Worth Revisiting: Assuming Mary

For those that have grown up in the Catholic faith, this feast is well known perhaps at times a bit too familiar. Do we stop and take the time to truly ponder the life of Mary as we celebrate this honor bestowed on a life well lived? Or do we simply take for granted Mary’s yes and assume we know her while failing to see the implications for our lives today?


Assuming Mary

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” John 19:26-27 NAB

Like all good movies, there will most definitely be a prequel and subsequent sequels to this conversational confession of my conversion to Catholicism. Yet, with the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption today, I could not bear to let this day pass without sharing my own journey of rediscovery of Mary. Not having grown up in the Catholic faith, I knew of Mary, but did not truly know her. For, while well acquainted with biblical stories, I still never fully reflected on God’s choosing, her response, or her role in the life of the Church. Beginning with an initial inquisitiveness, this path has led me through faith, scripture and onto a pursuit of heart and mind to understand who Mary is and truly wants to be, in my life today.

My confirmation day in the faith was the equivalent of suddenly finding out that you have family- all over the world, spanning centuries of belief , that are joining in on the celebration. That not only are you part this timeless, vast community, but they are to be a part of you as well, and in the struggles, hopes and joys that are to be encountered.  This is such an incredible immeasurable gift that quite honestly I feel I have been unwrapping it ever since that day! So too has been the journey of getting to know our mother Mary. No longer is she resting still in the shadows of the nativity scene, just one of the many characters of a beloved story but an indelible part of my own story as a woman of faith.

mary&babyJesus
The Manger by Gertrude Kasebier

Paramount to this animation of faith, is that in considering her as God’s chosen, I am compelled to also recognize Mary’s beautiful choice to add her “Yes” to God. In doing so, she modeled a faith so pure and trusting, expressive of her love of God and desire for service, that in this moment she became the very first disciple.  At the tender age of probably 14 or 15, she possessed an awareness of the situation before her, expressed deep acceptance and commitment, and spent a lifetime of learning and growing in faith and understanding. Isn’t this what we too desire in our own lives as Christian daughters, sisters, and mothers? Do we not want to be known by our love, dedicated lives of service with hands and feet that lead others to Jesus? Following Mary’s guidance, over the last few years, I began recommitting myself to God at the start of each new day. Before my eyes even open, and despite my inclination to stay in bed,

  I simply say “Thank you God for the gift of this new day”. Then quite deliberately before my feet hit the floor I say “Yes!”. To what you might ask? It is my yes to what God has in store for me, in the ability to accept the unknown as opportunities of grace and the choice to be a part of God’s loving plan in my life.

So too has it been in my life as a mom. With each of my three children, I have prayed, “Lord please grant me a healthy child that is loved, nurtured and is to flourish within. May I be worthy of this gift of life, and may you continue to guide me in guiding him or her in the light of your love”. (Lk. 1:39-56) For me, Mary has been a part of God’s promise to do just that- to become a constant guiding light for my children. Equally as true, she has comforted me when I have been at wits end, seeking more patience than that day had allowed. In keeping with this very thought, one of my favorite scriptures as a parent has been the finding of Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:41-52). Tangibly, I can sense the very real frustration, and “anxiety” of Mary and Joseph as they, having searched for 3 days, finally discover him teaching all present including themselves.  It is said that Mary, not fully understanding, took her Son’s words and “kept all this in her heart”. 

Yes Lord, when I have failed to understand the why I too need to keep your words in my heart.

This is no more fully witnessed than at the foot of the cross. Oh, the profound sorrow that she as a mom felt at the loss of her Son, and the love poured out for a rejecting world! Yet, here too Mary was asked to meet this both with an open acceptance, and allow God to transform the pain into the hope of salvation. Even in Mary’s life, there is transformation, for in the simplicity of Jesus’ presentation of the gift of Mary to John we begin to grasp the importance of the larger family. We are never alone, but part of an immense communion of believers. Thank you God for the hopeful promise that we like Mary will enjoy an eternity with you one day. Until then,

“Father, please use my humble hands, feet, voice, and heart to serve you as you will.”

In Christ Always,

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CatholicTV: Guest Appearance

Today, perhaps you might have been expecting a lengthier post? Well, I hope that I am forgiven by sharing with you the fruits of a graced invitation.. to be a guest on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day”!

