Sunday, May 09, 2010

There is a God and I am not It.

Those were the closing words from our celebrant this morning.

I knew that. (that I am not It, not that he was not It...) But in his earlier remarks, he was talking about the old Paul Harvey radio shows and how the second half always began with "… and now for the rest of the story…"

He spoke about our various liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. We observe the seasons year after year as if we didn't know the rest of the story, even though we do. His question was: while we know it, do we pay attention to it?

We are still in the season of Easter, and this coming Thursday is the feast of the Ascension. Jesus will leave his disciples. Again. In the Gospel reading this morning (John 14:23-29), Jesus said to his disciples: "I am going away and I am coming to you." A strange way to put it.

But the fact was, Jesus would be leaving. Again. And more than likely nobody was happy to hear about it.

He also said "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father…" That kind of talk rankles. (I've been cruelly manipulated with language like that.) But the sermon wasn't on that passage. The sermon was about the "ministry of presence" versus the "ministry of absence."

He explained that we emphasize the ministry of presence in our faith… be present, Lord, in the breaking of the bread. But we don't talk much about the ministry of absence. Our celebrant made the point that Jesus had to walk away. The Holy Spirit would not come to the disciples as long as he stayed. They needed the Spirit's power… the Spirit's wisdom… to continue the work God had commissioned them to do. Much as he loved them, he had to let go and walk away.

Sometimes we have to walk away. As he put it: let go and let God. We can care, but we cannot fix. We can love, but we cannot protect. There is a God and I am not It.

Today is Mother's Day. My own mother had a tendency to use the same language (we attribute to Jesus) to instill what I'm sure she believed was appropriate guilt… "if you loved me, you would be glad… (fill in the blank) to spend time with me, to send me flowers, to give me a card, to call…" Her stature as a mother was measured somehow in the lavishness of my affections on Christmas, her birthday, and especially Mother's Day.

At the time, I resented the guilt and I resented the implications. But I've since found that she wasn't alone in her need to measure and compare. I've had friends regale me with stories of their kids' calls and visits and gifts… and then ask rude and pointed questions about my children's observance of these special holidays. More guilt, more implications… the implication seeming to be to judge how I rated on the mother-scale. The fact is, if I were to judge myself by my kids' response on those days then I was and am a piss-poor mother.

Yet when I met my older son at the airport last week, his embrace did not appear to be from duty or guilt. It was warm and sincere and it lasted way beyond the requirements for mother and child reunions. We were happy to see each other again and it showed.

My children do call me on the special days. If I'm not around to answer the phone, they leave a message. Occasionally I get a card. Once in a blue moon I even get a gift. When that happens I am amazed and flooded with gratitude… weepy even. Because it's unexpected. That's the secret I think. My own mother expected me to shower her with tangible evidence of my love. Love is intangible. You either know it or you don't. Somehow I know it. I may not deserve it, but I know it.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oregon #2

The following is the first part of the second meditation.

I’m willing to bet we have all heard this quote: Faith is a journey, not a destination. Most of us have experienced that journey for ourselves. It’s not always a pleasant sight. It’s not always a comfortable trip.

Explorers are people who live for the journey. They will tell you that the joy of discovery outweighs any risk of getting lost or changed. But feeling lost is scary. And being changed can make you wish you’d never gone down that road at all.

These are some of what I like to call the universal truths about our faith that we are often all too eager to forget. So lets take a journey of our own, as explorers, discovering some of these universal truths, to see if they actually do ring true for us.

First, The central assertion of our faith is that the way of the Cross is the way of life. Not that we have to be physically nailed to a wooden plank, but that we do have to die. Specifically, while we are still living, we have to die to self, and only by doing that do we live. Just about everything about our faith has an ironic twist, and this is just the beginning.

We can live for others, and only by doing that, we learn love. We can deal with life as it is — wounds, pains, storms, wars, injustices and our own shortcomings — and only by doing that, discover life as God intends it to be. We aren't called by the Cross to escape life, but to embrace it.

