Pope Francis and Lady Poverty

Pope Francis displayed such clear commitment to the human family during his visit to our country. On his face a love for the moment at hand, in his actions a choice to minister to both powerful and powerless and in his words hope for unity to overcome challenges in economics, policy and politics.

I believe that the Pope’s clarity of leadership is because he has long lived a vow of poverty.

Franciscan spirituality embraces poverty as a spiritual discipline. Their vow does not deny the awful ravages of physical poverty instead they identify with people in poverty and seek to be with them. Most important Franciscans seek through their vow of poverty to increasingly be free to identify spiritual poverty in themselves and the human made socio economic environment in which we are born.

I am so deeply challenged by our Lord who identified intimately with those in poverty. I recognize my denial, dismissal, and fear of people physically and mentally impoverished. I also see the counterpart in a denial of my own spiritual poverty.

Physical poverty mirrors spiritual poverty; Franciscans befriend those in poverty because it is opens them to befriend their own spiritual poverty.

Below is a poem I wrote expressing my spiritual heart who knows it needs to make friends with that which is frail, lost, forgetful, lonely, blind, awkward, out of control, sick, hungry, resistant and rebellious within me. Our human poverty is what we have in common. The truth is the only thing we truly have is this moment and the greatest consolation is the love we share in it.

I took a walk in the blessed sunshine. Lady poverty was waiting for me.

As I approached I said, “I do not know you.”

She replied, “you have forgotten, we are well acquainted.”

I insisted, ” I do not know you woman.”

She paused my stride, took my hands, and gazed lovingly upon me.

My spirit wept in the experience of being known and having forgotten myself.

It all came back the many times I refused her friendship, wanting the feeling of control I despised her, desiring to appear professional and confident I ignored her. Opting for a skill set, accomplishments and to be well thought of, I pretended to not know her.

Now in her presence I find a true friend.

I can see the illusion of success and failure; esteem and disregard are no different.

Lady poverty and I shall take a stroll and enjoy being in the blessed sun.


Crowd of 5000 Hungry Challenges

Like the crowd that was gathered that day long ago to be near Jesus; so our challenges do not come to us in single file line patiently waiting their turn. Instead our challenges feel like a crowd; urgently present and hungry.

All at once parents face children and their everchanging needs, manipulations, and questions. Business owners are challenged by suppliers, buyers, and employees. Educators are challenged with planning, parents, and discipline. Our health, our loved ones and the house all Christ_feeding_the_multitudecrowd us with their needs. It is never one thing at a time rather many responsibilities and challenges come at us at once and it feels like a crowd.  And of course at times we will feel overwhelmed by our crowd of 5000 hungry challenges.

The disciples could not fathom how Jesus planned to feed a crowd from five barley loaves and two fish. “What are they among so many people?”

The crowd presses us. The crowd will not wait. The crowd does not leave.

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”

Sit down; settle in, relax, recline, rest.

When we sit down to pray we are in essence telling the crowd of challenges to settle down and rest for awhile.

Whether it is feeding a multitude or facing a whining child/sick parent/interviewing for a new job/replacing the dish washer, Christian wisdom teaches us to recline with what is so urgent and rest with it in prayer.

As people of faith we trust that what is going on is where God is. We believe that everything is grace. God dwells not just in what is going right or what is easy. God dwells with people.  And with people there are challenges, there are problems, there are attitudes, and personalities. God dwells in it all.

Make the crowd sit down.

Sitting means we are open hearted to the grace in what is, simply as it is.

By sitting we cease grasping, controlling, pushing and pulling at our challenges and we rest in a larger grace that is present, always and forever. In that graced sitting God’s favorite work is allowed to have its way with us. Peace, hope and love become busy in us and prayerfully through us as we meet the challenges renewed and refreshed in God’s grace.

I’m an idiot, thank you God

Recently, I lost my car key. I was alone enjoying the sun at the Illinois Beach State Park forty minutes from my home. My husband was out of town. My youngest daughter was at day camp. I had five glorious hours to myself. The beach was beautiful, endless green water stretched out before me, and the sound of the water hitting the shore had relaxed me. I was refreshed body and soul until I discovered I lost my key.

Alone, child needing to be picked up from camp; I immediately knew this was an occasion I would typically allow myself to become anxiety riddled and beat myself up mentally. So I intentionally began a form of meditation. To every thought I replied thank you God. I was not counting my blessings. For every single thought (anxious, helpful, or crazy) I simply unemotionally thought thank you God.

