Curiosity and contempt

Camino Edith Wharton QuoteIt has been a little while since I have blogged. I’ve been either too tired, too busy, or too uninspired.  Anyway, I was reminded of this quotation from Edith Wharton today, always a favorite one of mine, so I made a meme out of it.  That got me thinking about how often my own desire and willingness to live as Wharton’s words suggest.

With the reminder that when I write, I’m talking to myself allow me to begin. Right up front we are reminded that being unafraid of change is step one.  Change?! Unafraid of change?! Oh sure, many of us will say we are fine with it… that’s generally the case as long as it is a change of our own choosing. Any change that chooses us? Not quite so easy to like that kind of change. That goes for change that comes forth as challenge in both large ways and small, as well as the less obvious invitations to grow. You know, like the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Those kinds of changes… are they so welcomed? Not always.

Having said all of that, I have long believed the words of a little wallet card that came into my possession in the mid-90’s. It read said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” The moment I read those words, I immediately hated them. Yet, something in them caught my attention, the slightest little tug Continue reading

Would you?

conversion-of-st-paul_181Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. We remember the monumental event of Saul of Tarsus, who was speeding to Damascus to hunt down some followers of the Way. The Way was what early Christians were called; at that time they were still by and large Jews who believed that Jesus was the messiah. This was a great affront to many in Jerusalem because it went against what their religion understood.

As I prayed with the Scriptures, I got thinking about what would I do if Jesus showed up in a flash of light asking why I was persecuting him.  It is a real trap to think that we are busy with God’s work with in the way we perceive that God wishes us to do it.

As I wonder what I would actually do if Jesus showed up with this question, I ask you the same. If Jesus claimed you were persecuting him, what would you do? Would you ignore him? Challenge him? Would you even be aware, flash of light or not, that he was Christ? Don’t worry, as I ask you these questions, I ask myself the same thing. Would you? Would you listen? Would you change? Would you follow?

Many of us think we are doing God’s work, and God willing, let’s hope that we are. But if God asked you to let go of how you saw that work and to do it God’s way, would you be able to follow? It’s a good question, because I am pretty sure that God shows up every day asking this to us, just minus the light and the blindness. Our road to Damascus is our daily way of being. Jesus wants us to all change. I’d like to think I would do so, but I’m not so sure. Would you?

Is now a good time?

Credit: Bob Makoff - The New Yorker

Credit: Bob Makoff – The New Yorker

Is now a good time?” If asked this, some of us might feel our inner resistance rising up like an emotional tsunami, ready to wipe out the coastline of possibility. At this time of year it is not unusual for me to have my mouth poised to say no to all sorts of things. That is why the New Yorker cartoon that you see is a perennial favorite of mine, because never always seems to be an option. Except for when it’s not.

But now is the time – right? No time like the present! It is a new day, a new week, a new month, a new year… Ugh, I feel the earthquake that precipitates the aforementioned tsunami, I can see the wall of water about to wash over me. Except, it exists only in my mind, and for once, I have to Continue reading

Unchanging, yet transforming

Pope Francis talks with cardinals as he leads the synod on the family in the Synod hall at the Vatican, October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi (no relation!)

Pope Francis talks with cardinals as he leads the synod on the family in the Synod hall at the Vatican, October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi (no relation!)

(Today I present a few rambling, insomnia fueled thoughts on the Synod on the Family and the state of the Church. I hope you will consider commenting, and I hope that no matter what you say, you will pray before doing so. The pause offers us all a moment of grace. How we move forward depends on the bishops – yes, but also the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us hope for the best – even if that best breaks our hearts. What are you praying for?)

You are more than likely aware of the Synod on the Family that began last year, which has resumed in Rome at this time. Depending on how you look at things, we are Continue reading

Let’s talk…

Pope Francis Why Throw RocksPope Francis arrives in the US today, and there is so much chatter and commentary, disagreement and discord, that it might become very easy to miss his – and ultimately God’s – message to us.

Something he said in Cuba on Monday struck me:

“If you are different than me, why don’t we talk?” Francis asked the crowd. “Why do we always throw rocks at that which separates us?”