Escape life. I talked a little about that this morning. After all doesn’t it say in the Bible we may in this world but not of it?

Well here’s one example: How many of us have, at one time or another tried to put Jesus in the role of scapegoat? We load our sins on him. He’s the savior. That’s his job. What if we have it wrong? What if his job as savior means showing us the courage to confess our sins, to bear their consequences, to seek God's mercy, and to start fresh. New Life. New Life. Now that would qualify as Good News.

Here’s another quote: Faith is a journey of infinite variety. Some of us have learned over the years not to project our own faith experiences and preferences onto others. There are many paths to God and all of them are valid. But in just about every faith tradition, except maybe Buddhism, there will be someone in charge who says: Faith has to proceed a certain way, follow certain rules or achieve certain ends.

In Texas they say: “Well I’ll tell you what…” Well, I’ll tell you what: whoever says that is just a bully. Trying to take away your freedom in order to feel better about himself.

Some people think that God had called us to rule the world and the Bible is our instruction book for how we can do that. There are those who actually believe that. You probably know a few. In that scenario, We could set rules, write a manual on correct procedures, worry about orders of ministry and the shape of liturgy. Rubrics would be big. Black would be black and white would be white, and we would not have to be wallowing in all those gray areas of life. It might be nice, but not real.

For myself, I think Jesus said Yes to his call from God before he understood everything that call meant. In fact, may not have understood it completely until the night before he died.

As much as we try to make it so, we simply are not members of a perfect institution started by a perfect man. We, too, have heard a puzzling call. We are trying and failing, and learning as we go. We, too, are being sent to the frontier of our capability, way beyond comfort and safety. Way beyond our understanding. 



We, too, will figure it out and then realize that what we gave along the way was all that God ever wanted. Now that would qualify as Good News.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Oregon #1a


The folks at the retreat seemed especially glad to hear I would be posting the meditations to my blog. (Just in case they were dozing) So here's the rest of the first address:

Then the devil led Jesus up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" (Luke 4.5-8)

We’re told in the Bible that these temptations all occurred at the end of Jesus’ time in the desert. (We don’t know what he was doing in the beginning… gathering wood, finding a rock for his head, looking out for snakes or scorpions… but at the end of his time he was more vulnerable than he’d been at the beginning. He was hungry. (Famished the Bible says) and he was no doubt grubby beyond belief, wanting a bath, a change to sweeter smelling clothes.

We know what that’s like. Early stages of crisis tend to bring out the best in us… later stages the worst.

Even in a given day, patience, compassion, and any ability to handle stress or adversity ebbs and flows. For me, an incident that hardly touches me in the morning can feel like a huge weight by the end of the day. So… when our patience ebbs and flows, what do we do? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Escape.
Run away from home.
Quit.

It's in those moments that we’re especially vulnerable, not only to our lesser instincts: irritability, frustration, condescension… but to the powers of darkness.

Satan offered Jesus escape. If he would just worship him, “all the kingdoms of the world” could be his. He could escape not only the wilderness, get a bath, change his clothes, but he could also escape the dreary oppression of his Jewish heritage. He could escape his own personal invisibility. He could escape everything that ties us down as humans.

Escape is the devil's deal. It comes up over and over again. If we’ll only forget our identity (our identity as children of God) and accept the easier path of evil, we can escape… all boundaries, all commitments, all worries, all consequences, all suffering.

We know the truth, of course. It never works out. We just trade in one misery for another… out of the frying pan into the fire.

Of course it doesn’t make the “deal” seem any less appealing. But our survival depends on remembering the truth. And that truth is the devil can’t deliver. Not just won’t, but can’t.

Jesus told us he was the father of lies. “Glory and Authority” haven’t been given to the devil. Those things stay with God.
So, whatever we think will help us escape: one more drink, an affair, a shopping spree, chocolate… cruelty… shunning anyone we consider lesser than… all those are just new bonds of oppression.