The inner dialogue went something like this:

You locked your keys in the car. Thank you God. How could you do that? Thank you God. They are not in the ignition. Thank you God. They must be on the beach. Thank you God. It’s hot. Thank you God. Mabel needs me to pick her up. Thank you God. What are you going to do now? Thank you God. You are an idiot. Thank you God.

As I continued my course of combing the beach, hiking a half mile to the park office, ordering a cab, and waiting an hour for the driver to show up; I kept up the meditation. I never felt panicked though there were lots of decisions to make in a short time.  I did not get angry though the cab driver gauged me and took me a long way home. I actually felt calm peace. When I got to my daughter at camp I was able to receive her frustration with me with gentleness and before I knew it we were home having a nice evening.

This prayer method practices the reality that everything is grace. As I recited thank you God over and again the gracious gift of life as it is in the moment was real to me.

Meditation connects me with God who is loving presence active in every moment.  As an American suburbanite I am able to purchase things that make me feel secure. But that is the real illusion. And the truth is God’s eternal sustaining presence in every moment a source of peace, hope and joy.

Happy or sad, challenging or easy all hope is only discovered when we receive the gift of the moment just as it is. Thank you God. When we allow the moment to be simply what it is without clinging, grasping or trying to change it we are able to laugh during stressful situations, creatively problem solve, be gentle, kind, patient and loving in all times. Thank you God.

I am often an idiot. Thank you God. I need to rely on the gifted presence of God that is fully with me and this world in every blessed moment. Thank you God.

E=mc2 & Resurrection Spirit

In physics, energy is a property of objects which can be transferred to other objects or converted into different forms, but cannot be created or destroyed.

Our energy is a daily gift. Some days we have more than others. And each day has its necessities and pleasures to give our energy toward.

How Jesus spent his energy while he was on earth is such a learning for us, a deep well of wisdom to incorporate in our lives. The resurrection appearances revealed the most concentrated vital energy of God in Jesus.

Jesus used this precious time to lead the disciples into an experience of a new Spirit of peace and love that would never leave them and that all people have access to.

He did this by appearing to them at the empty tomb, in the upper room behind a locked door, on the road home, and at the beach. He offered their grieving hearts peace, he nourished them when he broke bread with them, they experienced his full living presence by touching him and as he breathed a new Spirit upon them.

Likewise, whenever we reach out to God in worship or quietly in our homes we are reaching for the same Spirit Jesus breathed on the disciples. We yearn for that vital beautiful energy of Jesus to transform us. St. John of the Cross said it this way… through Christ, “our intellect is transformed into faith, our wills transformed into love and our memories transformed into hope.”

Jesus asked Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me?” after each question Peter said “yes.” and Jesus said, “then feed my sheep.”

What Jesus meant is for each of us and for our congregations to live out.

Eastertide invites us to as the question, how is Jesus leading you to spend your precious vital energy?

The Holy Week Hall of Mirrors

Holy Week is such a gift because, in a fast paced world, it takes a long, loving gaze upon the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.

For what purpose do we take this yearly spiritual pilgrimage? How can we enter this long, loving look in a way that adds meaning to our lives and does not overwhelm us once again with compassion fatigue at all that goes wrong in our world?

I found an answer in the wisdom of our liturgical calendar. Last week was the feast of the Annunciation. Mary gave her beautiful assent to God’s overshadowing her life and Jesus was conceived. Perhaps we should take a cue from Mary and allow our gaze upon the old story to become an inner gaze of reflection like a pregnant woman whose “eyes” are turned toward herself, paying attention to every shift and change and feeling in her body.

The spiritual life is about honing an inner reflective gaze upon our hearts so that our outer gaze is transformed for love.

One writer said the story of Jesus’ Passion is like “walking through a hall of mirrors.” The story then is a spiritual guide. As such it can lead to new life within. What does it show us?

It shows us all the faces of the false self: the anguish of Judas, indecision of Pilot, cowardice of Peter, self importance of the High Priests, sanctimony of the Pharisees, the mob, the policies and procedures of the Roman empire that all conspire to put Jesus up on the cross.

The hall of mirrors reveals your own acknowledged or unacknowledged shadow self.

