Reaching For the Poles

At the age of 7, I had decided to teach myself to roller skate. Birthday money in hand, I selected a beautiful pair of skates coupled with amply cushioned knee and elbow pads. Not wanting to wait till I made it to the rink to practice, a surefire way to ensure embarrassment, I looked around for a suitable substitute. Living in an open courtyard apartment complex had finally offered an advantage. With its long connecting pathways and supporting poles I now had the necessary environment to train properly.

Learning to propel my body forward was both exciting and frightening in understanding that I also had to stop. Soon I learned that the concrete pathway was a much more worthy adversary than its polished counterpart. And the pads though covering several points of contact, did not encompass every inch that was exposed to face abrasion. If I was to continue learning, there was a need to not fear the falls and the pain to follow. In holding back, I had already fallen before I ever tried. And in seeking the safety of the poles, I was neither trusting the acquired skills nor experiencing the joy I had hoped.

I was reminded of this lesson in conversation with a few other women this week. Struggling with the courage to seek God amidst the violence in the world, and feeling a bit overwhelmed in their daily struggles too they found themselves at the poles. Interestingly enough, while realizing all too well the temptation to remain stuck here they also heard God’s call to take a step in faith. Fear of the next fall, guilt of past mistakes and doubt of  reconciliation can make moving forward seem like a near impossibility. And yet,  as believers, we know that it isn’t on our own strength that we are asked to rely.

First we need to pray for help in letting go of worry and fear and it’s grip on us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; 
he freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
 
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38

Next, we are invited to get suited up.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17

Then to take a step not knowing what lies ahead but with the assurance that God is with us wherever we go.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
And though we may stumble, and fall at times, it is in our getting back up that we express our “yes” to God. In releasing our grip on familiar fall backs, and regret we can begin to

embrace what God has in store for each one of us.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power and of love and of a self discipline.. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:7,9

Reflect:

What poles am I clinging to today that are keeping me from participating in the love, joy and promise that God has for my life?
Peace,
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Traveling Light

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“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.  “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Luke 10:4-9

This week I was reminded of this notion of “traveling light” as I left the ministries at my local parish to join the staff for two parishes a little over half an hour away.  Having already met numerous parishioners, and attending several staff and collaborative meetings, there was little concern that I would be welcome. With open arms, warm smiles and sincere prayers I have already been made to feel, within these first few days, a part of this beautiful parish family.

With so much to take in, to learn, and experience there is an essentialness in traveling light both physically and spiritually. I’d venture to say that we often bring much to bear on our present by way of the past, yet there is such grace in encountering anew. In leaving behind our preconceived ideas, desires and perceptions, we are empty and ready to be filled to accept God’s will for our lives. We are free to allow God to take the lead with the shape and direction of our day. No need for anything that will weigh us down, or hinder us in the mission that lies before us. Does this mean that we should not look ahead, or plan for the future?  No,  not at all but rather “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Prov. 16:3

Not so easy to do, you say? I agree. For this reforming self-proclaimed “type A” who once fancied herself in knowing every detail, it is a constant turning towards Christ. Fully aware that I cannot do it on my own, I no longer want to go it solo either. In letting go of the baggage, I am seeking instead to be open for the unbelievable surprises that God has in store.

 “Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 

What of the physical lightness in traveling? Bearing in mind that my lunch plans might change these initial days, I purposefully  prepared light snacks that would keep if I had other things to do.  In doing so, I could say “Yes, I’d love to grab a bite to eat!”, or “Sure, I have time to talk.” and enjoy the fellowshipping that comes along with it. For, how can others be given a chance to share of their generous hospitality if we are always so self sufficient that we are never able to accept it?

I have also been working in the last few days to pare down to just some of the essentials for my home away from home. Treasured books, pictures, and a few of my favorite saints have now found a new dwelling place where they will hopefully inspire others as well.

 What has traveling light given me?

A greater trust in God’s abundant providence, a renewed understanding of radical hospitality and a soul ready to embrace whatever lies ahead . May you too discover the graces in traveling light!

Peace,

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Do Not Fear:The Shepherds’ Journey

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For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

Throughout the accounts of the nativity story we encounter God working the extraordinary amidst the ordinary. Today, I find myself accompanying the shepherds in their journey this advent, beside the sheep in solitude and silence.