Even a retreat can promise escape. We’re in a special place, a “deserted place” because it’s empty of all our normal concerns. Some call it mountaintop (and not just because we’re up high, looking over the valley,) but because it’s away from our daily routine.

If your time here is blessed, it may be an intense experience, Maybe joyful even. But it may be sorrowful… because you can finally stop all the diversions and commitments that keep you on daily auto-pilot. When those fade into the silence, the real fears… the major concerns we’re normally not facing, can get our undivided attention.

So this time away, in this deserted quiet place, can be stressful. Or relaxing. It can be exhausting. Or energizing. And that’s because it’s about you. There’s no bills to pay, no office work, no meals to fix. We’re here. In the center of the universe.

But then, of course, it’s time to leave.

And when you get home your family didn’t share your experience. Your colleagues at work aren’t interested. You may want to share your experience so they can feel what you felt (whatever it was) because… Because you want to keep those feelings alive. For you. Nobody’s interested. It’s not that they’re hostile, or don’t care, they are just distracted.

More than likely, you’ll feel a sense of isolation. You grieve what you had because you’re losing it— bit by bit.

Now comes the frustration. You have to resume everyday life.

So, where is our faith in all this? That’s the dilemma. Since faith can seem like the ultimate mountaintop experience, that same experience causes a problem. It drives an emotional wedge between faith and life. As much as we pledge to and want to “venture forth in ministry” that ministry is probably back home. Back at work, back in the neighborhood, back on the very streets we have so enjoyed being away from.

What would Jesus do?

Well, we know what he did. He always came back.

He never stayed long in the deserted places or on the mountaintop. He kept moving, working his way back to the common ground of everyday life. That common ground is faith’s venue.

Thomas Merton wrote a lot about conversion of life. Conversion of life isn’t about attending retreats. A retreat may help, but only if we leave it behind.

So this weekend… here’s the invitation: come away to your deserted place and look inside. Ask yourself this question: What is it that you uniquely care about? What is the fire that is yours alone?

Jesus tapped into the fire burning in a few dozen men and women. He tapped longings that went deep enough to claim their lives.

So, for now, instead of reciting what the church tells us we ought to care about, lets just be explorers. And explore what we do care about. Let your longing, your yearnings… be your guide. That’s where God will meet you. That’s where you will meet God.

Now there’s a difference between escape and sabbath.
Sabbath is deliberately resting so you can go back. You press pause.
But that doesn’t mean the movie stops.

Jesus retreated to his deserted place. He pressed the pause button and gave himself the time he needed to recharge, to renew, to return to the world. It’s an art… this pressing pause. And we only learn by doing it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Oregon #1


Another blessed year with the Associates in Oregon at Mt. Angel Abby.
Here's an excerpt from the first address:

From Frederick Beuchner’s The Longing for Home:
…our stories are all stories of searching. We search for a good self to be and for good work to do…And in a world where it's often hard to believe in much of anything, we search to believe in something holy and beautiful and life-transcending, that will give meaning and purpose to the lives we live.
—from A Letter to Benjamin

In the Bible it says “there’s nothing new under the sun.” I think that’s true. All the ancient knowledge of the universe, and our place in it, our connection to God, our inter-related-ness… all that resides within us. But we are dense bodies… made of the stuff of the earth. The irony is that because we are made of matter, we forget that we do matter.

Somewhere in our subconscious is the belief that while grace is lavish and unconditional, it is also limited. Cross God one too many times, fail too often, sin too much… and God will decide to take His love back.
God may love us, but He might not like us, so we have to worry that someday His love will run out.

For some reason, we aren’t wired for grace. We need to prove something. It’s all wrapped up in our value being tied to our performance. How do we greet each other?

"What do you do for a living? What did you do today? What have you done for me lately?

