Worth Revisiting: There You Are!

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139: 1-7

“Oh, there you are!”, He says. 

“Yes Lord, here I am. I’m sorry I have been preoccupied with other things. I realize now that you have been waiting for me.”  
“You are here now, that is what matters. Come, and find your rest with me.”

There is no judgement or guilt in His words as they fall upon my heart. Simply love- and an exclamation of joy that I at last found him in the midst of my day. His desire? Not a feeble attempt at an explanation but rather one undertaken by a beloved to comfort and renew my soul. In this brief exchange between his heart and mine, more is expressed in mere moments than hours of conversation. Who is this God who loves me still? None other than the One who seeks me, waits patiently for my return and all the while holds me and the world all in the palm of his hand.

Since returning from retreat, you might say I have been experiencing a “spiritual reunion” of sorts. One whereby I slip into soulful dialogue with God so often, that I cannot judge the time apart. That is not to say that this time is replete with words for there is meaningful silence here too. Each minute full and intentional and I arise aware that whatever is ahead, I am never alone. Needless to say, discernment is immensely easier in these times as God has both our attention and our desire to do His will.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast. (V. 9-10)

Walking into church and upon approaching the tabernacle, I saw him standing there in the back. “Do you have a bible that I could purchase?” Well dressed and in his early thirties, he had suddenly found himself at a crossroad in life. “Not one that we would sell, but one that we would gladly give you. Hold on a moment and let me get one for you” Knowing that I was already a few minutes late for a promised communion call, I quietly wondered if God would stretch out time. Returning with the bible I turned to Psalm 139. “This is a psalm I turn to when I find myself at a crossroad, or simply need to be reminded who I am. Would you like to read this together?”

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.. (v. 11-14)

As we sat, I felt him relax into each word. It truly is a beautiful vision to see God’s word at work. “I do have to go for now, but please stop by anytime and ask for me by name. The bible is yours for however long you need it.”

Reflect:

Does God have my upmost attention? When do I notice His presence the most in my day? What is it that I seek most at the crossroads in life? 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Messy Beds & Coffee Mugs

Of messy beds..

The first day and a half of silent retreat was spent unpacking the finer details of life, work and family that had been occupying time and space in my heart and mind lately. Even knowing that the goal of an Ignatian retreat was to leave my bags and enter into intimacy with God..I was seemingly unable to let go of the handle. I had told myself that this was my time to pray on these things and yet was I truly lifting this up in prayer? Or, was I simply filling the space that God wished to be with the thoughts that came my way?

My bed a safe haven- I crawled into every chance that I had. It’s clean soft embrace welcomed my exhaustion and reminded me of the need to pray. Why bother making it when I would just be a return visitor? I realized that despite my initial reluctance, my body needed the rest and I was more than happy to comply. Would this I wondered be the new norm for my entire stay here? For, I had always relished the sunrise Mass, long carefree walks on the grounds and still moments in chapel before the tabernacle. How was it then that I found myself here in a state of apparent inactivity? Once stopped I began to wonder if I would ever move again.

Of course I would, but it wasn’t to be accomplished by my own doing. Given a choice of desired outcomes for my retreat,  I felt challenged in my operating mode for the past day and a half. Either I would leave with a myriad of pastoral planning directives or I would leave refreshed and reconnected with God. To my surprise I realized that I had come to the crossroads. It was time to let go of what was not needed and finally go away to be with God.

Putting my “bags” down, I slipped on a set of gym clothes and set off on an unknown course. As I began the walk, I found myself with no inclination to stop and the tiredness of before was to be no more. Walking, then running, I experienced at last the spiritual freedom and peace I had so craved. In fact, when I finally returned it felt as if it was the start of my day rather than the end of it. Finding a pew inside the chapel I sat. Now I could receive the consolation that I had so desperately needed. My heart, no longer busied with the concerns of the day, was ready at last for God to walk through.

Of coffee mugs…

In a Jesuit house there is no shortage of food, smiles, or hospitality. To be honest, the only essential that I was missing was a REAL coffee mug. Not a dainty little quarter cup that needed to be refilled numerous times, but a large rounded hugable work of art. There were just a couple of these set aside and I resolutely mustered up the courage to motion my intent. “Yes, you can use one..they aren’t just for the resident Jesuits.” Thanks be to God!, I inwardly prayed. Finally I could enjoy a serious cup of coffee and drink in my gratitude for the moment.

