Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘life’

The Party

Well today is The Party. For several years now my friend and her husband have hosted a party to celebrate family, love, and friendship. This party is much like a wedding reception except there will be no new bride and groom. But in many ways we are celebrating their wedding because it brought forth a beautiful family. We are celebrating all that is good about love and family. This party contains all the elements one could hope for in life…food, family, friends, fun, and music.

They loved to dance together and they loved to see their guests having fun together. Every other year has been marked with this celebration. I have to accept my deep regret this time. Two years ago at their last party my husband and I were in San Diego, consequently we were not able to attend.

Had I known two years ago that she would not be here for her next party I would have made different vacation plans. But we are not privileged to see the future so, I was not there. It was my decision. We all have to live with the results of the decisions we make in life.

She was disappointed that we were going to miss the party, but she never made me feel guilty. That is true friendship.

That year during the party she gave away some of her precious possessions to her children. She also had small pieces of crystal decorating each table, which one person at each table received to take home.

Later many people asked me if she knew she was dying. I cannot now nor could I then answer that question completely. But I believe when you have pancreatic cancer diagnosis you cannot “not” think about your own mortality.

It seems fitting that the gospel reading today is the Wedding Feast at Cana. Jesus performed his first public miracle changing water into the best wine. I rejoice at the beautiful marriage my friend and her husband shared for 42 years. On more than one occasion I witnessed their response to, “Do whatever he tells you.” On more than one occasion they took empty jars a filled them with their unconditional love. Who could ask for anything more from a friend than unconditional love?

It will be a difficult night as I mingle with family and friends who loved her and miss her presence in their lives. I suppose I will never truly get over missing her. Yes, I know things get better with time, but a part of me left this earth with her. A part that can never be replaced…a part I gladly let her take into eternity…my love for her.

We used to do a day of prayer together called “The Heart Connection”. We used a little story about an old man and a young man each boasting about who had the most beautiful heart. The young man thought he did until he listened to the old man describe how his heart came to look so tattered and torn. How through the years the old man had given parts of his heart away. How sometimes people would ignore his gift; and sometimes they would give him a piece of their heart in return. His heart looked more like a well loved and worn patch work quilt to be treasured.

I go to this party ready to join her family in sharing her love with everyone attending.

I wonder, though not recorded in the Bible, how many people regretted not answering the call to follow Jesus. Did they have other things to do at the time of the call? Did they not believe what he was saying and doing? Were they not ready? Was it just not the right time in for them?

We all have regrets in our life. A regret can be as simple as not being able to accept an invitation or as serious as not mending a relationship with a loved one. Many people express their regrets on their deathbed.

“Regrets are the tears of choices not made, and of good deeds left undone.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I really do not think my friend had any real regrets to express, because she lived her life always trying to do what was placed on her heart.

Perhaps it is better to make a fool of yourself rather than to build a storage shed to hold all of your life regrets.

“…Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” Eph. 4:1b

Well everyone at the party had a good time and joy filled the room through lively music, exhausting dance, tasty food, personal conversations, and warm embraces.

My friend was dancing in heaven with us…not sure what the chicken dance looks like with angel wings! But I have a really vivid imagination!

“All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts. 2:44

 

Another Year Ends -The Last 12 Months

Here we are the end of another year, but not just any year for me. The end of a year is often marked with celebrations at the stroke of midnight. But what are those celebrations really? Are we happy that we have survived another year? Are we excited that the passing year is finally over? Are we hopeful for a better year to come?

I guess for some it is a combination of all of the above. You know like the multiple choice test question answers where answer D is often all of the above or none of the above. I never did like those answers because you really had to know the material well. It was much easier when you could look at the answer choices and choose the ‘one’ that you believed to be the right answer.

Life is so not like a standardized test. It is more like a Kaleidoscope where all the tiny pieces of your daily life are collected. Each year a new kaleidoscope collection is created.

At the end of the year we look at the events of our life slowly as we make slight turns of the kaleidoscope carefully examining the last twelve months. Maybe they settle into pleasing patterns or perhaps they are a total mixture of dissonance. I wish I could remember all of the wondrous moments that occur in a year, but I cannot. It seems that I can only remember those times encased in intense emotion.

Think about your past year. What stands out the most?

I would say times of great joy, intense sorrow, sour disappointment, painful hurts both physical, emotional, and joyful surprises. We tend to overlook the insignificant …the passing smile from a stranger…

…the Blue Jay in the front yard…

…the blue sky on a clear day…

…the fleeting hug of a child…

…the smell of morning coffee brewing…

…the beauty of a rose bud…

we could go on and on creating an endless list.