Too often religion means we have to clean up our act, sit up straight, earn something… while all the time worrying that we’re fooling everyone. Public opinion is a big deal in our culture, and it’s too easy to believe our own press, good or bad.

But I think Jesus came to teach us to let go of the need to appear good. Instead, slow down enough to listen to the Word within us, to live in the mystery of who we are. If we’re preoccupied with protecting our image, being model Christians, excellent parents… then all that does is lead us into the “look at me” behavior that is just another form of bondage.

We have to quit trying to be saints. Faith isn’t about believing the right things. It’s about love. And grace. So how do we tap into that knowing? How do we quiet down enough to hear God whisper “I’ll never take away my love?"

What we bring to God is deeper than we realize. But it’s frustrating not to be able to name it. There’s an inkling… it’s about that same yearning, that same longing Beuchner speaks about, but we get stuck. So maybe we need to bring to God our search for the name… the name of our empty place, the name of our despair, the name of what would heal us.

We certainly bring our worries to God: get me a job (especially in this economy;) save my marriage; fix my car; help my children succeed. And we help God out by providing the answer, as if God needs reminding.

And when the problem doesn’t go away we blame God. Or someone else for getting in God’s way.

So if we ask God for a name… what is my fear? What is my pain? What is my emptiness? Then instead of waging war on everyone else, maybe we can see God calm the storm.

It’s not magic. And trusting in magic is another way to escape. Things change because of long, slow and small increments. Countless hours of prayer, countless times of saying “yes” to God, countless instances of kindness, or forgiveness. One day at a time. One day at a time to win the battle over fear. Fear is the enemy: fear of change, fear of failure, fear of losing control, fear of losing out… fear of praying and hearing nothing but silence, fear of death.

Faith is only small steps toward courage.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In search of the hunger high

I recently read the book First There Is a Mountain by Elizabeth Kadetsky. It's about yoga, specifically her journey as both journalist and yoga practitioner to study, in India, with the famous yogi, Iyengar.

There was a cryptic statement early on in the book about her missing the "hunger high". That got my attention, in light of my personal Lenten discipline to fast on a regular basis. Was there really such a thing as getting high from being hungry? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

But then I speculated on my ongoing inability to ever exercise enough to reach the stage where endorphins are supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, as opposed to irritable and sweaty, which is my experience with exercise of most any variety.

Still… an intriguing thought.

It didn't happen. Maybe I never got hungry enough. I was definitely hungry enough to feel empty, to feel a hole in my abdomen wanting to be filled. I was hungry enough to feel light-headed and sometimes slightly nauseated, but certainly not high. I know what high feels like, or should I say I remember distinctly what high felt like back when pot was available and cool. And I know what an alcohol buzz feels like.

I never felt either one. Of course that wasn't the point of fasting. The point was to experience hunger. Unwanted hunger. To create a condition, if only approximately, of what it's like to be poor. To relate to poverty in a way that a white middle-class nun never really can. I'm not even sure if that was successful. After all, it was self-imposed; I was able to eat if I wanted to. And sometimes I was so busy, so involved with a project that I could have cared less. I generally get hungry when I'm bored. And this has not been a boring Lent.

I did lose some weight. But that was probably more the moratorium on bread than my one day of fasting a week. All in all, a bust.

And yet… I experienced how the street vendor smells of cooking food are kicks in the teeth when your stomach is empty. I felt the wistful longing to stop and admire pastries in the bakery window, knowing I could not go in and buy one, whether the reason was money or discipline. I felt more like sharing. That's something.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

vocation

This morning we had a rare treat as one of our long lost celebrants joined us again. Over a year ago he left New York, retired, on sabbatical, checking out life in a warmer climate… but to our surprise and joy, he's baaackkk! (At least for a year.)

His preaching style is legendary, yet this was my first opportunity to hear him. How one person can pack so much meaning into so few words boggles my mind... no wonder he is a legend.

