary and ponder this one for a bit.

What were her thoughts when she heard about all those other mothers and fathers whose children were murdered because of her son? Was she overcome with fear? Or was she able to hold on to the "Fear Not" message of the angel Gabriel? Did she wonder if her own child would die at some point? I don't know....but this I do know:

1) Jesus changed everything but not in the cuddly cozy way that I like to picture. The light arrived and the darkness fought back. 2)Seeking Jesus proved to be very dangerous for the Magi and deadly for many who have sought him since then.  3) This world is filled with power-hungry Herods. They are countless. So long sweet baby Jesus. Hello the reality of the sin of the world. And 4) It is through his life and death that the darkness is overcome.  Alleluia!

As for the photo....There are so many disturbing artistic depictions of the slaughter of the innocents that I instead chose to share this picture I took of the Angel of Harmony. She sits in Thanksgiving Square on the Belfast waterfront, holding a ring of thanksgiving, with her feet on the globe.

While there I could not stop thinking of the many innocents killed in this small corner of the world.  Let us remember to pray for all children around this world today who are suffering at the hands of yet another Herod.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

3rd Day of Chrismas

I know this photo has been making the rounds since the beginning of the decorating season, but I wanted to acknowledge the cleverness involved. Bravo!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Not Over

Hmmm....looks like I missed Christmas posting and here it is the day after. I had to take down my tree this morning before it spontaneously combusted. It was so dry and it's only the second day of Christmas. We have 10 more days to go! Thanks to the poet Ann Weems, whom I have enjoyed quoting all this season, I do know that this birthing of Christ is decidedly not over.  This is a good thing, a very good thing.

Often this season I would hear someone say, "Jesus is the reason for the season" and/or "Let's put Christ back in CHRISTmas," as if we only pulled Christ out once a year to be carefully positioned within our ceramic creches. But we are continually giving birth to Christ in our daily lives.  Well, Ann says it better than I can....go her words...

"It is not over,
this birthing.
There are always newer skies
into which
God can throw stars.
When we begin to think
that we can predict the Advent of God,
that we can box the Christ
in a stable in Bethlehem,
that's just the time
that God will be born
in a place we can't imagine and won't believe.
Those who wait for God
watch with their hearts and not their eyes,
always listening
for angel words."
- Ann Weems

Are you curious as to where and when God will be born in the coming year for you?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent Night, Holy Night

I wonder what they were thinking that night
as they made their way to that dark and cold stable?

"Into this silent night
as we make our weary way
we know not where,
just when the night becomes its darkest
and we cannot see our path,
just then
is when the angels rush in,
their hands full of stars."
-Ann Weems

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coat of many layers

I'm in need of something humorous....and so on this night before Christmas Eve I give you Liberace's coat of 5 layers (if you include the collar)....wonder if it's mink? silly question?

Also, I've heard of all these songs except for "Gesu Bambino"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's that time again

I felt a draft coming from the guest bathroom this evening. This is what I saw when I looked into the darkness. Those wise men had pushed the window open and were staring up into the night sky.

Me: What are you doing?

#1: We are looking at the star!

Me: Is it that time?

#2: Yes, with tomorrow being Winter Solstice we feel the urge to travel.

Me: Anywhere in particular?

#3: Bethlehem of course. Have you forgotten the story?

Me: No, but I'm not sure why you have to leave every year.

#2: It's the cycle of the church calendar. We are beginning to tell the story yet again. The darkness of Advent is quickly coming to an end as the Light of Christ arrives. And we, as very wise men, are the witnesses to that light and we must find this King and bring gifts.

Me: I'm going to miss you. I'm struggling with the darkness. At times I feel as though it is taking over.

#1: The light is almost here dear friend. Light your Advent candles and focus on those flames. The one you are waiting for will be here before you know it, bringing with him more light than you can possibly imagine.

Me: Good thing. I'm so tired of waiting this year. You are coming back aren't you?

#3: Of course. We have become quite attached to our lodgings here. Though we were wondering if you could hook this bathroom up with Wi-Fi before our return?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Spy

Our best spiritual teacher
is always the life
that is right in front of us;
our most important spiritual lessons
always come in the form
of our life experience.
– Susan Thesenga

when I first looked at this photo I thought it was a heart that had been carved into the wood. of course it wasn't - but i wanted to see a heart. can i truly see what is right in front of me?  only if i really stop and look.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shouldn't someone know me?

