Archives for November 2005


“In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis tells the story of an experience that his wife, Joy, once had:

    Long ago, before we were married, [Joy] was haunted all one morning as she went about her work with the obscure sense of God (so to speak) “at her elbow,” demanding her attention. And of course, not being a perfected saint, she had the feeling that it would be a question, as it usually is, of some unrepented sin or tedious duty. At last she gave in – I know how one puts it off – and faced Him. But the message was “I want to give you something,” and instantly she entered into joy.

Left to our own devices, we all tend to “put God off,” not realizing that God “wants to give us something.” We have inherited the ancient tendency to forsake God, the mysterious “fountain of living waters” that we can neither posess nor control, and put our trust instead in “broken cisterns that can hold not water” (Jer 2:13).

… “We all may need to be reminded – perhaps rather strongly sometimes – that our Lord is, paradoxically, both a jealous and an extravagant Lover.”

    — from “Unfailing Treasure: Lost and Found” by Debora Smith Douglas, Weavings, Volume XX, Nov/Dec 2005

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NRSV)

Mary, Martha and Einstein

    … in relativity theory time is defined by a description of specific manipulations with clocks, light signals, and measuring rods. It turns out that events that are simultaneous for one observer will occur at different moments if viewed by another observer moving at a different velocity… All operations by which time is measured are relative ones. — Klotz, Irving and Rosenberg, Robert. Introduction to Chemical Thermodynamics

    Time is not absolutely defined. – Albert Einstein

With Einstein we see a theory of time based in the concept of relativity. Time is relative to our ‘frame of reference’. Thus two observers of the same event in two different frames of reference will experience the event differently. This is a mathematically verifiable phenomenon. Scientists have actually placed highly accurate clocks on jets on flown them all around in order to verify the calculation. Amazingly it worked! (Now why can’t I ever get a job like that?) As Einstein says, “time is not absolutely defined”; it is dependent upon your frame of reference.

While ‘frame of reference’ is important to physicists, the concept of frame of reference is also useful to look at in the context of spirituality. One aspect of your spiritual frame of reference is your relationship with time. The story of Mary and Martha provides a good framework from which to explore this concept. [Read more…]

Family Time

    “I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian are not those who comtemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self.” Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and ‘Women’s Work'”

I am a single mother of a son and a daughter who are both adults now. During their junior high and senior high years, we rushed from activity to activity. My son was a swimmer and my daughter played soccer and basketball. In addition to sports, both were involved in numerous other activities at school and church. There were practices, meets, games, and of course, homework.

We were always on the run – dinner was often in the car on the way to some activity. Time was the enemy.

I noticed a phenomenon that developed during their junior high years. About the time I was turning in for the night, one or both would come into my bedroom, sit down and begin to talk. These conversations were definitely not run of the mill. They generally were serious and reflective in nature. This was the point that they brought up their concerns, fears and questions about life in general. This was the time for the heavy duty stuff of life.
[Read more…]

No More Dry Land

The Swan

This clumsy living that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done
reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.

And to die, which is a letting go
of the ground we stand on and cling to every day,
is like the swan when he nervously lets himself down
into the water, which receives him gaily
and which flows joyfully under
and after him, wave after wave,
while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm,
is pleased to be carried, each minute more fully grown,
more like a king, composed, farther and farther on.

~Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Robert Bly)

You are like Rilke’s Swan in his awkward waddling across the ground; the swan doesn’t cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water, where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence. You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life, and it will transform everything. But you have to let yourself down into those waters from the ground on which you stand, and that can be hard. Particularly if you think you might drown…. Let go of all this effort, and let yourself down, however awkwardly, into the waters of [your] work.

    ~David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

Rilke’s The Swan is one of my favorites! I find myself returning to sit with it every couple of months or so. It serves as a good plumb line.

The contrasting image of the swan walking (perhaps more appropriately waddling) on dry land versus moving elegantly, effortlessly through the water serves as a powerful a reminder for me to sort through all of the various activities that I am involved in. Am I doing those things that I was created to be about doing? Or am I involved in tasks, that while worthwhile, work against my strengths and might, perhaps, be better done by someone whose gifts and talents are better aligned to these tasks.

Of course, the hard part, once the evaluation is complete, as both Rilke and David Whyte point out, is the letting go of the familiar dry land and moving into water. Dying to that image that I am all-powerful and able to leap tall buildings, an image that propels me to push harder and farther, is not an easy step to take. But as I am encouraged by the image of the Swan to make the evaluation in the first place, I am also encouraged by the image of the Swan to step into the water and leave the dry land behind!

Oh Lord, pour your light into my life. Give me the courage to live in this light, seeking to open myself to using my gifts and abilities in your service and ever fighting the tendency of ‘trying to be all things to all people’. Enable me to envision my life as you see it – strengthening me to step off the dry land and into the waters that you have created for me. Amen.

Thomas Merton Prayer

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think
I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe
that the desire to please you does in fact please you,
and I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire to please you.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to make my journey alone.
(from Pax Christi)

Clothed in Christ's Humanity

    Then let the servant Church arise,
    A caring Church that longs to be
    A partner in Christ’s sacrifice,
    And clothed in Christ’s humanity.
    (LBW Hymn #433 vs. 3)

In pondering the words to the above hymn, I was struck by the phrase ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’. What does it mean to be ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’?

We live in a culture in which the norm is busyness. The cultural messages that we receive push and prod us to move at a dizzying pace. We have cell phones, PDA’s, laptops, and the like. We are connected at all times – just not necessarily connected to the people and things immediately around us!

Our relationship to time is complex at best and chaotic at worst. We exist within a continuous series of moments of time. Unfortunately, however, we are often racing through these moments at maximum speeds – speeds that serve as an amnesiac for the present moment. The present moment is the only time that we live within and quite often we find ourselves disconnected and unavailable in the present.

    “Time talks. It speaks more plainly than words. The message it conveys comes through loud and clear. Because it is manipulated less consciously, it is subject to less distortion than the spoken language. It can shout the truth where words lie.”

[Read more…]

Prayer of St. Francis de Sales

Be at Peace.
Do not fear the changes of life,
Rather look forward to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are,
Will deliver you from out of them.


He has kept you hitherto,
And He will lead you safely through all things;
And when you cannot stand it,
God will bury you in His arms.


Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting Father who cares for you today
Will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering
Or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.


Be at peace
And put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

Befriending Time

“Our busy schedules …  [have] diminished our capacity to marvel in the passage of time as an expression of God’s love for us.” ~Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women’s Work,

    TIME ‘as an expression of God’s love for us’ — it is certainly difficult to see time in a loving context. Time is an entity that we frequently battle, chafing against the time imposed constraints that pop up unbidden to hinder our progress. How do we always end up with more items ‘To-Do’ on our lists than time available ‘To-Do’ them in?

    Instead of ‘an expression of love’, isn’t TIME the enemy? A formidable foe which we daily endeavor to subdue by squeezing the maximum amount of activity into our schedules. Our To-do lists, organizers, and PDA’s are the weapons we use to slice and dice time in our valiant attempts to bend it to our will.

    TIME a scarce resource. Fleeting, ephemeral – steadily moving forward second by second, hour by hour. No container can hold it nor any barrier block it, as time continues its steady, relentless march into the future transforming each moment into history and leaving the present in the past.

    ‘Marveling’ in TIME as an expression of God’s love for us – surely, a cruel, cosmic joke, right? who really has time for ‘marveling’ these days? We’re just too darn busy…

    … … Oh wait, that’s the problem that Kathleen is pointing out to us, isn’t it?
    [Read more…]