With a cup of coffee and toast in hand, I headed out the door expecting a flurry of brake lights and delays as customary with Fridays in Boston. Yet, instead God seemed almost to clear the roads giving way to time and a very relaxing ride into the city. So much so, in fact, my hubby and I arrived well in time to also make morning Mass at the station.

Every day that begins with Mass, for me,  is an intentional one in that as the 1st reading from Deuteronomy spoke:
“you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. ”

Once God is given priority, then comes trust in His will. Father Helfrich’s homily on Matthew 16:24-28 was so on point. Much courage is needed to be a disciple, trusting in the plan that our Lord has for us,  leaving the security of the known to embrace unknown opportunities ahead. Still having difficulties doing this? You are not alone, but oh what joy lies in “giving it a try”!

If you were unable to tune in for the live show on August 11..here is the podcast from the show! What a great time I had with Jay and Kevin. The time just flew by! There was even a shout out to Loyola Chicago!

Simply click the image below (Interview begins @ 20:00 ).

 

 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: CatholicMom Daily Gospel Reflections

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This reflection written for CatholicMom.com a year ago remains a reminder to me that the path of our discipleship is not intended to be an easy one…

Daily Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel: Luke 12: 49-53 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

If taken out of the context of the rest of the Gospel, today’s readings can be both startling and confusing. While Jesus spoke often of peace, his message of the Good News invoked anything but peace for those who were reluctant or unwilling to change. Our society today also misleads in convincingly promoting the possibility to hold in tandem oppositional values of hate-love, greed-generosity, inequality-justice, and indulgence-temperance.

These are the crossroads that each of us faces in our everyday decisions to choose to be transformed by the Gospel. Jesus reminds us here that we cannot pursue both paths if we are to follow him. Our commitment to Christ then is to be a marked division from that which does not embrace the truth of his love.

So too, it is a good reminder that there needs to be a passion and fire about who we are as Catholics and who Jesus is in our lives. Does this mean entering into heated arguments or distancing ourselves from those we love but who live in contradiction to the Gospel? No, then we are neither present nor a compelling witness to the Good News we profess.

What it does entail, however, is mutually opening up to the love of Christ and to the realization that we are, in fact, loved. It is to courageously and persistently witness this truth with our very lives. God is waiting on our yes, Christ is counting on our yes, and the Holy Spirit is there to embolden us with the strength needed to express our yes to others.

Ponder:

Can you remember a time when you decidedly choose between where you felt God was leading you and where others wanted you to go? Why is it such a challenge to veer from the agendas of others?

Pray:

Lord, we ask for your help to not be consumed by the things of this world but transformed by your love. And for those times when are challenged to authentically witness truth and love within our families and communities, may we choose to walk your path and keep our eyes fixed on you.

For more Daily Gospel Reflections visit CatholicMom.com.

Peace,

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Examening: Discovery

As a child, I reveled at the picture puzzle games that challenged each contestant with keen eyes to discover a familiar item amid a quite often cluttered larger scene. And with each object found, was a renewed sense of joy and understanding of the next step of the task at hand.  Yet, somewhere between childhood and maturity the thrill and purpose of the search can time and again allude us and at times even eclipse the delight of discovery.

Such was the course of a day that was to be experienced quite recently. Waking up late, and feeling “behind the 8 ball”, I had literally jumped feet first into a scene not of my own design or desire. With limited movement, either physically or spiritually, all that could initially be seen was the clutter. Misplaced item here, piles of unattended objects there, I longed for clarity of purpose- at the very least, for the frustration and confusion to leave me be. In this life sized puzzle of sorts it became suddenly obvious that the first hidden object of my search was indeed Christ himself. He, and only he, was the hingepin to finding my next piece of my day and the surest course of making sense of it all. So began my prayer- an inner groan, offered up for peace of spirit and discernment in the way God wanted me to move in my day.

“Where are YOU, Jesus, in this jumbled scene?”

A prayerful guide to mindful reflection, the daily Examen prayer, is at its heart a path to awareness and renewed discovery. Just what exactly are we discovering? Perhaps simply our way back to God and his will in our daily walk. Sometimes, we may not have strayed far but have just lost sight of Christ within the daily tasks we tend to for family and work. How long till we see the results? That too cannot be rushed, as we well know that God’s timing is not our own. I will say, however, that I have yet to be disappointed to discover that whatever I am going through, that God is there in the midst of it all.