The gist of his homily was the understanding of vocation. He used a quote from Parker Palmer: "It's not the life I want to live; it's the life that wants to live in me. I can relate. Although my family and friends were stunned, nobody was more surprised than I when I ended up in a convent.

The Gospel reading for today (Luke 13:31-35) describes the interchange between the Pharisees and Jesus, where Jesus tells them, "I must be on my way." ... that imperative to continue on the path that God had chosen for him, to be absolutely true to the vocation of who he was born to be… the Messiah.

Jesus was human, like us, with all the temptations, the weaknesses; yet as it is written: he did not sin. The crux of his sinlessness, then, could have been, must have been that willingness to be obedient. I never put much stock in obedience until I had to take a vow of it. Woot!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

full circle

Yes, I realize that Ash Wednesday was last week. (How could I forget?) But the church calendar and my own thought processes don't always mesh, and I've been thinking about the special symbolism of the ashes… not just the dust to dust part… that too; but the fact that the ashes come from last year's palms. The ultimate recycle.

There was a legend that after Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples went to the garbage dump and found the palm branches from the previous week's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I can't remember whether the branches were already burning or if the disciples burned them themselves, but supposedly they covered their heads with these particular ashes as a sign of their mourning.

That may be an urban legend, but it makes for continuity. The same materials used to recognize and glorify Jesus one week, were used to mourn him the next.

Life is like that. Living involves that. One person's trash is another's treasure. So we save the palms and the palm crosses we made last year to celebrate Jesus' triumph, and a year later we burn them to dust to remind ourselves of just how mortal we are.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

fallout

schiz·oid (skĭt'soid') adj.
  1. Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder marked by extreme shyness, flat affect, reclusiveness, discomfort with others, and an inability to form close relationships.

  2. Of, relating to, or suggestive of schizophrenia. No longer in scientific use.

  3. Informal Relating to or characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements: "This schizoid town is part resort, part sardine cannery" (Jean Anderson).
It's the third definition I was thinking of when I used the term in a meditation I wrote for Ash Wednesday. It never occurred to me that this would be offensive to anyone. But apparently many health care professionals were offended because they descended upon Episcopal Relief & Development with angry outcries.

This was not ERD's fault; it was my failure to be mindful. But as the publisher, they took the fall, and now must scramble to do damage control. They have issued an apology statement to all those who receive the meditations via email, because they take people's feelings seriously. When language usage is harmful then the responsibility must be accepted and addressed. My feeling is we both have done that.

In my life I have not ever been especially conscious of the politically correct way to do things. George Carlin is one of my heros, and he was probably the most offensive comedian to walk the earth; may he rest in peace.

And… I have to admit I'm still processing my feelings on this. People who know me (and like me) thought nothing of it. It's just the way I talk and my voice comes out in my writing. But people who don't know me, who have no reference point to hear my inflection… they are the ones I must worry about.

So now I'm second-guessing all the meditations I wrote. What else did I say that will offend somebody somewhere with a sensitivity to something I'm oblivious to? Time will tell.

This is definitely going to be a most interesting Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

One of our sisters is traveling today. I imposed her ashes right before she left for the train. Last year I was traveling. Every year is different. A friend of mine sent me an excerpt from the book A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper. I haven't read it but the passage he sent talks about how easy it is to fritter away ten minutes here, five minutes there, and by the end of the day you've not spent much time with God.

I can relate to that. Giving up the Facebook games freed up way more time than I care to admit. I loved those games. I enjoyed watching the bees swarm and pollinate the clover in Country Life; I loved deciding what to cook and how to decorate my cafe. I even liked all the stupid awards you get on Farmville; but harvesting and sending gifts and fertilizing friends' fields takes a lot of time. "Low maintenance" was what I promised myself, but I think cold turkey would have been easier. I've gone cold turkey on the really hard stuff though, so I'll keep with the plan. Besides, why penalize friends who did not give up Farmville?