Jesus was of course the center of the story. Quietly, in the middle of all the posturing and fleeing, in the midst of fear and hatred Jesus was present. He was not fighting, arguing, or defending himself. Jesus was a harmonizing presence who did not accuse, did not judge, but was simply and strongly present. It seems as if God’s gaze was through him upon the unfolding events, lovingly present as God always is.

Love was poured out on all those people lost to their false selves – not condemning not even actively trying to change the events or the people – but simply, lovingly present.

If we do not slow down, if we are not open and vulnerably present to this old story we cannot learn how God is lovingly present to us. The incredible truth is that God is loving our false shadow selves to death. By his love a new path is opened for us to live healed and saved by God’s merciful present love that will not condemn or change this world through force but only through quiet embracing love. That was how hell was overturned, not by force, but by the power of steady, uncompromising love death is undone.

Chirp Chirp Proclaim the Birds

“The Spirit is always hidden in the material.” Like the snow that covered the earth this week in Chicago in early spring, the birds were not fooled. They knew that even though it looks like winter; under that thick white blanket is the greening of the earth again. Chirp chirp they sang their gospel proclamation while pecking through the snow for seeds.

Jesus came to reveal that the Spirit of God, though hidden in each human being and in this world is actually alive, active, and real. His flesh and blood life in the first century experienced all there is to experience as a human. Through his teachings and miracles and healing the gospels reveal that Jesus allowed the life of God to live through him. Jesus gave his life because what was hidden had to be revealed; even death cannot destroy the Spirit.

The church around the world prepares for Holy Week. Our gift of faith will be dramatized and re-enacted. Churches will be filled with streams of people compelled to experience these ancient liturgies of darkness and light, death and new life. Something deep within us knows that we must die to live.

As you approach Holy Week again take a moment to invite God into your experience of this primordial story of our Spirit life. You and I are called to be proclaimers of this abundant life of the Spirit, the true Life within our life. Ask God to lead you to deepen in faith and trust of this Spirit life wanting to live more and more through you. Your soul is the seed shaped like God yearning to be fully expressed. Dying is part of living, what needs to die that the Spirit of love might be more and more proclaimed in you?

The Journey of 10,000 Returns

During Lent Christians are called to reflect on their lives for God. Many of us use the Litany of Penitence to help us reflect on how we are not living into the full potential of the life and love we have been made for. That litany names nearly every way we can sin and separate ourselves from God and hurt people.

Praying the litany is not a test. It is not a check up to see if we are doing better than last year. That litany prays us and it prays this world reminding us of our original separation from God.

The truth is we will never succeed or get an A+ at life. The best we can do is be a people who return again and again to God’s Presence of love in us and for the world.

I heard someone tell this story about Father Thomas Keating who has made his life’s work of love teaching Centering Prayer to anyone wanting a deeper life in God. This prayer method is silent, it is about stilling the mind and body so that the person can best allow God’s indwelling Presence minister to them.

As the story goes, a woman came up to Father Keating and said, “I am an utter failure at this prayer, in 20 minutes I had 10, 000 thoughts.” Without missing a beat and with a twinkle in his eye Father Keating responded, “How lovely, 10,000 opportunities to return to God.”

What if instead of trying to succeed at being a perfect person instead we practiced returning to God without judgment or shame? When we fail we would simply regard it as a lovely opportunity to return.

Would it not make us a more gentle and loving person! We would be so clear that God is with us, for us, and in us. We would be less likely to shame others when they fail because we ourselves would be on the journey of 10, 000 returns.

Litany of Penitence: http://www.allsaintsanglican.ca/images/File/Litany%20of%20Penitence.pdf

Centering Prayer


Sitting under a Mature Tree: the Gift of the Contemplative Life

Sitting under a mature tree on a warm fall day I realized that there was a vast depth within me. I was 19 years old, in college, studying biology. But I did not care about classes they were just the excuse so I could sit under that tree and explore the depth of my soul.

Contemplation is a gifted moment when time and necessity fade and the present opens like a rare and beautiful flower. Contemplatives are committed to the importance of these gifted moments to human wellness and the common good.

More than this, Christian contemplatives look to God to open these moments. Through intentional design we prayerfully create an environment to open fully to God’s presence who has created everything and holds all things together. Jesus is our wise teacher and spiritual guide who leads us toward sacrificial living in response to the grace and outpouring love of God. And the lively Spirit dwells in us and all creation providing the gifts needed to grow and mature in faith, hope and love.