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2: 8-14)

The life of a shepherd was simplistic, the daily tasks at hand were few and one day could easily flow into the next. Yet, a lack of attentiveness could put the whole flock at risk and without a shepherd the sheep easily lost their way. The needs of the flock were to always supersede one’s own, and this included the need for community that we have so become accustomed to. Due to a very transient lifestyle, company was but only occasionally found with fellow shepherds along with the animals they watched and cared for.  Moreover, as they could not consistently observe the ceremonial rituals of purity prescribed by Jewish law, shepherds were considered among the lowliest of professions. Gone were the early days of Israel, as with King David, where their responsibility was respected, now they were included among the marginalized in Jewish society.

Artgate Fondazione Cariplo - Mulier Pieter, Annuncio ai pastori.jpg:
Artgate Fondazione Cariplo-Mulier Pieter

Certainly not a life easily undertaken for those who crave conversation or comforts, it did offer its own unique recompense. Under a blanket of stars and away from the hubbub of the city life they had time for quiet moments and reflection. I’ve often wondered if they, while aware their social standing, also recognized the value and purpose in their life’s work.

Even if they had, they most definitely did not expect to have been called out to receive the most magnificent angelic proclamation of the birth of the Messiah. With not one but a host of angels, breaking through the stillness and the darkness, hope was born this night. As Luke truly stresses, God moved from heaven to earth- to the peripheries to reach all of humanity. Undoubtedly aghast at their divine invitation and despite any misgivings they may have had–their unexpected response was to make way for Bethlehem in haste. Oh, the trepidation the shepherds had to have initially felt from the sudden marching orders and the impending arrival to a city, given their unkempt appearance!

Surprisingly instead of a stately palace, or grand estate customary to a king or “Lord”, they were welcomed by the small stable surroundings. Who is this king, that he would choose this as a birthplace, as a seat of governing, a site of lowly stature? Could it be that He has come for us too…and what does this mean for our lives? The peace that the angels spoke of had to have meant more to the shepherds than an absence of physical conflict, but resonated an inner peace of finally resting in God’s grace.

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Consider: Do I believe that Jesus was born for me? And, what does this mean in my life, particularly for those times I feel alone, persecuted, or marginalized?

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Poetic Examen-ations

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.

Having just finished an incredible book by Fr. Casey Beaumier, SJ entitled, A Purposeful Path, I found myself reflecting on my own time of discernment in my time at Loyola Chicago. Trusting God in the journey, despite setbacks and struggles, in the everyday joys and consolations, Lord I give it all to You.


This is a day that was long awaited,
A time dreamt of and indeed anticipated,
With months albeit years of preparation,
And a myriad of readings and connotations.
Today, I awoke knowing that there was nowhere I had to be.
There was truly no post to edit,
Or theologian I needed to credit,
An argument carelessly ignored,
Nor deeper meaning to explore.
I now wondered in this stillness what was to be of me.
On the surface I had considered,
Neglected tasks that could be bettered,
Domestic duties that once were small,
Sat waiting to be again forestalled.
Feeling there was a greater more fruitful use of my time.
Where was that book that had been given,
read when my free time too would beckon?
What was it now that I would write,
if granted this instant of respite?
Ah, yes  these too cannot be my compass prime.
For always when I come in prayer,
The answer seems to find me there,
No longer doubt or thoughts amiss,
At the day’s events that carry bliss.
Since You know where it is that I need to be and what I am to do.
But rather surrender to Thy will and grace,
To lead me to my rightful place,
Perchance beside the lost, or dying,
Or counseling a friend whose day is trying-
Where ever my feet are needed to go Lord I give them to You. 
*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting Wednesday: Can you Spare any Change?

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.

If change is a natural reoccurring part of life..why do we avoid and resist it so?  And, I wonder when we are continually in contradiction to change, are we not also missing out on the gifts of the Holy Spirit? How can we accept the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord if unwilling to let go and be open to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives?


Can You Spare Any Change?

With the start of each season, new calendars and schedules, and soon-to be clocks, it is no wonder that my mind quite naturally gravitates to the notion of change. Yet, so often we view change as something to be resisted, avoided, and fought. What if, however we flipped our understanding of change as something to embrace, to advocate
and necessary for growth and peace?

  1. “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

    Today, as the feast day of Mother Teresa, we remember a woman who not only lived this upturned notion of change but inspired countless others to do the same. In her desire to follow Christ, she was a light of love for the unloved and unwanted, a living witness to the embodiment of change in every life she touched.