Anyway, all that reacquired time translated into creative photoshop time. Here's what I came up with today:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday

I am so ready for Lent this year... on so many levels for so many reasons. It may have something to do with the Lenten Meditations I was responsible for writing for Episcopal Relief & Development this year. Due to print deadlines they were completed last Advent and that was a challenge in itself... focusing on the end of the story while the rest of the world was preparing for the beginning. Anyway, all that writing certainly got me in the mood.

The point of Lent is to come closer to God. All the giving up (fasting and penance) and taking on (extra Bible study, working the soup kitchen)... those are just a means to an end. And the end is a moving target. Coming closer to God is elusive and hard to describe. It's different for everyone, even for those who think there is no God. Okay, that being said, it would be easy enough to rationalize not doing anything special for Lent. It's an option, certainly, and I'll admit I've used it in the past myself. I'm just not there anymore. I want to participate in this bleak desert experience, and in a way I've been too chicken to attempt in the past. So here it is: I'm giving up alcohol. And I'm giving up bread. And I'm shutting down the Facebook games for basic maintenance for the duration. Those are all things I enjoy, and each one in its own way gets in the way of my relationship with God. What I'll take on is still up for grabs, but that in itself may add to the desert experience.

Of course it's the night before and the road to everywhere is paved with good intentions. We shall see.

A lot of folks have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. In times past, when the Roman Catholic Church ruled with a fist instead of a hand that blessed, you had to get rid of all the fat and sugar and eggs. You can make pancakes with all that.

But here in the convent we've discovered that a day of fasting after the sugar high means nasty headaches all around. It's hard enough to fast without a headache, so we've opted for the Mardi Gras (Louisiana Gumbo) dinner. Shrimp, chicken and sweet sausage mixed with all the requisite veggies... yum. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we fast.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Excuse me?

As many of you know, we are building a new convent. The location is Harlem at 150th and Convent Avenue. We broke ground in June and hope to move in by mid August this year. The weather has been a bit better so we actually have three of the floors poured... things are looking good.

Except that we got a $3500 fine. The city wrote a ticket because our construction company closed off the sidewalk. The company had permission from the DOT to do this, and erected a walkway with barriers outside. If you live in New York you know exactly what these look like. If you don't here's a picture.



So... get this: the fine says we closed the sidewalk and did NOT erect a walkway. And a photo similar to this one was attached to the paperwork to prove it.

Huh?

So the subcontractor went to court (the one who put up the wall around the sidewalk and erected the barriers for the walkway.) Result: The judge wouldn't take his not guilty plea, wouldn't even look at the photograph. No... they want the construction company to go back to court to enter the not guilty plea. That's two court dates to prove something any moron can see in the photograph, and apparently the person who wrote the ticket, took the picture.

What is it I'm missing? Well, here's another photo to show that some people can actually read the sign and use the walkway.
Is this where your NYC tax dollars are going?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hundreds Protest Global Warming

A friend sent me this photo. One of our sisters who adores snow, (starts praying for it in August) would have been right there with these guys. Except... that this extreme cold is slowing progress on our new building. The workmen are doing what little they can, but their morale is as low as the temperatures.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

dignity

This morning our celebrant reminded us that one of the most important things the Incarnation of God came to prove and demonstrate, was... dignity. She elaborated... that the dignity of humankind was respected and valued so much that God became human. In spite of ourselves, in spite of the darkness, we were worth it.

When Jesus grew to manhood and began his ministry, he granted to all he met that same regard for dignity. To John, he granted the right of his own baptism. He granted Mary Magdalene the status of disciple because he recognized women as humans with value, not chattel. He saw his enemies as people worthy of his prayers. He recognized us only as lost, not evil.

