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.

” Fester Within”

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

Until recently I never knew how literal and visual that verse could become.

I had the opportunity to hear a friend share at a retreat. She used a word I had not heard used in a long time. It is a word that creates a vivid visual…A visual that is not a pretty picture; a visual that makes you want to say, “Yuck”. The word conjures up disease, infection, distortion, and just plain ugliness.

FESTER:

To be or become an increasing source of irritation or poisoning…

to inflame or infect…to generate pus.

 You may be wondering where I am going with these two seemingly disconnected things. But you see they all make sense to me because I was letting something fester inside of my heart. Oh I was asking God to create a clean heart inside of me alright, but he just did not seem to be responding. At least not in a way I could discern. So suddenly when I heard my friend use the word “fester” I finally got it. I got the picture of what had been happening within my heart. God wanted me to cleanse my own heart and he used the word “fester” to get my attention. He wanted me to notice what was truly occurring within my heart and take action.

 I remember one time when my brother had a really bad festered boil the size of a ping pong ball on his leg. It was really nasty, swollen, throbbing, and burning with the fever of infection. The only way you can rid yourself of this type of infection is to open it up and clean out the pus. Well with that in mind my first visual was to go to the person with whom I was angry and literally squirt the pus that was festering within my heart all over him. Wow! How visual is that?

Once you get the pus out then and only then can the healing begin and the fester will gradually shrink. With time your skin will return to its normal healthy state. I wanted my heart returned to its normal healthy state.

 I knew that I had to get rid of the pus in my heart; the sooner the better now that God had gotten my attention. I contemplated for weeks on the best way to “create this clean heart” free from the pus that was accumulating. I knew symbolically I had to confront the person and scrape out the anger, hurt, disappointment, and pain. So I gathered up my courage and went to this person…we had a good talk and I scraped out the “fester” that been accumulating there.

Now the healing I longed for is in progress and my heart is gradually returning to its healthy state. This cleansing and healing has also brought a new feeling of “lightness” to my heart.

If there is anything “festering” deep within your heart I invite you to take the necessary steps to “create a clean heart” for yourself. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

I did this for myself not for the other person although, I think he too benefited from our discussion.

Celebrate all that you are and the potential within…remove the “fester” within your heart today!

Make it a “Lemonade” Day!

No Man Is an Island: a Celebration of Independence

Independence synonymous with Freedom.
Fourth of July, the birthday of America; is a day to celebrate our independence from Britain.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president, was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence written in 1776.
Many states have chosen to name a city Independence. Here are a few…Missouri, Kentucky, California, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Kansas, and Oregon.
Independence is also the name of an interface for modifying the new i-phone.
Independence is the name of a Beer brewing company in Texas.
Did you know we have a select committee in Washington, on Energy Independence and Global Warming established in 2007? This group discusses America’s dependence on oil and global warming. As a country we are examining the challenges of our goal for energy independence. I suspect this task will be, “A Long and Winding Road” as Paul McCartney so named his popular 1970 melancholy ballad, the Beatles last #1 single.

We are always looking for ways to be more independent. Early in our childhood we get a taste of independence as soon as we are able to crawl. Soon after we begin to walk there is such joy at our new found independence, although wobbly at first. But with practice, help, and determination we are soon running in the joy of our independence…our freedom. When my youngest son learned to walk at nine months he was everywhere and so proud of what he could accomplish. I remember walking was just the beginning for Chris then came the climbing. He had no fear of heights and as I discovered one day as I witnessed him scaling up the brick fireplace mantel. He continues to clothe himself with independence in his adult life today.
As a young adult my grandmother would let me drive when we were away from busy traffic in Galveston. There were not many cars on the road in Jamaica Beach and I could drive… slowly. That’s the thing about driving we cannot wait to get behind the wheel…and then what? Driving is seen as arriving at independence when you are young. The funny thing is after you pass the driving test you really do not know how to go anywhere. It is so ironic. The places you are most familiar with suddenly take on a very different feel as you realize you really do not know the directions. Being a passenger looking out the window is not the same as being behind the wheel.
I think independence comes with its share of uncertainty and fear or perhaps we could say adventure.
Continuing with driving for a minute…I have witnessed the sadness of many seniors when they can no longer drive. It is often perceived as a profound loss of their independence. There is something about walking out the door, getting behind the wheel of your car, and driving yourself to where YOU want to go.
Denis Waitley, a popular American author, said,

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility

and the wings of independence. “

I too believe along with independence comes great responsibility. The first blossom of independence is to only think of yourself. But we live in a world where independence without responsibility causes many problems. Consider just the crime rate in our neighborhoods alone.

The truth is we are all dependent on one another…I am reminded of another old song…”No Man is an Island”.

So as we celebrate this Independence Day appreciate those around you and “Make it a Lemonade Day”!

Fresh Squeezed Inspiration

You do know that you have the power to choose? I don’t mean like choosing what to wear to work or when to eat. I mean choosing important things like what your reaction will be to any given situation.

 Since I seem to to fixated on lemonade these days, people have asked me about the lemon seeds.  You decide how to view the “seeds” in your life just as you choose the ingredients for your Lemonade Day.

 No two days are alike- you are the unique ingredient, the recipe developer.  How do you look at the “seeds” in your life? What do you consider the seeds to be. Is it an illness, an misunderstanding with your best friend, a lost job, a broken marriage, an addiction? I am sure you each could fill in the blank with many more things you think are seeds.

 In making fresh homemade lemonade I would certainly discard the seeds without giving them a second thought, but without the seeds there would be no lemon. Without the lemon there could be no lemonade. What do you do with the seeds in your life? As we all know, a seed when planted can bring forth new life. One small seed contains an abundance of life. One small lemon seed can grow into a tree producing many more lemons and seeds. Perhaps we need to closely examine the seeds in our life and open ourselves up to their potential for more. Sometimes we unknowingly collect these seeds in our life and carry them around as extra baggage never realizing their hidden beauty. Maybe we live under the weight of our lemon seeds because we never realized that we could use them for new lemon trees. New lemon trees producing bright yellow lemons waiting to release their juice for refreshing lemonade. Imagine how different your life could be IF you planted more of your lemon seeds. Imagine the vast grove of lemon trees you could personally be responsible for as the planter of your seeds.

I challenge you to risk considering what your lemon seeds could produce if you just let them. Slicing lemons for my “Sassy” water gives me a chance to appreciate the possibilities of my “lemon seeds”. The possibility of what might be.

Make It a Lemonade Day! Squeeze out every drop of flavor!

Sharon for Faith Twins