  2. Change is to be anticipated. My own awareness to the inevitability of change began early on, as the daughter of a single mom who seeking to acquire a better teaching position hoped also to provide a better life. With each move, came a new school, new church, surroundings and thankfully new friends too. My mom had a knack, which she passed on to me, of discovering the treasure that each relocation offered. On the weekends, we would venture out exploring museums, historical sites, little shops and the new “little pond” we found ourselves in. One of my 

    favorite memories was to wake up and simply pack a picnic tote, throw on a swimsuit and head on down to the Mississippi River with a fishing pole in hand. Did you catch anything, you might ask? Rarely, was it ever fish. Instead our eyes caught a glimpse of the horizon, an embrace of a beautiful day, the gift of time well spent, and an acceptance of the chance of rain tomorrow.

  3. Resistance.

    My own children who have not had the same exposure to change, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAare quick at times to resist even the slightest alteration of their expectation. This resistance was none more evident than in my then 5 year old son’s response to the removal of the shrub that was growing up, around, and through our back deck. Though it was pushing up the boards and causing significant structural damage, it had been there as long as he had known. Compelling his outcry, “But you can’t. I loved that tree!…I can’t imagine me without it!

  4. file3511268163576 Some resistance is necessary.

    This brings me to the recognition that resistance is preemptive to change. In order to move ahead, we have to give up the comfortable, customary, and conditioned environment that we have become accustomed to. If we seek to remain where we are, despite the ground moving and shifting under our feet we can no longer grow as Our Father intended. There is a fruitlessness then of pouring new wine into old wineskins, for our minds and hearts cannot accept the new good that God has planned if we are content with the old wine. (Lk 5:33-39) Transformation is necessary and this isn’t a onetime deal but a continual openness to the Holy Spirit.

  5. Change with Community

    For those unaware, there are incredible and much needed changes taking place through a collaboration of parishes within the Archdiocese of Boston. In an effort to streamline councils, fully utilize staff and resources, account for a growing shortage of parish priest, pastoral planning is in place to better “meet the needs of the people of God”. (http://www.disciplesinmission.com ) This path is not without challenges and the greatest of these is in accepting that change is necessary and that a new more vibrant community is possible. In letting go of our fears, we are able to foster new relationships, focus our resources on the mission of evangelization before us, and to realize the unity of our Catholic faith as the body of Christ in the world.

  6. file000871375277Embracing change is moving forward from a mindset of consenting to it as a plan B, to conceiving it as your plan A. What was it that Robert Burns so poetically phrased? “The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy!” Where our plans fail, there is such joy in trusting God, the author of change to create our day, to fill it with surprise and yes, change. If asked if you thought you would be where you are today, how many of us could have envisaged the present?
  7. Oh my soul- how I bless you Lord! We ask ourselves “How file0001303010317can we spare change, and you answer how can we not? You have such amazing promises in store for each of us! Though we may experience “growing pains” through challenges , you know that this is the path for true transformation and peace. Holy Spirit, come and help open our hearts to be receptive to change, Father, please take our lives and let us to be the change you wish to see in the world!

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Lessons Learned From My Mom

This morning as I awoke, I thought of both my heavenly and earthly mothers. With eyes closed, my lips whispered to Mary, “Thank you for your yes- to being the mother of Christ but also for remaining with me when my earthly mother could no longer do so. Please continue to guide me and all those I encounter till my own journey is done. ” Then, with a heart smiling full and complete, enveloped in love and gratitude, today I said Happy Mother’s Day to them mutually.

My mom, the second oldest of four and a high school teacher, met and fell in love with my dad within the span of two weeks. A whirlwind romance, fed by non-substantiating infatuation, they had met, married and divorced in a span of less than two years. Recognizing too late my father’s habits of drinking, and violent mood swings, there was cause for serious concern as she had discovered she was also pregnant with me. She had made the decision to raise me alone.

Mom's1st pic:
Her 1st picture as a new mom!

Though this was not what she had pictured, and despite several close friends advocating an abortion, her faith could not allow for her to make that choice. She felt that the life within her, me, was a gift from God and while unsure of what laid ahead she knew she needed to trust. That summer, as I came into the world my mom said goodbye to my father, never to be heard from again. Nonetheless, a part of my mom always hoped that he would find recovery and reconcile with me one day.

So the lessons I promised? Well, they are many but here are just a few…Mom and I:

1. Trust- not in what the world tells you are the choices before you, but in a bigger plan that only God is aware of. Though you do not have the strength to do it on your own, and when you wonder how you’ll carry on- lean on Him.