Discovery then, in Ignatian spirituality, is the fruit of prayer directed towards the good desire. It could be the answer to a life altering decision, or an awareness that we are exactly where we need to be. If you are facing a difficulty today that you cannot see through, or need clarity of purpose or direction, ask yourself these as you begin the Examen:

Would this decision lead me or others on a life affirming course? Am I filled with confusion, doubt, fear or instead, encouraged and invited gently to consider the next step?

5 Steps of a Daily Examen

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 
5. Look toward tomorrow.

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Portraits of Martha and Mary

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Personally, I have always been able to identify strongly with the personality and perspective of Martha. Ingrained with a strong work ethic and desire to serve, I have been often called and always quick to step forward. Discernment and ample grace have even helped me to see how best to use my gifts to help others.  Yet, with a “Martha” disposition there can also be a temptation to frustration and jump to judgement of those not working.  Likewise while true that “many hands make light work”,  not all are being called to serve at that time.

Two different but essential illustrations of what it is to follow Christ in our daily lives are given here. An inner awareness and desire to seek to simply be with Christ as well as an outer response of that encounter with Christ provides a balanced portrait of what a full life in Christ entails. For how can we serve fully without time and prayer spent at the feet of Jesus? Without our labor being sourced and steeped in love from the One who is love itself? This is the better part that Jesus speaks of- that continual respite and turning of our hearts to God and the journey he has intended. Pulled by the pace of the day and the weight and concerns of life we may have found that we have wandered far away.

Becoming Mary

With a quick cup of coffee, light breakfast and short reflection I pause as I head out the door. Having tended to the most immediate needs of my family, I recognize all of the others things that were left undone. Laundry that needs to be folded, homework that needs supervision, and errands to be run. Very easily I could (as before) allow these loose ends to consume my thoughts and keep me from becoming Mary. What then is the difference in today? Simply, I have chosen in this moment to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen in silence. An appreciation that though the world is moving swiftly my soul is not. As the sunlight streams through my window and the trees sway in the breeze I am in utter awe for the beauty of the day. As the rain beats upon the windshield in the grey of the day I feel refreshed again. Whatever the day might bring, it is here in the place of Mary that I find rest and am able to see God in every detail. Though broken and imperfect, I am loved and this time with my beloved is beyond measure. No longer far away , though the Eucharist I find myself ever closer- intimately sharing in the very real presence of Christ. Breaking into my day, God has confirmed that I am where I am meant to be.

Active like Martha

If our journey were to remain here, I am sure that you might agree it is a graced place to be. And still, like the disciples our path of discipleship carries us out into the world to share this love that we have received. Within our families and communities there is a hunger for love and a tendency to be fed by everything that leaves us unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The need and work ahead can seem overwhelming if we go it alone. That is just it- having spent time with our Father we know we are not alone in the work that we do. Our prayer lifted, our petitions spoken, now with Martha we step ahead. With faith in the one who is always faithful, we seek guidance and strength to be attentive to the needs of others. Following Christ is not passive, but calls forth from us a response and a challenge. Though we know through scripture that Jesus spent much time in prayer he also encountered. The lost, broken, and marginalized sought, taught and healed were not to be his alone.

 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Wherever you are in your walk of Christian discipleship take time today to rediscover Mary and Martha. We have much to learn from these two close friends of Jesus, and all of the saints in discerning the path ahead.

Peace,

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Women in Lay Ministry: An Invitation to Lead

The following article appeared in the University of Notre Dame’s Institute of Church Life Journal a year ago on May 23, 2016.

Since it was written, God has continued to move me towards new roles and responsibilities within the life of the church. Lay ministry is indeed a graced vocation, one that not everyone is called to but one that can go unheeded in the fast pace of our society, and amidst prior commitments. What gifts might lay untapped in your life today? How might God be inviting you to use your gifts to lead others to Christ?

There is an extra spring in my step this morning knowing that today has been reserved, indeed set apart, to spend with both some of the youngest and oldest members of this parish community. After opening prayers they bound forward, from the left and right, towards the bright red book of the Gospels that I am holding and head to the lower church for children’s liturgy. This is indeed their community, one that the over 50 gathered have come to joyously participate in. With hands held together, in lieu of uncomfortable boredom, there are instead small voices raised and petitions uttered as the prayers of the faithful are spoken.