While wandering through a Seattle area nursery which is famous for its Christmas displays, my daughter and I bumped into a group of senior citizens who were on a field trip of sorts. An  elderly women stopped right in front of me and asked in an almost accusing tone,  "Do you know me?" I said, "I'm sorry, no I don't" and we stepped aside to let the group pass us.

Several minutes later our paths crossed again and the same woman stepped towards me, searched my face, and said, "What's your name?"  When I told her she replied, "I had a name once but it was not the one I wanted" and then, "Are you my niece?" I said "No, I'm afraid I'm not your niece," while her caregiver took her arm and gently guided her back to the rest of the group who were continuing their trek through the Christmas displays. My daughter and I exchanged empathetic glances as we realized the level of this woman's distress.

A third encounter came to pass within another ten minutes. I had my back turned when I heard the questioning woman talking to my daughter. She said, "Do you know me?" My daughter tried to comfort her and as I walked towards them the anxious woman looked around and then toward the ceiling and said in a very loud voice, "Shouldn't someone know who I am?"

I wondered how many in the store were wondering the same thing but were not voicing it.  This woman was distraught because of an illness that was claiming her memories.  What about those of us who keep ourselves just busy enough to not have to think about our own fears?  of not being known?  of not being wanted?  of not being loved?  From the words of this stranger came the best gift.  The reminder that the one who knows who we are is of the now and the not yet.  So with eyes focused on the star in the East, may our footsteps remain headed toward that stable where we are all known and loved. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Halfway Mark...

Halfway through Advent - John the Baptist has wandered back into his desert with his ax...and frankly, I'm glad to see the back of him! What with his grousing about wrath & winnowing and his rough calls for repentance. I want to listen to upbeat Christmas music and head out to do some shopping and today holds both of those activities for me. But when I return I know I will not have found lasting comfort in them. Sure, it will be a fun diversion, but I will be aware once again of that deep longing within -and the realization that some family members are hurting, and I have friends struggling with depression, and that the world is in desperate need of love - the kind that covers the deepest of wounds. And then John the Baptist's words will ring in my ears, once again, advising me to share my coat and my food, to be honest, and to be content with what I have, but more importantly to remind me that the One who is yet to come is the love that I've been waiting for. Come quickly Lord, come quickly!
(and yes, that is Hagrid of Harry Potter fame, but to me he is the perfect John the Baptist!)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Big Gulp Theory!

A digital picture frame sits on my daughter's kitchen counter which presents a continuous slide show. She has not changed the photos in it for quite some time so the rotation includes pics of her 3-year-old daughter Rita from not only her first two years of life, but also from a Hawaian vacation taken right before Rita's birth.
Last week, some family members came by to visit and as they watched the changing pictures they commented on how much Rita has changed since those pictures were taken. Rita, who loves to be the center of attention, began a running commentary on each picture...she pointed to herself and said 'that's me" and then to her parents and said "that's mommy" and "that's daddy"....and when the Hawaii pictures came onto the screen she said proudly, "and that's me in Mommy's tummy"....
But then, she just stopped talking, as a look of deep distress crossed her little face. She turned to her mother and whispered in the most serious of tones, "Mommy, did you swallow me?"

Friday, December 11, 2009

why one should use oven mitts

"The Buddha compared getting angry
with picking up hot coals with bare hands
and trying to throw them at one's enemy. Who gets burnt first?
The one who's picking up the coals, of course - the one who is angry.
We may not even hit the target we are aiming at,
because if that person is clever and practiced enough, he'll duck -
and we shall still have burnt hands." - Ayya Khema

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Angel Filled Advent

"Wouldn't it be wonderful
if Advent came filled with angels and alleluias?
Wouldn't it be perfect
if we were greeted on these December mornings
with a hovering of heavenly hosts
tuning their harps and brushing up on their fa-la-la's?
Wouldn't it be incredible
if their music filled our waking hours
with the promise of peace on earth

and if each Advent night we dreamed of nothing but goodwill?
Wouldn't we be ecstatic
if we could take those angels shopping,
or trim the tree, or have them hold our hands
and dance through our houses decorating?
And oh, how glorious it would be
to sit in church next to an angel
and sing our hark-the-heralds!
What an Advent that would be!
What Christmas spirit we could have!
An angel-filled Advent has so many possibilities!