Some questions for reflection, and please do comment if you wish…

  • How can we find pathways to conversation with those with whom we disagree?
  • How important is it for each of us to be “right?”
  • What is the danger in changing our minds or hearts?

#Why not? A New Year’s reflection

obesitysoappg-verticalWhile watching TV (something I hope to do less of in 2015) I have observed the content of advertising shift from “if-you-love-fill-in-the-blank-you-will-buy-them-a-Lexus-or-a-colored-diamond” mode, straight into “diet-quit-smoking-make-smoothies-join-the-gym-and-exercise” mode. Who needs clocks, calendars, or personal coaches when we have this cacophony of commercials?!

Sharon Osborne tells me that I can be on the You Know What Diet, famous for its no-carb content, and still eat “greek yohgurt” (I love how British people say yogurt, OK?!), bread, and even candy – and STILL lose weight. Oh how I feel the intoxicating pull of desire. “Hmmmm, will this work?” Then I snap back to reality, imagining all the money I’ve thrown down the drain over the years, falling for such quick fixes.

new-year-resolutionAs I bemoaned this flurry of ads to my husband Mark, he simply said, “new year’s resolutions.”  And I said – how true.

Resolutions Continue reading

A Distinctly Disquieting Silence

silenceIt is a different kind of quiet. Not the silence of no one home for the moment, it is not the same as that at all. This silence has a depth and texture to it, heretofore unknown in these parts. I’m all for quiet, but this version… has a distinctly disquieting aspect to it.

Let me back up for a moment. When Mark and I married in 2007, his daughter Erica, a young woman who I was already very close with, officially became my stepdaughter. She was with us very frequently, always on Friday, Sunday, and Monday nights no matter what, and every morning. When high school started, she moved in with us pretty much full time, which was a gift.

When I first met Erica in 2004, she was 8 years old and she was at once timid and fierce. The day we met she had her face firmly buried in the safety of her dad’s arm. When he couldn’t get her to talk to me, I noted that I wished that I had someone’s arm to hide in myself! That made her laugh, and from there on in, we were set.

Part of our commitment to married life was that Erica would be a part of everything – and so she was. We truly embraced our commitment to one another as a family and we have been spending time together all these years. As she got older, she would be out or away more often, but she always came back. The silence communicated more of a “see you later.” The room in disarray, clothes draped on furniture, papers scattered, books piled up, and shopping bags everywhere.

EricaThingsThis past week the moment that we have all been waiting for came, and we dropped our beautiful girl off at college. This is a great time in her life, and in ours as well, but what an adjustment. The whirlwind that led up to the departure had us all in a high gear. Now the house is more orderly and very quiet.

Today it seems we are at a doorway or a gate, that opens to lead us all to new places. Who knows where we will go, but I do know this… for the moment, the distinctly disquieting silence shapes our days. We respond by doing our typical tasks and activities. None of this is bad, it is just different!

Today we hear the noise of no noise – a new sound that rings throughout the house and our hearts.

Unexpected and unwanted gifts

price-pritchett-quoteMy time on retreat touched my heart so deeply. Here I am, days later, and I continue to experience many riches from those 2 days. I feel more convinced than ever that if we all had some quiet time, disconnect time, be with God and nature time, we might find a better way. Some of us live with the sin of being too busy to find such peace – and most of the time this sin is not intentional, but it remains a sin.  Or I think about those who live with the consequences of low-paid labor,  or no work – who cannot find any better way.

I keep thinking of what I read in Bishop’s Ed Scharfenberger’s column in last Thursday’s Evangelist. He said:

Are you ready for a change? Is it time to let go of that habit, that attitude, that relationship that is causing so much unhappiness and frustration? Jesus stands waiting, knocking gently at our door. All He needs from us is a heart open to His outstretched hand.

Are we ready for change? If not, peace will not come – nor much else. If we think about this one day we must just take the leap of change. It sounds so promising – and awful, too. AT least to me! Here is the gift and virtue of community, I can ask for your help, you can ask for mine, and we can all ask God to help us. That may be Continue reading

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

20140127-popecover-x600-1390844430There is an old 60’s dirty, filthy, hippy, song by Dr. Hook that opines about what it meant to be “on the cover of the Rolling Stone.” As a veteran dirty, filthy, hippy wannabe in my past, a long-ago, but once long time subscriber to the Rolling Stone, and no stranger to the world of music, I immediately thought of those lyrics when I heard the news about Pope Francis being… well, on the cover of the Rolling Stone!