Can you name your personal top 10 blessings for 2011?

Here are mine, not in any particular order:

  1. Total hip replacement
  2. Death of my best friend
  3. 28 day cruise with my husband
  4. Tenants in our rental house
  5. Both sons home for Christmas
  6. Visiting the Sargrada Familia in Barcelona
  7. Donating two cars to charity
  8. Writing each day
  9. Bringing Eucharist to my friends
  10. Love and support from friends

I invite you to spend some time today; make your own list. Maybe you will want to make two different lists. First list whatever easily comes to mind then go back and take some time to really reflect on the last twelve months.

Part of me is reluctant to see this year slip away and become the past. There are things I want to hold on to and never forget, but I know with time things fade and the colors are less intense. I have found writing a way to preserve some of life that I do not want to lose.

I hope you have honored through writing some of your most significant moments from 2011.

The beginning of a new year holds more than we could ever imagine. I hope to be more aware in 2012…to be more grateful…more loving…more compassionate…more joyful…more optimistic…remembering ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. Phil. 4:13

God has abundantly blessed me in 2011 in more ways than I could have ever imagined. We are embraced by a God who consistently showers us with surprises. I am ready to enter into this New Year…2012, believing God has more in store for me and for you.

Finally, (beloved), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Preserve all these things in the kaleidoscope of 2012…the days of your life.

Just a Little More Time…

Our Father who art in heaven…Thy will be done…

Serenity Prayer…God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

These next few blog posts may not have beautiful pictures or sweet music from you tube for you to enjoy. Instead there will only be words from my grief stricken heart.

There have been a few times in my life when I may have wanted to “play God”…when our first born son was dying of malnutrition and needed intestinal surgery to save his life…when my beloved grandmother was dying of lung cancer and would not get to know and love my children…when my daddy, only sixty-four, needed a heart transplant but could not last long enough…when my mother in law died from breast cancer only having a few short years with her grandsons.

Today I find myself once again in a place where if I could for a moment “play God” I would heal my dear friend from her cancer and restore her body to its healthy state. But I know …  “…Thy will be done…” I know this in my head and I can say the prayers, but in my heart I do so want things to be different I do so want her to be healed. I know I am not in a unique situation, but right now today what matters is getting through to tomorrow.

Sometimes I feel like I am in a tug of war. My head is pulling in one direction and my heart is pulling just as hard in the opposite direction. I know in my head what my faith has taught me about going to a better place when you die, but my heart does not want to let go. I want to hold her close to me ever so gently; and then I can so vividly picture Jesus also wanting to hold her close to himself.

“Just a little more time, Dear Jesus, just a little more time.”  I pray.

Last night my husband and I were watching this darling 10 year old singing In the Arms of an Angel.Her voice was as beautiful as an angel itself. I began to think about heaven. If we can make such beautiful music here on earth how much more beautiful must heavenly music be. There must be music in heaven; how could there not be?

“Just a little more time, Dear Jesus, just a little more time.”  I plead.

“Just a little more time”…….

to be continued…

 

Soul Stirrings: A Steadfast Spirit

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” (Ps. 51:10)
It is hard to have a “steadfast spirit” in the face of temptations.

Jesus was led, some say even driven into the desert. (Matt. 4:1-11) Why? Was it only so he could be tempted? Or was there some other reason? Did this time in the desert somehow prepare him for the rest of his life? He had already been assured by the father at his baptism the he was indeed the ‘beloved’ son. So why was this time of seclusion so vital to his purpose on earth?

Our temptations may or may not occur when we are in the desert of our lives. There are so many implications about being in the desert. In the desert Jesus was isolated from those he had been keeping company with. I think about how much stronger I am in my faith when I am surrounded by those who are of like thinking. But I must ask myself, is that always the best? This may surprise you, but how can I know for sure if I have a ‘steadfast spirit’ if I am never challenged?

Jesus was led away from others into the desolation of the desert where the devil could occupy his thoughts and entertain him with ‘What ifs’. Oh that brings me to my own struggles with ‘What ifs’. You know you can make yourself a little stressed thinking about the ‘What if’s’. Perhaps this conversion of heart called for during Lent could be about allowing yourself to be free of the ‘what if’ temptations. What if…I had more money, a better spouse, a better job, more free time, or more education? I am sure you can fill in your own personal ‘What if’ statements.

