Tag Archives: creation

Showing Up

From talking with friends and family, I know I’m not the only one who is a wee bit tired these days. Pandemic. Politics. Life in the midst of pandemic and politics. No elaboration is necessary. If this is where you are at these days, you might like this video prayer I just put together, set to “Show Up” by Jill Phillips.

I’ve been praying with her song this weekend. I’ve also been praying in gratitude for the book of creation. The seasons show up like clockwork, even if our human activities add stressors. The animals go about their business, sometimes letting us get close enough for inspiration. So I paired some of my recent photos I’ve taken on walks the past two months, some in Federal Way, WA and some in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. (Yes, I took my first plane trip in December, with built in quarantines on either end so that I could visit our sisters).

Back to the song. I find it both consoling and inspiring.

… Afraid that what we have to give is so small.

You don’t have to save the world.
All that hero talk is only superficial stuff.

If you want to change the world,
What you gotta do is show up, show up, just show up.

We’re so used to an immediate response,
So used to giving up when things don’t work.
The road of long obedience is hard,
No shortcuts will make it easier
Because the journey so long
But the difference is made
By the million small steps along the way.


This song is a good soundtrack for my prayer right now. I share it in case it is helpful in your own prayer and discernment on how you might show up and make a difference through small things and small steps in great love.

My new hawk friend that made an appearance on a walk I took this weekend and was kind enough to pose for this picture, and several others!

Collegeville Photo Journal

Tomorrow morning it is time to lock the door to Apartment 3 at the Collegville Institute, my home away from home for the past month, and start the drive home to New Jersey. This time as a short term resident scholar has been filled with many graces, not the least of which have been rest, reflection, reading and writing. I finished a small reflection book on St. Joseph and have an outline, a good bit of reasearch and a large reading list for a larger writing project on sowing peace in chaotic times.

Our pandemic reality has made this month a mostly solitary experience, but I have had company … the trees, the fields, the lakes, sun, clouds, and even snow! In the midst of everything, seasons continue to change, a reminder that crazy as things might seem, the rhythm of life continues and invites us to pay attention.

Stuck in Mud, She Laughs

This month has been a gift to me, a time to read, write, reflect and walk. One book I read with deep gratitude was Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh (Harper One 2015). As I finished the book this week, I found myself laughing aloud at this particular passage:

“Much of my teaching is aimed at helping people learn how to recognize suffering, embrace it, and transform it.  That is an art.  We have to be able to smile to our suffering with peace, just as we smile to the mud because we know that it’s only when we have mud (and know how to make good use of the mud) that we can grow lotus flowers.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

You see, I literally got stuck in the mud on a walk in the woods a few weeks ago, before the snow but after a rainstorm. I had decided to try out a new-to-me trail. After a few wrong turns, even though I had consulted a trail map, my planned 45 minute round trip walk through the woods was already 1 hour in, one way. I resorted to the GPS on my phone and saw that I was WAY off track.

No worries, I thought. I’m still in the general vicinity, and over there, I can see the marshland where I started my walk. This trail should take me in the right direction.

Up ahead I saw a giant puddle, from the night before. No worries, I thought again, I’ll just walk around the puddle. Which I did. Until my right foot got completely stuck in the mud.

No worries, I thought, still fairly calm. I’ll just hold onto this fallen log and pull my foot out. I did. My foot came out. But my shoe was still firmly in the mud.

Photo by Peter Houghton, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

This photo is misleading. It is not of my feet , but rather a photo from the internet depicting what would have been sensible footwear for my walk. But, remember, I had planned a short easy walk that I’d checked out on the map. I was only wearing my sneakers, and my right sneaker was now in the mud, my muddy foot was in the air. What to do?

I leaned back on the log with one arm, balancing myself, and managed to get my shoe out of the mud–after pulling off a leaf or two and some twigs off my now decidedly muddy foot–and put the sneaker back on. But by then, my other foot was stuck in the mud. The whole scenario repeated itself.

I was still pretty calm. I was not in a hurry. This was an adventure. But just as I was about to continue on my way, both feet got stuck in the mud at the same time and I fell back, plop, into the mud.

Which is when I burst out laughing.

I was laughing so hard at myself, that it was difficult to grab back onto the log and get my muddy self standing again on solid ground. It took a couple of tries. The birds and other creatures must have heard my raucous laughter. Maybe even some other hikers on other trails. God certainly did.

Eventually my uncontrollable desire to laugh at my situation subsided and I decided to continue on the trail, watching out for further mud holes and puddles. Then I realized that the trail I had taken which I thought was going in the right direction was actually a loop. I was right back where I started , at least half an hour before, when I’d first realized I was basically lost.

I laughed again. I looked down at my muddy jeans, felt my wet socks inside my muddy shoes, put one foot carefully in front of the other, and carefully traced my way back. Eventually I figured out where I’d made the wrong turn, and made it back safely to my car. Two and a half hours after I’d started, but thankfully while it was still daylight.

A few weeks later, reading these words of wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh, I felt closer to understanding. Suffering is one of the major mysteries of the universe, and has been the source of some of my most heated debates with God. This little muddy adventure was not true suffering, I know, but it taught me how it might be possible to smile to my suffering, with peace, and maybe not get so stuck in the mud.