Yes, there he is folks, with his familiar warm smile and kind gaze, Pope Francis, is actually on the magazine cover right now.

As the aforementioned song says, “But the thrill we’ve never known Is the thrill that’ll getcha, when you get your picture, on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone.”

Is Pope Francis as thrilled as Dr. Hook predicted? Doubtful is my vote; does he even know that he is on the cover? Does he care? And look at the words on the cover, which are straight out of the songbook of another (former) dirty, filthy, hippy, Bob Dylan.  “The times they are a-changing.”

To which I say – yes. And – no.

Back to the Rollling Stone for a moment. From what I have read, small excerpts, not the entire piece, it looks like a pretty scathing assessment of Pope Benedict XVI. Downright cruel. Some may shriek in horror at this and others may cackle with delight. Quiet down, both sides. It is uncharitable and unkind in the worst way. Perhaps it is out of context until I read the entire thing, but I doubt it.

Vatican PopeAs to the much beloved Pope Francis, whose visage presents itself, from screens large and small, and from so many magazine covers that we can’t keep up, what times are a-changing for him? And for the Roman Catholic Church?

rules-lifebanNot one piece of doctrine has changed. Nor do I think it will. Maybe – perhaps, we might see some change around divorced and remarried Catholics. Maybe. Pope Francis continues to hold the line on matters like women’s ordination, almost to the point of frustration, if you ask me. (And that is not because I am advocating for women’s ordination, by the way, but I would like to see some actual conversation and discernment on this topic. That’s another post.) As to anyone who thinks the he will change anything around marriage and orientation, I would say, think again.

So less than a year into his papacy, why all the magazine covers and every other sort of oohing and ahhing as if he were the star of a reality show? Well, he IS the star of a reality show, called life!

francis-hugging-little-girl-cns-photo-montageLook at him. He has not changed one element of doctrine or dogma, but here is what he is… Like the best kind of leader, he is highly accessible. He keeps things simple.  In the Roman Catholic Church, and at the Vatican, no less, this is nothing short of a miracle. Pope Francis picks up the phone and calls people, writes them letters. He has shed the finery, he has no interest in being “elevated” above others, hugs people and reaches out to them. The smile of this Holy Father is as bright and persistent as the noonday sun in an equatorial land. Papa Francesco “seems” different.

So? Well, here is my own personal assessment of Pope Francis “a-changing” things” in a couple of ways.

One. Theologians and canon lawyers, go ahead and punch holes in this one, but hear me out. It is my own point of view, not a thesis. First and foremost I do not think that he “makes people feel guilty.” Stop. I spent 20 years in therapy and I know that we can’t blame others for “making us feel guilty.” But we do, especially seemingly harsh church people!

I imagine a group of so-called sinners in first century Palestine standing before the itinerant carpenter-preacher called Yeshua. What Francis does is similar to this… he does not make people feel guilty or unworthy, he opens the merciful door to God for them, and invites them in without hesitation.

Two. He does not seem to do much chastising of people, which may seem like a repeat of number one. Let me elaborate… He is not chastising people and telling them what they need to do to gain entry. He is not criticism free however! He criticizes situations and constructs that trap people in poverty and destroy them through violence, despair, and war.

You see, if he is critical of anyone or anything it would seem to be large power structures. You know, like the Roman Curia. Or multinational corporations. Or governments with draconian policies.

Prior popes, especially the most recent two, were often highly critical of the corporations and governments over everything from the basic dignity of the worker, the evils of poverty, regarding war, and about the death penalty and more. But not in quite the same way, because the Curia and the Church itself was not treated with the same message its seems. (That is indeed a broad statement, but that again is a different post.)

So there he is,  Pope Francis, asking us all to do the same thing.

Change. Change our minds. Change our hearts. All of us. Not just “us” out there, but “them” too. That’s inviting and refreshing.

metThat’s what Jesus asked of us, too. He asks us still. And that this is made more clear is perhaps what is the thing that is most a-changing of all.

Can we do it?