In the desert Jesus could think more clearly even though he was probably struggling inside of his humanity with surrendering to the will of his Father. In his humanness Jesus, like us had free will. The temptations in the desert placed Jesus in a position where he had to choose to use his divine powers for himself or resist and do the will of the Father.

I have often wondered, ‘why 40 days’; other than the obvious parallel to Moses leading the people in the desert for 40 years. I think it takes time to make the adjustment when you go away from all that is familiar. It takes time to realize that you only have your own thoughts to confront and or wrestle with. Maybe when you are all alone in the silence of the desert with fewer distractions you are in a better place for a true conversion of heart. No one is there to get you off track. In the silence of the desert God can be heard more clearly. In the silence of the desert more can be drawn out and treasured from deep within.

Thomas Merton says in Life and Holiness, “[The] ‘upsetting of our inner life is essential to spiritual growth, because without it we remain comfortably at rest in more or less illusory ideas of what spiritual perfection really is.” Merton goes on to say “There is no spiritual life without persistent struggle and interior conflict.” In the desert Jesus experienced this interior conflict. He had to experience what it felt life to be fully human. Jesus’ human experiences give him profound credibility for us. Without these human situations we could easily dismiss what he calls us to be by simply saying…BUT Jesus was Divine

I invite you this week to set aside some ‘desert’ time in your home. Commit to the same time each day in the same ‘sacred’ space to spend time with God. Contemplate the ‘What if’s’ in your life and how you can surrender them to the Lord. Ask for the grace of a ‘renewed steadfast spirit’.

If you can actually get some sand bury your hand in it…lift up your hand and let the sand fall between your fingers. Embrace your prayer time through your senses. Feel the texture of the sand, the coolness of it against your skin.

Live Authentically

As the lasts few hours of February tick away I find myself filled with appreciation for this short month.

During this month I spent time with friends on a cruise…staffed an awesome women’s retreat…facilitated a women’s day of prayer…attended my neice’s wedding shower…celebrated my best friend’s birthday…enjoyed Valentine’s Day with my husband…had dinner with some girl friends…rejoiced with friends as they were ordained permanent Deacons.

When all is said and done the past four weeks have brought with them so much joy. How can I be anything less than joyful with my life? And yet there are days when I feel so frustrated with my inability to get more accomplished. I ask myself how can I do more…be more…for others.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is March 9 this year. I have been compiling notes with the intention of offering on this blog something I will call “Soul Stirrings”. My hope is for us to journey through Lent together. I want to create a place where we have a stonger connection with our readers during this Lent. So watch for the “Soul Stirrings” beginning very soon.

My goal for Lent…to be more disciplined in my writing. A faithful reader recently requested that I write more often here on this blog. I guess my apprehension comes from wanting to write from a place of inspiration and not ‘just because’. I always want my words to reflect my openness to the Holy Spirit rather han coming from a personal agenda. Not sure if I am always successful though.

Just got the quote below in one of my email subscriptions. I guess that is a message to me loud and clear to continue what it is I do in order not to ‘fail our community’. These three words stand out to me…express…listen…contribution.

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.”– Rollo May (1909-1994), American psychologist, from The Courage to Create

The mesage here for all of us may be; to live authentically.

Pen and Ink: Love Letters

Love can be expressed in so many different ways, but the most timeless and most treasured will always remain the classic “love letter”. I am sure Hallmark would not even object to a hand written love letter because you can always tuck it neatly inside of a pretty card. The art of the handwritten letter has so often today been replaced with a type written email or text. Snail mail seems to take forever…we are instant, got to have it now, people.

I am going to hand write a love letter to my husband this Valentine’s Day. I invite you to join me; hand write a letter to a loved one…spouse…child…parent…friend…grandchild…sister…brother…

Think back for a moment to the time when setting before you was a pen and its accompanying bottle of ink…now to me that is so romantic. I love gazing at old pen and ink writings. I love how the ink is wispy and delicate on the paper…just the thought of dipping the tip of the pen in the ink and carefully stroking the paper with expressive words to your loved one. This is so heart warming and tender to me. If you still have one of those old ink pens from years ago I invite you to take it out and write something anything even just your name. Let the ink flow onto the paper.

When my husband was in basic training I would write him a letter every day…no internet or Skype back then…I think he still has those letters carefully packed away in a box. One day, perhaps after we are both gone, our sons will find those letters and get an idea of just how much we were in love with one another.