But in lieu of that,
perhaps we can give thanks
for the good earthy joys we have been given
and for the earthly "angels" that we know
who do such a good job of filling
our Advent with alleluias!

Ann Weems from Kneeling in Bethlehem, p. 16

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Got "Umphant"?

"As the child who had never before been to
a Christmas service said when asked what it was like,
"I want some of that `umphant.'"
"What's that?" the child was asked.
"You know, it's what those people were singing about--
'O Come all ye faithful, joyful and try umphant'
I'd like to try some of that `umphant.'"

taken from a brilliant sermon by Rev. John C. Morris 
that you can read here.
let's spread some of that umphant around, shall we?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The "R" word

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent - the one on which we read about John the Baptist crying out in the desert, calling upon all who will listen to "prepare the way" for the coming of the one whose sandals he says he is unfit to untie. There is so much baggage attached to that "r" word that John the Baptist uses today - you know the one -  "repent"....My friend Ellie posted this beautiful section from a sermon she found on repentance:

"Repentance is not the same as remorse or regret. It is not listing all the ways things could have gone differently. It is not wishing you were a better person, that some things had never happened, that bad things wouldn’t keep happening to you. It’s not feeling guilty or ashamed. It’s not feeling afraid. It’s not something that leaves us stuck, or standing still, or spinning in circles, going nowhere. Repentance is about movement, letting yourself be grasped by God, getting new bearings, and relying on God for directions. The new life that follows repentance, the new direction that comes with a fresh start is what John was proclaiming in the wilderness. John’s message is a call to action: repent, turn around, accept help. God is coming to meet you on a road in the wilderness."  The Rev. Amy E. Richter

So, about that photo. This young man is his own version of John the Baptist, isn't he? Wandering in what he considers to be the desert, a university campus, where he is met by bemused students who look like they might soon turn on him.   Is he bringing the good news of Christ or news of coming judgment based on his own version of the top 20 one way tickets to hell?

 According to his sign, I am doomed.  It would be very easy for me to ridicule this man because my beliefs are so different from his.  But I am called to love him.  He may have a completely different view of Christ than mine but this is what my Advent journey is about.  It's about moving away from my own prideful belief that I have more truth than this man.  It's about moving toward Bethlehem and the birth of the one who brings new life. 

May the cleansing of the fresh start that John's message proclaims this day continue to give us the gifts of new bearings and new directions. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rogue Wave

"Every human interaction offers you the chance to make things better or to make things worse.  To decide to make things better can cost you bundles of self-interest.  To decide to make things worse generally feels a lot more powerful.  The only problem is that the power rolls away from you like a rogue wave, as the person you slammed into finds someone else to slam into, and so on, and so on.  The good news is that you can set off the same sort of chain reaction with unwarranted kindness.  Kindness is not a bad religion, no matter what name you use for God."

from An Altar in the World
by Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 114-115.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent Prayer by Henri Nouwen

Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"  Amen.

from the Catholic Family Prayer Book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, 2001.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

traveling a spiral of time

"A new liturgical year...Once more we walk the path of Christ's life. We don't walk beside him. Because we are children, he holds our hand and leads us. The journey is slow as we take short, uncertain steps. The journey is repeated over and over as we get lost many times through the years. We are learning our way home.

The liturgical year imprints the way on our soul - it's a map. But maps are flat, so instead of a circle a spiral may be a better description of the liturgical year. We travel up and down a spiral of time, knowing the ending even while we eagerly anticipate the beginning. Past and future are made present: The past happens again. The future has already happened. And the present happens now, minute by minute, straddling both. It's the smallest taste of infinity.

Where does the way ultimately lead? We have words for it, very inadequate words, but we don't, we can't, know. So we're taken by the hand to begin again."

Susan H. O'Keefe - Living the Days of Advent and the Christmas Season 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009

God, we lift up all those suffering from HIV and AIDS; bring your healing and restoration to their bodies. Help us to do our part in ministering in loving care, support, and patience for your people who suffer with HIV and AIDS. Lead us to do whatever it will take to eradicate this illness from the lives of those who are touched by it, both directly and indirectly. Trusting in you and the strength of your Spirit, we pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Adapted from a prayer by National African American Catholic HIV/AIDS Task Force