Be Still, Cease Striving

This past weekend I was on retreat at Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, NY. Tucked into the Adirondacks, this “thin place” is a source of restoration of my soul. I took this photo when I arrived.

Our retreat director was Mary DeTurris Poust, who is many things – the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Albany, a skilled and prolific writer, a gifted yoga teacher, and more. Her website is Not Strictly Spiritual. Early in the retreat we were talking about the Psalm verse 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. It is a favorite for many of us.

Mary then pointed us to a translation found in the NASB. That version says this, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”

WHOA

That one really hit me hard. Cease striving? Sheesh, striving is the American way. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells them to keep striving. What’s a person to do? Thankfully we can understand this in the truly Catholic and universal matter of both/and, not only either/or.

This reminder to cease striving and/or to be still is God’s way of saying that we must stop and let God be God. Easy to say and think, but so very hard to live – at least for me.

Today I want to remember – and share – this notion when I want to push harder, insist on more, when my frustration mounts and peaks. God is in it all with me, and only God is God. We all might go more deeply into our lives of faith by taking a deep breath and being quiet. In a world that gets louder by the second, in workplaces and homes full of stress, in a time of great division, there is only one way. Know that God is God. Forever.

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Neither toil nor spin…

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin.Matthew 6:27-28

What a great reminder as we wind down our summer (or winter for you readers below the equator) and head into another season. This rose grows in an untended and poorly managed garden bed at the back of my house. It is interesting to note that year after year, I do literally nothing to this rosebush and yet each summer it produces the most lovely blooms.

God calls us to just be and to worry not. That’s a challenge for me as worrying is deeply embedded in me. Yet as I grow older I do see the wisdom in it and I do not worry as much. Sure we all have work to do, but it is essential to remember that what we do is always in response in what God has done and is doing.

Wishing you peace and the joy of just being.

The Power Button

I know, I have not been around for awhile again! Life happens, but here I am at least for today. May this post find readers old and new doing well in these crazy days.

The topic of power is one that I think about a lot. Power is often perceived in terms like good or bad. As a culture we tend to reward and respect power, but not always good power! People amass power and often use it as a force for destruction. One need not look far – church, politics, life, any community – we can see where someone gets some power and misuses it, intentionally or not. I am not a huge Star Wars person, but I love the imagery of “the force” and how it must be used for good.

So much of our culture and society are hierarchal in nature that we often must unlearn what we have learned about power – I think that is essentially at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus was not into power for the grab, but to use the power for good to always serve others.

Currently I am listening to the podcast from Christianity Today called “Who Killed Mars Hill?” If you are unfamiliar, Mars Hill was a Seattle megachurch that began in the 90’s. It had a dramatic rise and period of growth and a hard tumble due to its leader and founder, Mark Driscoll. It is something I knew a little bit about, and I am finding that the podcast is eye opening – I recommend it.

It got me thinking about problems that we have in the Catholic church. Power is a problem here too, but that is the same in all worship congregations. Even the apostles were prone to wanting to get “the best seats.” Jesus saw otherwise and did not see a rise to power as the goal. Life given for life, death into new life – that was the thing.

When I came to work here at the church in 2008, with no church experience, a priest I knew told me that I should be cautious as I would be one of the most powerful people there. I did not believe him – but he was correct. I see that power as privilege, and I hope to never use it to harm another. My aim is to serve Christ by serving others and that means loving those who may be difficult to love, welcoming all, and making this a place people want to come to. I’m no hero, and I can be a royal pain, but I am given a lot of grace.

There are many in the church who do not intentionally misuse power – in fact they are unware of their misuse of it. Of course there are others who use it nefariously and that is a huge problem.

I’m not sure what the solution to all of this is. I am distressed by abuse of power in church but also in the world – politics in general is a power laden nightmare. But then again so is every other environment, it just might not be so visible.

Trust me I have not always used power for good. I do not believe I purposefully used it as a cudgel, but like anything, I had a lot to learn about it as I grew older and up. Maybe that is why this is such an important topic to me. What do you think about power and how do you deal with it? Both your own and the power around you? We must interact with it and I imagine that God’s ultimate kingdom is a place where total balance is present. Here, we must learn to sort it out and that is a lifelong journey. We just need to be sure that when we press our internal power button, or respond to other’s power, we are guided by good.


Thanks for reading. As usual, I will try to be back more frequently. Peace and God bless you all! If you are here for the first time due to Give Us This Day – thank you!

A quick appeal for women

Here we are at the end of the day and I am just getting to this… luckily, it will not be “stale” later or tomorrow. Today is International Women’s Day, #IWD2021. In support of that I am asking you to consider a donation to an appeal a friend of mine is making.