To live the contemplative life is a full and rich adventure because in any given moment we believe the riches of heaven can be seen and experienced. Every person in front of us every moment at hand is pregnant with meaning and guidance toward the heart of God.

I have been drawn to deepen in my own contemplative practice since I was young, now I am committed to  lead others to the riches found in wellspring of life in God.

Below are two recent poems I wrote that express a Christian Contemplative view.

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The long walk home begins with a word.

“Talitha cum”.

The Lord awakens the sleeping soul with one word, one breath of heaven and darkness melts away.

Then comes stunned awareness, a new dawn breaks forth. The dance of morning fills the senses, open clear awareness.

Time elapses noonday comes, clarity falls prey to gravity and sinks down under necessity. What can I behold in so short a day? The butterfly alone could steal my life.

Who am I to love so much? I am slain by the heat of day. And at night I am lost to the limits of this mortal life.

Please speak your word afresh, do not leave me alone in this gentle morning light, whisper the word, “little girl get up”

Stunned, I am born again and again.
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When I find myself in a weightless universe

The day is a playground

every moment a dance.


Gone is the impatience of time

and the boundaries of language vanish.


The harsh corners of reality melt away into a

soft, gentle, warm embrace.
No division, no opinion

Truth is union, love is the light.

The Divine Gift in a Crappy Cup of Coffee

coffeeI am not a big “foody” and I don’t often fall prey to food snobbery but morning coffee has become important to me. That first cup in the morning awakens all of my senses to the day before me. I had not known how important it was for that coffee to be drinkable until my time at St. Gregory’s Abbey last week. The prayers of the monks were sincere and beautiful but the coffee was crap. Each morning I poured a cup full, raised it to my lips ready for the taste of a new day but instead its weak bitter flavor had to be forced down.

The spiritual life requires that we be aware of our longing for more, our weakness… the imperfection of it all has to be part of our awareness in order for space to open for God to come. This acceptance of reality awakens us to His merciful loving Presence.

This Sunday is the last in our Advent observance. The scripture readings of anticipation and hope for the coming of the Lord reach a summit in the story of the Annunciation. We receive a new view of God’s loving way with his creation in the story of the Angel who appeared to Mary declaring her favored status with the Almighty One and announcing that she a young vulnerable woman is going to carry in her womb the Son of God.

Mary had to be barren in order to conceive. Mary said, “how can this be?” As we all do in life. How can it be that God can overshadow this world and our very lives when so often it looks and feels barren of a holy Presence?

There is much to distract us in this life from paying attention to how we are in need. We can be so full we aren’t aware of the deep longings of our soul. That is until we have to force down a cup of weak bitter life.

When we are aware of our longings we find God. God saves us, God gives us purpose, God clears our lives of what is unimportant and bad for us, God gives us the power to open our hearts in love to every person in front of us and moment at hand. When God overshadows us new life is conceived.

On the final morning of my retreat I lovingly cupped in my hands that little porcelain mug of terrible coffee. I recalled all the people in my life that are suffering, lonely, grieving, that I miss and I gave thanks for the bitter cup of longing. I learned again the secret that God can be trusted to transform longing into love.

The Harvest of Experience

Harvest: to gather, to reap, to gain, to catch.

The end of a long busy growing season is the harvest. We bring in the final fruit of the land before winter.

T.S. Elliot wrote, “We had the experience but missed the meaning.”

Lots of experiences fill our days, weeks and years. Just imagine all the experiences in one day. Whether they be positive, traumatic, simple or complex it takes time to decipher the meaning of our experiences. It takes time for our souls to integrate all our experiences. The sweet fruit of wisdom only comes through reflecting on our experiences.

Celtic poet and writer and priest John O’Donohue writes about the importance of harvesting the meaning from our experiences.

O’Donohue explains that integration is such a vital part of our “coming home” to ourselves. Difficult experiences particularly need gentle consideration to fold them into our being. When we take time to reflect on our experiences we mature, we heal, and our fragmented lives are made whole.

Jesus invited his students to be fertile ground for the Word of God to grow. Jesus was teaching that the Children of God are the harvest of the Kingdom of God. When we meet frustration with hope, when we face discouraging situations with faith, when we make peace in the midst of conflict or show mercy when we could hold a grudge we are nourishing this world with the fruit of God’s love.

Our souls have this amazing capacity to make wholeness out of all of our disparate experiences. Seek God’s help in harvesting the fruit of your experiences today, and more and more you will become the fruit of God’s love.