Pausing momentarily, in the back of the sacristy after Mass, I am instantly reminded to thank the altar servers whom I personally helped train and scheduled to serve that day. A hoped-for beginning to a life of service and love, their gift can easily go unnoticed. Many of these altar servers (a large percentage of which are girls), I have seen “graduate” on to Eucharistic ministry, lectoring and service-based volunteer work within the Church, families, and the greater community upon entering college.

Lay ministry leadership then takes on visible and invisible aspects and roles, enabling the community to not only run smoothly but also to be an inviting encounter with Christ in one another. So too is the work of those who respond to serve the larger community beyond the doors of the Church. Walking the halls of one of the nursing homes that I serve, I am familiar with each name on the door and many of the family members of the residents I see. There is such grace here, in bringing Christ and community to our older, at times forgotten, members of the Body of Christ. Moreover, this joy is meant to be shared, whereby all feel enjoined and invited to partake in this beautiful ministry.

Over the years, I have seen the need, heard the invitation, and taken on these and a number of other lay ministry roles—as catechist, coordinator, presenter, and Catholic radio show host. Perhaps you too have recognized the great need within our parish communities, unearthing a desire to serve through leadership within the Catholic faith. Yet, what does this look like realistically? First, it needs to be said that women have been serving in leadership positions within the Church for quite some time—not only filling roles left vacant due to a shortage of priests but also actively involved in the faith formation and pastoral care of the community.

Still there has been a definitive shift recently in encouraging the participation of women in lay ministerial leadership roles. Pope Francis and others like Cardinal Sean O’Malley are even expressing their openness and anticipation for “more women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican.”[1] Likewise, in recent years a number of women are seeking to receive additional theological training and advanced degrees to gain the tools to better utilize their gifts and help build the Kingdom. In 2016, women held 80% of the over 39,000 lay ecclesiastical ministry positions, and 9 out of 10 “considered their ministry ‘a vocation, not a job.’”[2] This is the path that I, too, followed, and which has led to my recent acceptance of a paid staff position as Director of Parish Ministries for two parishes entering soon into collaboration. While there still remains much discussion and polarization about shape of leadership within the Catholic Church, I am witness to the innumerable ways to serve and immeasurable blessings in doing so.

Peace,

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[1] John L. Allen Jr. and Lisa Wangsness, “Pope Softening Tone, not Stance Cardinal Sean O’Malley Says” in The Boston Globe (February 9, 2014).

[2] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Research Review: Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the United States (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 2015).

Worth Revisiting: A Purposeful Path

How Far Can You Go With $30, A Bus Ticket, and a Dream?

Ever wonder where God is leading you and yearn to discover or explore your own vocation in life more fully? In Fr. Casey’s A Purposeful Path (Loyola Press), we are invited to do exactly that. By opening ourselves up to being vulnerable and embracing uncertainty we are then able to give way to trust. As a Jesuit novice, Fr. Casey takes us with him on a journey of a lifetime, on his pilgrimage of discerning his identity, vocation and purpose in life.

—-→Who and whose are we?

Our fundamental identity as God’s beloved children, made in the image of our Creator, is our simplest most profound identity in life. From this place we recognize that all other gifts and identities we are to later be given, while important, are lesser than our calling and love experienced as a child of God.  In what is described as a “convergence of heaven and earth”, Fr. Casey finds the words and experience of Maya Angelou resonate deep within his soul reminding him of this infinitely divine love. This is to set the stage in his own journey of transformation and acceptance of God’s plan for him.

—-→The notion of a pilgrimage..

While often we think of a pilgrimage as a journey to a place, it implicitly involves in our humanity a relational connection, compelling a response from us and deeper meaning. The idea of making a pilgrimage acquiesces itself to our identity as a people of God on the move towards both accompaniment and relationship. Though Fr. Casey feels that his pilgrimage is to lead him to a chance meeting with Maya Angelou, he is unsure of how that is to happen or how well he is to be received. Meanwhile, all that he is given to begin the journey is $30 and a bus ticket.