In the early 80’s I worked with Dave and we became fast friends. Over the years we would be in touch and then not. Thanks to Facebook, a more constant connection was established. A little over a year ago, he and his wife RW became “citizens of the world.” They are literally traveling around the world, working for a time at various Workaway assignments. Of course Covid made their first assignment in Morocco a VERY long one. They have had such rich experiences, finally leaving Morocco, then going to London, Northern Ireland, and then Madagascar. Currently they are in Arusha, Tanzania and they are working on a volunteer charity project. Here’s where the appeal comes in.

I’ll let Dave himself give you a better explanation, but what they are doing are raising funds to help women and children. Here is one small example:

“Your contributions to CWCD are already at work. This morning we purchased enough sanitary pad kits to make a difference to 60 young girls. They only had enough left for 6 girls so it was greatly appreciated and tears and “bless you” were exchanged. Mama Hindu wishes that you could all be here for her to thank in person and maybe even cook for you. There’s a lot more to do but we are so thankful that we could accomplish something so soon. Asante Sana!”

Without sanitary hygiene, education and work, both women and children are subject to poverty, abuse, and more. Dave, RW, and another friend are pitching in to help. I hope you will join me in helping them from afar.

You can read about their project here at this link and you can donate there too. Please consider doing so, no amount is too small. If everyone who reads this sends in a few dollars, they would get a huge boost. And if anyone can send something larger, please do!

Thank you for your consideration. And if you cannot do anything, please think about simply sharing this through social media and email. Every little bit will help! Especially important to do on International Women’s Day!

It is oh so quiet…

Greetings of peace to readers old and new, I hope that you and yours are well despite these tumultuous times.

It has been very quiet here on the blog. While my family and I are gratefully in good health, I have been in a bit of a creative void for a number of reasons. Other than writing for Give Us This Day, and one short piece for America Magazine, I ran out of creative steam.

May good health and peace be yours and may 2021 bring a new dawn. Thank you fro coming by.

This is real

At sundown tonight, Rosh Hashanah begins. May all of our Jewish brothers and sisters be blessed with a sweet new year – we could all use that, right?

Each year I read the book cited in the link below. I find it an extremely important element of my spiritual life.  May we all find ways to embrace suffering; it spares no one. If that is not evident this year, I do not know if it ever will be.

My retreat from last weekend is still being processed, but this much is clear to me – honesty without shame, suffering with vulnerability, and offering ourselves openly to God and one another is the only way forward. May we soften, open, embrace – and be transformed. It is all very real, and we typically are, to riff off of Rabbi Alan Lew’s book title, completely unprepared. Yet God awaits us.

L’shana tovah to our Jewish friends. May peace prevail for all, may we each do our part of it, one surrender at a time.

“Our suffering, the unresolved element of our lives, is also from God. It is the instrument by which we are carried back to God, not something to be defended against, but rather to be embraced.”
― Alan Lew, This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation

Bidden or Not

115_BZ-vocatusA video reflection about feeling joy and sorrow in this season of Easter, especially this year when sorrow may seem to take the lead. Here are links to the books and the quote I mention:
Carl Jung
The Prophet
Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace
The Closeness of God

Easter dawns

Sunrise October 2016 leaving Villar de Mazerife

Dawn breaking over Villar de Mazerife, Spain, October 2016

How often do many of use the old adage “it is always darkest before the dawn” without thinking about it? Very often, that is the answer. When I was on Camino de Santiago in September and October 2016, I learned the truth of the saying. While walking on the portion of the Camino known as “the meseta,” the flat northern plains in Spain, we would leave our albergues in the dark. Walking in darkness, it would actually get a bit colder and a bit darker as sunrise approached. At that time the sun was not coming up until after 8am, so it was not even that early. But it was that cold and that dark.

Then each day would offer us a gift if we turned around, we would see the faintest hint of light on the horizon behind us. Dawn would soon break, dispelling the darkness and the cold. Soon, the sun would blaze overhead and the temperatures would rise. We would walk on, donning hats and sunglasses, adding sunscreen to arms newly bared as we peeled away layers of clothing.

Every day felt new when this moment happened, as if we had not witnessed it the day before. Every day was joy.

Today as I consider that it is Easter, but that it feels like anything but, I am reminded to focus on the cold and dark for a moment before I recognize what it happening… Each day we rise again and again and again.

This Easter may be the coldest and darkest pre-dawn moment that many of us will ever know, but hold this thought in your mind, grasp it as tightly as you do when you cling to Christ… Dawn will break, the darkness will be eradicated and flooded with light, the cold will turn to warmth.

Rejoice in the Alleluia that signifies the Risen Christ! No matter how cold and dark it feels, and often we must remain in that place for longer than we wish, may we all know the hope of belief in the Living God.

May your Easter be blessed in these unusual times. Darkness is dispelled, Jesus has destroyed death forever! New life springs forth! Easter dawns and Christ is risen! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

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