Coffee, prayer and a very busy squirrel

This morning
I luxuriated in the day
Cool autumn breeze
Sunlight illuminating everything
And the leaves and the lake
I sit and watch with my coffee
to keep me
company

What better way
to be
to pray
to sit with the wonder of it
all

From time to time
I spy
with my little eye
a very busy
squirrel

The first sighting
he or she
I see has a mouthful of
leaves

The squirrel freezes
perfectly still
looking at me
-nothing to see here-
but then apparently decides
I am not
dangerous

Next squirrel sighting
is high up in the branches
of a tall
evergreen

Then jumping back to the
mostly barren
branches of the next door
tree

Then the ground
for more leaves
Bunches and bunches
Mouthful upon mouthful of
leaves

Jumping
climbing
building a nest
actually called a
drey

(No the squirrel did not tell me,
that would be the internet)

Busy squirrel
Not so busy me
On a sunny autumn
morning

Amen

Channelling Mom

My Mom knew how to be about what was important, but also knew it was important to take time away for rest, relaxation and renewal. Case in point is this qunitissential picture of her on a porch in the mountains, taking a break from her novel to ponder the beauty around her.

She is my role model in many ways, including how to vacation.

My religious community enshrines in our constitutions a philosophy I think my mother would have agreed with, and in fact lived out.

In solidarity with our sisters and brothers we engage in human labor as a means of service and sustenance. We recognize the value of leisure as contributing to restoration and wholeness. In these ways we come to share in the creative power of God. Constitution 54

This week I am blessed to have a chance to value and experience leisure, and hopefully contribute to my own restoration and wholeness. After this time of vacation, or holiday as my sisters in the UK are apt to say, I will return to what is mine to do.

But for now I am all about not having a daily schedule, but instead having a pile of novels I might read and plenty of opportunity to just ponder the beauty of creation if that is what I feel like doing. In other words, channeling Mom.

Retreat Prayer

We nurture our life of prayer by reflective reading, particularly scripture, by periods of solitude and silence,and by an annual retreat. (CSJP Constitution 30)

It has been my privilege and joy to spend the last week on my annual retreat. My planned directed retreat at a retreat house was of course cancelled, this being 2020 when everything has been disrupted. So instead I met with my spiritual director virtually and retreated within driving distance to a quiet spot to make a private retreat.

It has been a week of gentle surprises, holding the intentions of our mixed up world close to my heart, and experiencing the presence and deep love of God. In addition to spending quiet time with God and reflective reading, I took some contemplative photos on my walks with God in the beauty of creation. Prayer in action all around us!

Some contemplative surprises found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (June 2020)

God of love, source of all that is good, thank you.

Your creation reminds us of beauty, goodness, wonder and awe.

You are our creator, our companion, our center.

You desire us to ground ourselves in your goodness and gift one another with love, justice, and peace.

Help us to see goodness when it is hidden, even in ourselves.

Inspire us to spread goodness.

Guide us to read the signs of the times and respond by building right relationship between and among all peoples and creation.

For you are our source, our light and our love.

Amen.

Perspective

Sometimes we see only what we want to see.

Or our vision is clouded …

by fear or worry or grumpiness or distrust or

[feel free to fill in your own blank].

Maybe we want to see through rose colored glasses,

and so what we see is not quite true.

But sometimes our vision is

recalibrated,

corrected,

refocused,

clear.

Maybe it was a friend challenging us,

or a listening ear,

a lifting of mood,

or simply waking up on the right side of the bed.

Whatever the reason, rejoice!

To see the horizon clearly.

To see bridges as opportunity not obstacles.

To see the tiny beautiful bird in the midst of the mess.

On days when my perspective is clearer I give thanks.

Whatever the cause.

Amen.

Rising

I pray with the rising sun

confident that a new day is on its way.

I rejoice with the birds in the air

and the symphony of creepy and crawly things,

knowing that all good things come from God.

I reflect on the swirly waters,

shifting this way and that

directed by the tides and the wind and

chance.

I step into this new day

in the company of the newly risen sun

ready to shine and to love and to live.

For God is good

All creation is good

We are good

And goodness flows like a river

even in murky waters.

Retreat Schedule

I expect myself to retreat to the still

quiet, familiar space

within.

Silence. Reflection.

Maybe some spiritual reading and a contemplative walk, or two or three or four.

Unplanned, yet if I’m honest, planned, with just a little room for the unexpected.

(We are talking about spending time with the God of surprises after all).

A few days in, I take stock of the surprises (so far).

Egret upon egret upon egret. And heron after heron.

And one day, a certain Ms. Egret and Mr. Heron met their neighbor the alligator for a fresh fish lunch (byof). I have photographic evidence.

Busy lizzards, or are they geckos? Defying gravity by walking sideways on the wall. Like spiderman. Or spidergecko. Or geckoman?

So much life, all around, in relationship through the ups and downs.

And the clouds!

Sunshine breaking through or simple shades of white and grey, darkness and light dancing with the wind.

And perhaps most unexpected of all was finding myself,

in my room,

having a dance party with God, of all things.

Not once but twice. (So far).

There is no photographic evidence, thank the maker.

God finds us where we are. Scheduled or not.

If we but perceive and receive.