What really matters

felicity and perpetuaApparently my efforts to blog more frequently during Lent have not been realized. *sigh* Oh well, so it goes. The inconsistent blogger returns and hopes that you are all well.

Today I received an email from Forward Today, part of Forward Movement, which is a ministry of the Episcopal church. Like many email things, I do not read it every day, but today I did read and what a gift I was given.

In the church, today is the feast when we remember Perpetua and Felicity along with their companions. They were early martyrs of the church. Author of the post, Rev. Scott Gun is an Episcopal priest and the Executive Director of Forward Movement.  He writes:

Perpetua was a catechumen, not yet baptized, when she was summoned to appear before the Roman authorities. She refused to make a sacrifice in honor of the emperor. At a public hearing, she said, “I am a Christian.” She was sentenced to death, to be martyred in an arena by wild animals. She faced death bravely, urging those around her to remain steadfast in faith.

This Lent one of the things that I have prayed and meditated upon is those who have been persecuted. Many in the United States believe that they are persecuted because of certain laws that seem to infringe upon faith. When I think of that versus the plight of the Christians in the Middle East who are seriously persecuted, I want to shake my head. Because freedom of religion is understood by many  in a particular way in this country, it kind of distorts things. Yes, people may be infringed upon, but persecuted? We kind of live in the belief that our right to practice holds a meaning, but what about when our right tramples someone else’s right? It is a problem.

Anyway as I read on and took in more of Rev. Gunn’s words, I really had to pause:

It might be tempting for us to read a story like this and think of it as little more than a fanciful legend. But it is more than that. For one thing, the blood of those martyrs, along with the blood of countless others, had the opposite effect from what the empire’s authorities wanted. From their witness, the church was made stronger. People were inspired by the way Christians faced death, clinging to their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ until the end.

If fanciful legend is what we think, then we are in trouble. If comparing our contemporary issues with being killed for our beliefs, we are in even bigger trouble. How do we discern what really matters? Rev. Gunn gets to that:

We certainly do not face persecution for our faith. But there is another danger. It’s easy to make sacrifices to false gods. Do we worship the accumulation of wealth? Do we choose to remain silent while others suffer injustice? Do we treat our churches are social clubs rather than outposts of God’s kingdom? Do we honor power and might over love and sacrifice?

Some may disagree with the persecution part, but I stand by my understanding of what this means, and my understanding follows that same way of thinking. Yes, persecution can start small and get big, but small is not the persecution part. Is your life in danger for your faith? Or are you challenged by how the world is not in sync with your beliefs? If it is the latter, then that is where we are called to find God and seek what really matters.

These words bear repeating Continue reading

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Lent, like Christ, will find you

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We need not search for Lenten practices, since they will find us. Sometimes a Lenten practice comes in the form of illness, the death of a loved one, a family dispute, or a financial setback. Trials and hardships come in the course of daily life, unexpected and unwanted. Our part is to deal with them as best we can, with faith, acceptance, trust, and peace. –Sarah Schwartzberg, OSB

Here we are, a little over a week into Lent. I was talking to someone who felt like she did not choose something “hard enough.” I was reminded of a time when I was on a pilgrimage; not the Camino, a long, long time ago. It was 1990 and I had not yet returned to church, but I was doing an imitation of a part-time, self-styled catholic-esque person. God  however had other plans for me… but that is another story for another day.

On this trip a group of us were hiking up a very steep and rocky path on a hot day. One woman decided that she should do so on her knees and it did not take long for her to start bleeding, but she pressed on for a bit. At the same time an older man with a cane could not continue; he was in tears feeling as if he were failing God.

Like a spectral figure, suddenly an old nun came along behind us, moving at a pretty good clip. Where did she come from? Anyway she surveyed the bloody knees and walked in front of the young woman, stopping her from going forth. Looking down she said Continue reading

Action required

27913280_10213826914360740_4929589845878718805_oIt seems that Lent, my schedule, current events, and such have not contributed to good blogging. I saw this graphic on Facebook, posted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet and it struck me.

27858651_1644153752342396_207629616003888568_nThoughts and prayers are fine, but as St. James reminds us “faith without works is dead.” We must ask God to change our hearts and then respond to God’s urging. Our anger, our outrage, our sadness and tears all must be transformed – along with our hearts – into action. Doing otherwise is no longer an option.

How is it that in this so-called civilized nation, in which so many people fancy themselves as Christian cannot feed, clothe, and house its poor, especially children? Apparently it is OK to strip people with disabilities of their rights now. How is it that we can not find humane solutions for Dreamers? Not to mention other immigrants, many who were legal who are being systematically dispatched to countries they really do not know at all. Why, why, why have we seen so many shootings, so often in schools? Along with that, if now is not the acceptable time to speak about shootings, when would that time be? If we can speak of walls and travel bans at the drop of a Mexican or Muslim hat, so to speak, why can’t we speak about the shootings? Who will the wall protect when so much terror and death come from the inside?