—-→Discerning our path

Fr. Casey’s own pilgrimage leads him first to the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, where he bonds with fellow pilgrims on the trail, and then to the Wake Forrest Campus where he encounters it seems everyone else but Maya Angelou. Dejected and feeling as if he had failed, he then heads to Washington DC. Where again, he meets others with whom he shares commonalities in service and who seem to be directing him back again to an encounter with the poet. Yet, he recognizes that he has a choice does he stay where he is to be of service or let go and let God lead him the rest of the way. To do this requires an unconditional trust in God’s provision and a vulnerability to ask others for help.

—-→How do we meet and traverse the crossroads in life?

Fr. Casey suggests and indeed illustrates that an indelible part of the journey is to continually move forward. Our timing and God’s timing are seldom the same, and while we might not understand the diversions from our perceived destination, this too is important. Learning that none of us are perfect but are perfectly loved, and faithfully provided for, is the start of finding our purpose with hope and joy.

“All my conscious life and energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own”    Maya Angelou

*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

Peace,

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You Lead I’ll Follow

Spiritual direction, it seems to me, is a beautiful dance.

An intimate sharing of self, a gracious reception of the Other. Each step towards self knowledge is but a lyrical movement towards acceptance of the pre-existing dispositions and disequilibrium within our lives. Oh the freedom of  movement that comes with self acceptance! No longer are we resolutely restrained by the confines of our former self, but in desiring to model the steps of our divine Partner we can finally abandon our will for His.

This is what St. Ignatius would refer to as resignation or indifference, a course of abandonment from self seeking fulfillment to a desire to know and follow the will of God for our lives. This conversion of self and discernment of our next steps is, of course, the fruit of spiritual direction. Yet, as mankind is by nature relational, this dance reaches its fullest potential in dialogue with and under the guidance of a trained spiritual director.

Helpful Rules of the Road of Spiritual Direction:


1.    “Spiritual direction cannot be confined to the religious realm, as though this existed in isolation, but must deal with the whole man and his actual problems” Friedrich Wolf, Encyclopedia of Theology, ed. Karl Rahner.  Because of this, the more authentic and truthful you with are with the challenges you face in spiritual direction- the more helpful the time spent will be.

2.     You must be open to hearing and giving consideration to what your spiritual director notices about you and your situation without automatically defending a position. In entering spiritual direction, you are eliciting a consulting perspective, not asking simply for an echo of your own. You may have not noticed something simply because you are too close, or to familiar with its occurrence.

3.    If there is something in particular that you are aware of holding you back before a session, and your spiritual director is a priest, ask to begin with the sacrament of reconciliation. If this is the case but you are seeing a lay spiritual director, consider reconciliation at a nearby parish before your session. Otherwise, you may feel very self conscious of the sin, guilt or shame you are harboring and unable to be as open and ready to be moved through direction.

4.    Spiritual direction does compel a response or corresponding action by you.

“nothing less than a real conversion is needed if the searcher is to accept the profound self-knowledge which he gains with the help of another…in a word to carry his own cross after Christ.” Friedrich Wolf  

Simply speaking, once we see ourselves truthfully, in the light of faith, we begin to desire change. When we seek to follow Christ, we also wish to model our lives after him.

5.   Letting go of that which prevents us from growing spiritually closer to God.

Very few choices in our life are without consequences, be they good or bad. So it goes without saying that which doesn’t bring us closer to who God has intended us to be, is at best keeping us spiritually delayed.

6.  Recognizing who we are now, allows us to envision who God wants us to be and to            invite God into the decision making process. This is the ideal environment for spiritual      growth! Our relationship with God grows as we partner together in all of the                        decisions-big and small- that come before us. We may just find that we are less                    stressed about the outcome, because we trust that we ask God to guide us in the first          place!

Reflect:

Have you thought about seeking greater direction in your life? If so, research local spiritual directors in your area to find one that might be accepting new directees.

If you already have a spiritual director, does he/she challenge you to see things from a new perspective? Are you resisting or accepting of the task ahead?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: The Coming of the Spirit

This past weekend, my son attended Steubenville East for the second year and joined thousands of teens from all over the New England area. Though I wasn’t chaperoning this time, I was still praying for all who were there attending.. for the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit!