Of the present moment..

I am one who is known to consider the past, present and future together instantly in reflecting and discernment. So, to just rest in the present moment is a bit less familiar ground. Yet, here I am- listening to the birds sing, and watching the light dance in the water droplets from the fountain. Even the sound of my feet on the path and the occasional crunch of a fallen leaf do not escape my ear. The beautiful white headstones of our Jesuit saints stand as reminders of the gift of their very lives in heartfelt service. Today I noticed four new souls, in fact, made way to their rest in just a year’s time. A brotherhood of love, a commitment of service- a life spent well.

So, though I do not know what each day ahead may bring, I give God my day to do with it what he will. In retrospect, which is key to the examen, I see the journey that I have undertaken and the steps that have led me here- some expected,  innumerable surprises, and still almost always prayerfully directed.

In His Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: The Gift of Retreat

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For the last two years, I have been given the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations is enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longs to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

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The Gift of Retreat

 :

 

Last weekend I experienced the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations was enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longed to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Moments of Clarity

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.


7 Quick Takes-Moments  of Clarity

(Originally posted November 7, 2014)

1// This week has been a reminder of the glimpses God gives us of his mercy, love and forgiveness.

Those moments whereby we are challenged to move, grow and reach out to one another in love. The ready invitation to leave our comfort zone to listen, hold and  share our hearts and journeys with others.

2// My 7 Quick Takes week began..

by assisting with a women’s retreat on Forgiveness hosted by co-blogger and supervisor Allison Gingras. This easily prompted the first of these reflective moments!  “I am thankful for the opportunity to forgive and to be forgiven, one teaches me mercy, the other humility”. (A. Gingras)  What a grace it is to embrace this in our lives! While our hearts must be led by mercy, we need to resist the temptation to see ourselves as blameless without need of forgiveness. How many times have I caused injury, or has someone needed to forgive me recently? I may never know the fullness of this answer, but for those times, Father forgive me.

3// “Forgiveness requires letting go of being right, of justice, evening scores and of an apology.” (Fr. Scott Hurd)

Oh, the thorny brambles we find ourselves in when led by righteousness and the need for validation! Instantly, we begin seeking those conversations and relationships whereby we are the hero and someone else made the villain. In doing so, we cling to the pain and our pride takes hold. Increasingly we find ourselves entangled in its grip. Lord help me to cling to you, the vine rather than the bramble.

4//“Forgiveness is not reconciling, as it takes one person not two”. 

Seeking forgiveness, is about finding peace and while we might wish for reconciliation- that is not guaranteed. Sometimes all that we can offer and hope for is forgiveness. Letting go of the outcome frees us to then move forward in our faith lives to grow in acceptance and give the controls to God. Lord I relinquish all authority to you, may my desire for peace be enough. Lead me because I can’t do this alone.”

5// And my own special sound bite from the retreat, “The Holy Spirit rocks!”

(If ever there was any doubt.) This retreat had an incredible turnout and the feedback extremely positive. The telling moment for me came in tending to the reconciliation line which was continuous and lasted over 2 hours! Within this there were prayerful conversations and moments of conversion of heart. So beautiful! Thank you Father for the gift of your Spirit which seeks to guide, transform and heal our hearts. I just want to praise you!

6// On a more personal note,

however, I received word a few days ago that someone that I am quite close to was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer. As he comes to terms with the diagnosis and the given chances for survival, he is seeking greater reconciliation and connection in his life. He has been through so many trials in his life, including a stroke and several bouts of double pneumonia. Yet, I can feel that this is quite different, and he is preparing to die. In speaking with him today, he asked if I would call him to chat for a little bit each week. “Yes, of course!”. What a gift you have given me Father in this time with him.  Please, I pray for your voice and heart to guide me. If I can be of any help, I humbly offer my all.

7// So while clarity at times reveals deep hurt, difficulties, or challenges, I have found that God is there also- reaching out with open arms to embrace.

Why wait for a doctor’s call, or a life crisis to seek forgiveness and peace in our lives? Why hold on to pain when we could take hold of Christ’s hand? Jesus you are the voice of truth. You see us, know us, forgive us and love us in spite of all that we do and fail to do. While I can never repay this gift, I will spend a lifetime trying.

Peace in Christ,

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