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.” (Psalm 121)

2. Love- the gifts given, delight in the surprises around you, seek God and you will most certainly find Him.

“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

As a single parent, on a meager teacher’s salary we did not indulge in big trips, but would go out exploring the world around us. Sometimes we would trip upon a free museum, pack a picnic lunch, go fishing, or drive out to the Mississippi river just to sit with our toes in the bank.

3. Share- what you have with others that are in need, both physically and spiritually. Growing up, I noticed that others certainly had more than me and yet there were so many that had less. One day, when I was about 8, my mom was approached by a young mom with several toddlers in tow asking for help. Without hesitating, she had invited the family to stop by our home for dinner. The little faces that had been downturned and suspicious in the beginning all at once beamed at all the food that lay before them. Before they left, she packed up a few containers for them to take home with the offer to come back again. Upon noticing that there were a number of items missing with their departure, my mom was neither upset nor saddened. “They are more in need of it than us Elizabeth”. To which I learned what it was to give without expectation of return.

4. Encourage- the gifts in others, even those that they fail to see in themselves. My mom was my biggest cheerleader, and my most vocal critic. Sound contradictory? No not at all. You see, she knew that life could be difficult and how easy it is to settle or give in to an easy choice. She pushed me further than I thought I could go, and always pointed to the “more” in the world that God was calling me to do. As a teacher, she inspired her students who came from very difficult and impoverished backgrounds to continue with their education and challenged them to see their gifts. I cannot count the times, over the course of her life that former students would call her or run up with a hug to tell her the difference she had made in their lives. This is the teacher that I strive to be, thank you Mom for teaching me.

 Peace, 

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Worth Revisiting Wednesday: It’s Advantageous to Wait?

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.

When thinking about creating a new link-up opportunity for Wednesday, this idea of sharing a cherished previous post came to mind. For, getting together with friends isn’t always about what’s new in our lives, but often a stroll down memory lane. With that in mind, grab a seat, sit back and join in the conversation!


7 Advantageous Reasons to Wait Upon the Lord!

(Originally posted August 8, 2014)

First, let’s admit that very few of us, including myself, ever truly want to wait for anything. We search desperately for the shortest line at the store, GPS the quickest route to our destination, and watch with noses pressed against the oven for the cupcakes to be ready. Oh, who am I kidding , we drive by the nearest bakery or donut shop and wha-la it’s ready! While our patience for waiting has various limits, there is usually a point to where we cry out, (paraphrasing here), “You have got to be kidding me!” Yet, God has given us so many numerous, and advantageous reasons why we should do just that…wait…and trust upon the Lord.

Here are my top 7 that highlighted the week! 

1. “The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him” Lamentations 3:25

 While my mornings begin in seeking God through prayer, and reflection..there are ample detours and the need to trust God throadworkroughout the day. Not the least of which are in actuality, real roadblocks, that this summer lead me away from the way home through a busy touristy area. This adds an unpredictability to the completion of my errands and, as I was discovering, a heaping tablespoon of frustration. Prompting me to ask myself, what could I be doing instead? TRUST. Be aware that God is there too, in my impatience, in this busy world around me. Now, as I close my eyes I can see the smile given by the young couple in beaconing them across the street, and feel the breeze off the ocean. I can hear the questioning voices of the kids on summer vacation with their parents..and God telling me that this too is a part of the day He has for me.

2. “Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5

God never fails to teach us these things if we allow ourselves to be open to learning something new, and listening for that faithful voice. So often after leading children’s liturgy, I am reminded how much that they have taught me, with an open heart and a faith that is dependent, loving and trusting. Lord, with this faith of a child let me wait for you knowing that you will always provide.

3. “So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:7

As many of us know, who write about or serve in a ministry capacity, we are asked to be fully reliant on the Holy Spirit for guidance and revelation.  Therefore when the invitation came recently to submit for a ministry journal, I took the time needed to pray for direction not just what to say, but whether or not it needed to be said at all. With gratitude Lord, your words, your will, and your heart always.

 4. “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 

So, we have truly come to the heart of the matter. Waiting has much to do with Love. Patience is waiting with love, it is accepting that there is a timeline other than our own, and loving the other as God moves in each of our lives.  Having said this yesterday was not my best example of modeling patience as we are nearing the end of time left for summer reading and Khan Academy work. At day’s end, I realized that even as my day was rearranged to fit my son’s, that is where I was meant to be. Could I have been more kind about the sacrifice? Absolutely. Especially when I think of all the times that God and others have waited (patiently) on me, I then better recognize what God is asking.

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