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” Acts 2:1-4

I had always wondered what it would have been like to have been in the upper room. To have been present as the Spirit rushed through filled and imbued with a holy fire to witness the love of Jesus Christ to the world. Courage to proclaim drawn from strength beyond our own united in divine communion with the Trinity and with one another. Here in this place to be overtaken wholly- the recipient and bearer of healing, peace, joy and courage. This weekend, I would wonder no more.

As part of a group of over 100 students and chaperones joining almost 4000 more at Steubenville East, an intense faith immersion youth conference, I anticipated the Spirit’s arrival. Hurried meals, record setting temperatures, lack of sleep and other logistical challenges had affected many that Friday and early Saturday. Yet, as all of this was gathering steam, so was the Holy Spirit in preparation for adoration. And like a tremendous rain cloud that suddenly opens, grace rained down.

I was surprised to see her there- making her way up the stairs of the arena and though I had met her only once before we had instantly connected. Southern by birth, we shared both a love for our childhood home as well as a recognition of a given purpose to bloom where we had been planted. So when in a voice quite clear  I heard the inner prompting  to ask her to sit beside me, I joyfully responded.

Ushered in with upbeat music and guided on by prayer we prepared for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that was to come.Up and down each aisle of the coliseum Christ was processed, stopping momentarily to turn and reveal Him to all surrounding. Seeking healing, desiring intimacy,  hands reached towards, as if to touch the hem of His robe once again. As he drew near, stopping beside us,the light that shone was all encompassing and darkness could not help but surrender. The warmth that flowed permeated every part of my very being, and I felt loved, held and adored.

Suddenly beside me, what began as soft tears moved to a deep profound sobbing. Healing. My beautiful new sister in Christ was being slain in the Spirit. Putting my arms around her I prayed.

“Lord, help console and heal the pain that life has brought her. Help her to feel the magnitude of your love”.

Then, in a grace-filled release of body and soul, she fell backwards into my arms as if floating atop the ocean’s deep waters. Suspended from the past and buoyed by love the hurt that she had felt gave way to peace and a smile that truly radiated from within. Warmth. Though she could hear my prayers, she was in a space almost between worlds awaiting the joy that would come. The gift of laughter. Holy joy, caught her and she laughed- uninhibited by anything around her conversing with the Spirit in words known to God yet unrecognizable to me. The gift of tongues. In utter amazement and gratitude I continued to pray,

“Oh my Lord, you have allowed me to witness this graced moment with her, to see and proclaim your greatness, mercy and love.”

Two and a half hours had passed during this time, all of which were spent on my knees and none of which I felt any pain from. As she came to, she expressed her slight embarrassment for the scene that she imagined others to have glimpsed. “There was nothing you could have done to control any part of it, nor would you have wanted to..it was beautiful!”

“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” 1 Cor. 12:7-11

Peace,

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On Being Astonished

What is it that astonishes us these days? Is it the headlines that flash across the written page, or in gossip carried to our all to willing listening ears? Olympic feats, milestones reached or previous limitations met and surpassed? Perhaps, however, it is something closer to home. Sparked by an awareness of God at work around us, even in the seemliest detail often overlooked and missed- astonishment abounds.

In the poem entitled Messenger, by Mary Oliver she speaks of the beauty of discovery in our natural world. Creation giving and responding to its Creator, and each of us partaking in the holy within our everyday.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Yet, can astonishment also be found in the imperfect, broken or worn parts of our lives too? Absolutely. For, we cannot deny the many ways we fall short of the often self-imposed standard of perfection we hold.  But are we really willing and ready for change?

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,

Here, with all due reverence to Mary Oliver, I find astonishment and beauty also in the reworking and remaking of my very being into who I was meant to be. Even the letting go and surrender of that within ourselves which is “still not perfect” can very well be a daily source of astonishment. To the point that I believe she strives to make, however, we mustn’t get wedded to the imperfections themselves. Rather, to attend to the work of responding- to the graced invitations around and within us.

which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.               Messenger, by Mary Oliver

So what do we do with these astonishing gifts- these simple moments of revelation and acknowledgement? Do we live a life inspired, willing to experience surprise, wonder and transformation?

Reflect:

Spend a few moments outside today. Be still, and invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you in revealing these “hidden” gifts of the moment. What is to be learned for you in being astonished?

Peace,

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