27798214_10159957632880207_6445639966539676638_oThoughts and prayers mean nothing without action. Here is a list of actions to consider. We can’t all do them all, pick one or two and stick with them.

  1. Make a regular practice of calling your elected officials at every level.
  2. Make a regular practice of learning your reps voting history – quote from it when calling their office. Staff members who answer are typically willing to listen.
  3. Support through donations and actions, candidates who support causes that align with your own. Political campaign work can be so hard, but it is necessary and worth it.
  4. Make sure your local party is finding and putting forth new candidates for office.
  5. Take a stand – do not be afraid to share your opinion. Do take the time to understand what you believe and why.

Otherwise we are left with empty thoughts and prayers, We can do more. We will do more.

Looking at Lent, continuing the Camino

First Yellow Arrow St Jean.jpgLent begins this week. Each year many of us make an effort to begin Lent and to stick with whatever we have chosen to give up or take on.

Perhaps last year was too close to the completion of my Camino for me to see this as clearly, but this year I am profoundly aware of the magnetic pull of my Camino as I pray about entering Lent. The two journeys parallel paths are ever closer together, one journey completed, another about to begin. That Camino and Lent are related is not unusual; what is different is how I am experiencing it this year. It is more of an invitation or call, it is less of an idea. It is from deep within, thus so much harder to ignore.

All is know as I prepare to depart is this… my expectations for what will happen and what will happen are likely to be markedly different. This year, may I surrender ever more easily to where theflechas amarillas (or yellow arrow way markers of camino) lead me to, rather than my own dogged persistence about where I “think” or “feel” I should go. Head and heart are required during any spiritual sojourn, but trusting God to lead is the challenge.

How do you imagine your Lenten journey as it approaches?

Endless mercy

EDIT CalzadillaThe day we walked to #calzadilladeloshermanillos was one of the toughest in #spain🇪🇸 The #challenge of walking the #meseta got me, more mentally than physically. The #caminodesantiago was no game. God have mercy, I cried! How #bleak things seemed. Today’s 1st reading from #daniel expresses my #prayer that day, & my prayer today. The #gospel from #matthew reminds us however that the #mercy of #god is present. There is a price… we are to offer our mercy to others, full stop. There’s the toughest #camino challenge- how to do this. The road may seem barren, bleak, endless, but is not. Refreshment is ours when we open ourselves to receive the #love of #christ and then lavish it upon others. Especially to those who are the hardest to #forgive . Do that however and the #fountains of mercy that #jesus offers flow perpetually. #lessons of #lent

(This is a copy of today’s version of my daily Instagram posts of Lent.  I’m enjoying doing this, and I’m grateful for the good feedback that I have received. Today please be merciful to someone you would prefer not to show mercy to. This is what is asked from us, and it is so challenging to respond to God in this way.)

Personal desert

EDIT Somewhere between Logrono and Najera Sep 2016I’m enjoying being off of Facebook for Lent, and spending my time on Instagram with one post per day; a photo and a mini-reflection. You will have to head over to my Instagram feed, or to my Facebook page (where my Instagram auto posts) to read my reflection for today. Essentially, I am thinking about Jesus instructing us to love our enemies.

Hardest. Thing. Ever.

I’ll gladly take a long walk with a heavy cross on my back than to do this. Yet, I try to constantly push myself to do so. I suck at it, by the way. Big time.

It occurs to me that part of the problem is my own lack of willingness to look at the enemy within. Of course I am well aware of that enemy, but my inner looking often results in things like my own defensiveness about myself, my shame, and my superhuman strength at avoiding and denial. I’m great at that stuff. Big time.

All of this is an invitation to me, a good deal of which is more clear this Lent because I am spending less time “talking” via Facebook. Painful is my awareness this Lent that the driest and most arid desert is often found deep within my own heart. Thus, the gifts of death and new life are made clear, but only if I am willing to keep going.

What does your inner search Please be assured of my prayers as we ply our way through deserts of our own making. God offers us so much more, but even for those of us who say we will follow, do we really?

Who is poor?

jerrash-jordan-ruins

Roman ruins, Jerrash, Jordan  2006

Today’s readings address holiness and poverty. My daily post is up over on Instagram and Facebook. Here is a snippet… And why this image? You’ll have to read the post to learn that, but it is connected. Who is poor? Maybe the person without money is not the most impoverished; a soul without light is a tragedy. All the money and power in the world cannot change that fact, can it?

Monday, 1st week of #lent . Today’s reading address #holiness &doinpagesg right to those in need. #jesus has strong words in #matthew25 . Two thoughts… why do we think being #holy is something we “do?” It’s not task oriented, but perhaps more to do with how we are in #community ?

Hope you will read the rest at one of my other pages, and offer your own commentary either here or there!