Tag Archives: God moments

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

Joseph Pondering

Joseph pondering the needs of the world

This week, on a day packed with very important zoom meetings (which seems like everyday of late, begging the question of how important they can actually be), I spotted this tableau on my way through the house.

Joseph, standing tall. The caption that came to me was “Joseph pondering the needs of the world.”

Given the caption, the needs of the world are pretty big, and Joseph, while standing tall, can barely peek into the top of the jar/well/container.

(What you don’t know is that Joseph has a broken foot, super glued back into place).

So here is Joe.
Standing tall, but barely taller than the needs of the world.
Standing on a broken, haphazardly fixed, ceramic foot.
Looking tenderly upon the needs of our broken world.
The needs of the family of God.
His family.

Don’t know about you, but I found this very comforting.

St. Joseph, pray for the people of God, your family. We need your prayers and intercession!

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.

Love is the way

Have you noticed that everyone (and everything) is weird these days.

And that no one is weird at the same time?

If you find yourself tired or anxious or frustrated or annoyed or even angry, of course you are. We are going on 2 months of this strange reality with no clear path forward that seems comfortable, sure or safe.

Yet here we are. Together. Alone. Safe in our homes or maybe on the newly redefined front lines, suddenly considered essential. Simple daily tasks seem daunting. We juggle home and work life all in one place. So many plans have suddenly disappeared. We might feel lost, dazed or confused.

In today’s Gospel (John 14), our friend Thomas follows his own doubts to help us find the way through. In my own simplified paraphrase of this passage, which I have often prayed with even before these pandemic days, we hear:

Thomas: How can we know the way?

Jesus: I am the way. Stay focused on me. Love a lot.

Yep. Love. A lot. Love is the way when people are weird. Love is the way when we are weird. Love is the way when your child/niece/student is sad that their graduation has been cancelled. Love is the way when you remind your grandmother/mother/sister/friend/yourself that all this isolation has a purpose. Love is the way when you reorganize your plans … again. Love is the way when [insert challenging situation here]. All the rest is distraction from what really matters.

A few years ago, in other life circumstances, my meditation on this Gospel led me to create a video prayer set to music by Sufjan Stevens. I find it is a fruitful prayer these days too, and so I offer it here in case it resonates with you.

Peace and love during these strange days.

Anniversaries

My novice classmate, sister, and friend Chero reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of our first profession of vows.

So much had happened since then: four years of social justice ministry, two and a half years of graduate school, and now four and a half years of community ministry on the leadership team. Many moves. And so much in between!

This morning, as I walked down the stairs in my pajamas to get my morning coffee, I remembered that today is the 3rd anniversary of the fire at St. Michael Villa, our regional center where I happen to live. While we are back in our corner of the house that received less smoke damage, we are anxiously anticipating the reopening of the main house soon. Lots of losses and discoveries and moves to temporary housing since waking up to a very real fire alarm.

Both memories lead me to give thanks for the gifts of community and belonging.

The past eleven years have been filled with so much love in action.

Prayers, hopes, and dreams shared.

Challenges and disasters navigated together.

Waiting in joyful hope, and maybe a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure.

Invitations and opportunities.

Roadblocks and detours.

Growing together as community for mission.

Finding my voice as a writer and discovering bit by bit my role as a leader.

It is the big moments and the little ones that make up this adventure called life, and God is always in the mix if we care to look.

On Presence

I want to continue to believe in the presence of God, the one who strengthens, cheers, and encourages me at all times. – St. John XXIII

I have a little prayer booklet I use sometimes from Twenty Third Publications called Walking with St. John XXIII: 30 days with a good and beloved Pope. This morning I turned at random to a page, which happened to be the second to last page, and read this quote.

Interestingly enough, just a few minutes earlier, I had read this post on our current Pope’s Twitter feed:

In the midst of all those passing things in which we are so caught up, help us, Father, to seek what truly lasts; your presence and that of our brother or sister. – Pope Francis

And I was reminded, instantly, of this quote in our CSJP Constitutions:

We value the ministry of presence as an important dimension of the gospel of peace. In the hope of continuing our tradition of gracious hospitality, we welcome others to our communities and also try to be present to people in their own situations. – CSJP Constitution 18

We are so in danger of disconnection and tuning out all the noise and chaos and bad news and suffering, when truly the invitation is to see God present with us in and through and and beyond all that. Emmanuel, after all, means God with us. God created us, Jesus became one of us, and the Spirit is present among us. Ours is to grow in understanding what this means. Ours is to be open to the presence of God in our day to day moments, not only those precious aha spiritual moments, but in the messy bits too. And I don’t know about you but I have a lot more messy bits than spiritual highs. Our is to be the presence of God for others, and to experience (and accept) the presence of God in others.

At least that’s what my morning prayer time led me to ponder, and I join John XXII in praying and trusting in my loving God who strengthens, cheers, and encourages me/us at all times. If we but listen.

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.

How we deal with storms

Last summer I had four flight cancellations due to weather, which may explain why I wasn’t too upset when my flight from the west to east coast today was delayed three and a half hours. It was still going and it was a direct flight for me, no connections. No worries.

Of course those with connections were no doubt put out as their carefully constructed plans fell apart. I get that.

But I was fresh off a mini break weekend at the Oregon Coast with a friend I have somehow already known for 28+ years. I was renewed, mostly grumpy free, and a bit zen. I had just watched the choppy waves of the storm one day become beautiful shining waters the next day.

The plane ride itself was uneventful, until, that is, we started our descent just as the sun was setting above the skies and the storms brewing below. Breathtaking.

We landed into mid storm, with lightening strikes and tornado warnings. Ground crew were grounded, so it took awhile to get to the gate. But we were safe.

My positive attitude lasted the next hour while we waited for our bags. Remember those storms? Baggage crews were also grounded, not able to go outside and take our bags off the plane.

Bags started finally to come out of the gate and make their run around the circle. Bags from Aruba and Chicago, but none from Portland. Then the bags stopped their ride around the belt, and no new bags appeared. For quite a while. Admittedly, my positive attitude had lost some of its shine by now. But there was bonding with the other passengers. Two of us embarked on fact finding missions. And one or two walkie talkie messages later and magic … bags!

Storms come, and sometimes a grumpy or angry response is warranted and appropriate. But other times going the grumpy annoyed route just makes you grumpier. How we approach the storms of our lives makes a difference it seems.

And of course it always helps to be coming off of a three day weekend of friendship, fun and fabulous walks on the beach.