I have a kept a letter written to me by my father when I was in my 20’s. It still brings a smile to my face since he is no longer living. There is something special knowing that he touched the paper…a part of him has been absorbed into the paper. Cherish that thought for a moment with me.

Of course as long as I am writing about love letters I am reminded of the wonderful movie “Message in a Bottle”. What a beautiful creative novel written by Nicholas Sparks.

If you would like to give a personal gift of love from your heart; try writing a poem. There is no right or wrong way to write a poem just express your feelings for the other person.

Give it a try…here are a few guidelines to help you get started…reasons why you love the person…specific qualities you love about the person like their blue eyes…what and or how they have provided for or supported you…special names you have for each other…the ultimate message you are trying to convey with your poem, for example ‘you are the one who always believes in me’…decide the tone of your poem either humorous or sentimental.

Remember this poem is a personal gift from your heart!

This month I invite you to write the ultimate love letter or poem…to Jesus. Valentine’s is a wonderful time to stop and actually write to Jesus and tell him how much you love him…what you love about him…what he means to you…how he has supported you in all ways throughout your life. Seal it, bring it with you to Mass or adoration…hold it in your hands and read/pray it to Jesus with a loving heart. Tell Jesus how much you love him…using visual imagery reach out your arms allowing Jesus to embrace you within his loving arms…pressing you tenderly to his own heart…pierced through with love for you. There is no greater love…How truly blessed we are to be loved by Jesus. His love… given to us so that we may have love in our hearts to give to others.

May you continue to write letters… 

Lessons from the “Corpse Flower”

Last month for several days thousands of people watched on a web cam as an endangered tropical Sumatran plant came to life right before our eyes. “Lois”, her name, soon became the hottest thing in the museum and the city of Houston. Her horticulturist became an overnight “twitter” celebrity. People as far away as Japan were hungry for information about this rare giant beauty. Overnight it seemed a whole community was born to watch and wait together. Bloggers, Photographers, Twitterers,(is that a word?), Postings on Facebook, News Reports etc. Some would say we had all gone nuts over this plant. It gave some people a purpose for their day. Watching gave some an excuse for not getting their work done.

Lois started from a tiny walnut size tuber six years ago. No one can predict when or if the Corpse Flower” will bloom. Lois kept all of us watching and waiting. The museum would announce… …“Lois” has grown 4 inches today…she may reach up to 10 feet. Ten Feet! That’s material for science fiction movies. Remember the musical about the plant in the hair salon? That’s it “Little Shop of Horrors”.

“Lois” had a vivid bizarre beauty about her. Her bulging base, speckled in green, resembled an exquisite urn. Her giant petals neatly folded; pressed tightly together forming a corset holding her together. I could not help but be awestruck by the sheer imagination and creativity of our Creator. How anyone could look at this plant and not acknowledge the existence of God is beyond me.

“Lois” invited us all, through her rare beauty, to keep watch and wait. “Lois” was generating her own community. I’m sure some local ministers were jealous! Day after day the reports teased that today she would bloom; only to be followed by disappointment. Her time had not yet come.

Was God was using “Lois” to teach us all about patience? In our society everything is instant …food, messages, emails, information, etc. Patience is something we grow weary of quickly. Life is too busy to wait for anything! (or so we think) But thousands of us waited patiently for Lois to open her purple ruffled petals. We were captivated by something that spoke no words. We were forced to live in the present.

Finally after days of watching and waiting it happened…The petals that pressed so tightly hugging her for dear life began to gradually release. They unfurled revealing her inner beauty for us all to behold. It was like this rare giant blossom was lifting it’s “arms” to give praise to God. Wonder and Awe!!!

Along with this spectacular show of beauty came something so incongruent, but expected. There was wafting from “Lois” the awful smell of rotting garbage. She produces a stink in order to attract just the right beetle for pollination. I know how important fragrances are, but really this is almost humorous. Our God is not only creative, but he has one heck of a sense of humor too. Another reminder…appearances never tell the whole story. Hmmmm.

I could not help thinking about the effects sin has on my soul. No matter how beautiful the outside may be. We had this vivid contrast presented to us through our sense of sight and smell.

In the end “Lois” did not have the energy to fully open, but at least 50, 000 people stood in line to catch a glimpse of this rare endangered smelly “corpse flower”.

Yes, I was one of those who stood in line to view this living example of God’s creation.

One last note…we should all be concerned over the devastation of our rainforests throughout the world. Much more is endangered than this giant corpse flower.

Today give God praise and glory for the wonders of his creation.