She gave another example from the Broadway musical "South Pacific"... where the song by Lieutenant Cable explains that you have to be taught bigotry, you aren't born with it. So far ahead of their time in 1949, Rodgers and Hammerstein received a lot of criticism for their commentary on racial discrimination. They were accused of being Communists, a threat that would take hold and rampage artists and thinkers throughout the 50's and into the 60's.

How do we grant dignity to those who work for us?
to the poor?
to those we perceive as less intelligent?

It is a sad commentary that we still have so much to learn from the God who made us, who became one of us to give Himself as an example.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

silence

I have no intention of trying to blog every single day in 2010. There, that said, here it is... January 2nd and I'm at it again. On a roll? Probably not.

Today is a day of silent retreat for the entire house. What a decidedly lovely way to start the new year. We have that kind of total silence so infrequently these days, we had to post signs in the elevators and the refectory to remind everyone. I have my "in silent retreat" badge on to remind myself.

Yesterday we explained to all the aides and live-alongside folks that they were not to speak to us out loud today, and for the most part they have joined in and have been wonderful. I think it was an unusual challenge for them. One aide in particular has been shisshing her charges when they forget. Forgetfulness seems to be our enemy these days. There is no longer such a thing as The Great Silence in this house. Normally it begins after Compline, or in our case, at 9:00 p.m., and ends after breakfast the following day. Not here.

The best we can manage these days are occasional mini silences, and, while those are refreshing, it's like trying to squelch a forest fire with a plant mister. To go deep, to hear the still small voice, that requires a block of undisturbed quiet. It takes time to withdraw from chaos.

For some sisters a silent retreat day means not only no talking, but also no electronic noise or communication. They turn off their computers, their cel phones, their radios or ipods. For others the quiet is less defined. For me, I want specifically to eliminate all input except the Holy Spirit's. Output is okay for me... it's just another way to weed out the clutter that distracts my focus. Each sister must choose what works best to align her soul closer to God.

Friday, January 01, 2010

motivation

A new year... a new decade... time for taking stock, time for making changes. It's what I love the most about New Year's, this motivation to look both back and ahead.

I tried to do it when the liturgical calendar changed, but without success. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." it says in Isaiah. But Advent came and went last year. Even though I thought I would be prepared, I wasn't.

While it doesn't seem right that a secular holiday will hold more sway for me than the spiritual seasons, I will take whatever inspiration where I can get it... and run with it. Life is too short and my own gets shorter every year. I have no clue how long I have. None of us does. That knowledge can be both depressing and motivating. Today it's motivating.

Taking stock:
  • I spend too much time playing Happy Farm and Fish Town, even though I rationalize that these games are a way to relax and unwind. Maybe I need to rewind, not unwind. Time to look at that and either wean myself away or go cold turkey. Lent will be a perfect time for this if I don't get to it sooner.

  • I have let my own personal (creative) endeavors slip-slide away. Time to set a schedule to blog on a regular basis. Time to get back to the cartoons too. I miss those little boys. They give me great pleasure and satisfaction, not to mention they make my sisters laugh.

  • I noticed just this morning that my patience level has deteriorated (yet again). Maybe it's time to change the furniture around. That usually helps. That and weeding out stuff... from my closet, drawers, bookshelves. Weeding out is like getting a haircut. I feel so much lighter, less encumbered. Maybe it's some law of quantum physics the scientists have yet to discover, but getting rid of stuff actually produces energy. You think I'm crazy? Try it. No, really try it.

  • Okay this is a stretch, but I've been having a lot of bad dreams lately. I think it's time to write them down.

  • Just in case I've never mentioned it, here's a trivia fact about myself: five is my favorite number. I do everything in fives... latent OCD gene I imagine, but I believe it's basically harmless. So this will be number 5 in the stock-taking activity for today: I am way too bossy. This not-so-harmless-trait is going to take more work than I can even imagine. Acknowledgement is the first step. I did, I do. I'm done for today. Time to go empty some drawers... get rid of five things.