Friday, April 20, 2012

Without Words

"The first thing to do when you awake is to open the windows of your soul."
                ~Dom Lorenzo Sculpi

I was in my chair this morning about to say my prayers, and I found myself drawn to  the stillness of the day. I just sat, blankly looking out the window, when my eye caught the dew trapped in an intricate spider web. The beauty of the web, something about the anticipation of  quiet hopeful waiting, refreshed my spirit. I realized that sometimes the loudest prayers are without words, and that God  often speaks to me in silence. Today I will try to talk less and listen more. Only that which is empty is capable of being filled.

Early Morning Science~ Waking up to a praying mantis case opening:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What To Do With Rejection

 Lent is upon us, and I am reading some of the writings of Henri Nouwen. Here is one of his profound thoughts regarding a possible Lenten practice:

I have slowly become aware of what my Lenten practice might be. It might be the development of some type of "holy indifference" toward the many small rejections I am subject to, and a growing attachment to the Lord and his passion.

I am constantly surprised at how hard it is for me to deal with the little rejections people inflict on each other day by day...This atmosphere often leaves me with a feeling of being rejected and left alone. When I swallow these rejections, I get quickly depressed and lonely; then I am in danger of becoming resentful...

But maybe all of this is the other side of a deep mystery, the mystery that we have no lasting dwelling place on this earth and that only God loves us the way we desire to be loved. Maybe all these small rejections are reminders that I am a traveler on the way to a sacred place where God holds me in the palm of his hand.

(excerpted from "Gracias: A Latin-American Journal")

Photo Credit: Ben Smithdeal

Photo Credit: Ben Smithdeal

Photo Credit: Ben Smithdeal

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Value of Tradition in Family Life

"Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradtion of mankind."
~Robert Louis Stevenson 

I am indebted to generations of family that have passed on our heritage and traditions, and with each passing year, I am more and more appreciative of the legacy entrusted to me. Tradition is a gift to be passed on to my children; and while it truly is a gift, it is also their birthright, an integral part of their identity.

Sometimes the passing on of tradition can be hard work and all too easily tossed aside in our ever- busy lives. But it is tradition that glues a family together and causes us too look back on days filled with special memories.

Today we made Fasnachts, a kind of donut made by the Pennsylvania dutch the day before Lent. Both of my parents grew up near Lancaster county where the custom of making Fasnachts originated. Only one of my grandparents is actually Pennsylvania dutch, the others are all of Irish descent. I just know that my mother has made Fasnachts as far back as I can remember, and I have continued the tradition with my own children.

I read something by Thomas Merton that has been stewing in my mind the last couple of days:

"Lent  is not a season of punishment, so much a s a season of healing."
(From : Lent and Easter Wisdom From Thomas Merton, p.2)

Of course, that does not mean we should not deny ourselves more than usual during Lent, however, the focus  should be on what we can add to our lives that will bring about healing and peace not only to ourselves, but to those around us.

Perhaps beginning a few traditions this Lent may be one way to bring family members together? Traditions are like habits; at first they are hard to get used to,  but after a while you don't know how you lived without them!

I pray you have a blesed and peaceful Lent; may this season bear much fruit in your lives!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes It's Only A Whisper

We awoke this morning to a winter wonderland, and it would be impossible to miss the beauty of the day.
I have been thinking a lot about 'beauty' lately.
I've been thinking  how  discovering and cherishing beauty in our lives has everything to do with gratefulness.

When I look for the lovely, my gaze is drawn outside of myself to the creator of all; I am no longer focused on my own needs and shortcomings. For brief moments, I am made whole.

John O'Donohue, in his book, Beauty,  writes:

Yet beauty's visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm, it calls us to feel, think and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful. A life without delight is only half a life. Lest this be construed as a plea for decadence or a self-indulgence that is blind to the horrors of the world, we should remember that beauty does not restrict its visitations only to those whom fortune or circumstances favor. Indeed, it is often the whispers and glimpses of beauty which enable people to endure on desperate frontiers. Even, and perhaps especially, in the bleakest times, we can still discover and awaken beauty; these are precisely the times when we need it most.
(pg 13)

I recently finished reading the amazing biography of Corrie Ten Boom , The Hiding Place. Incidentally, it is the only book I have ever seen on Amazon to get only four and five star reviews! The life of the Ten Boom family is an incredible testimony of faith and bravery. Corrie and her family members spent several years in a Nazi concentration camp. They were guilty of hiding and aiding Jews during the Holocaust.

At one point, due to a blood- producing cough, Corrie was placed in solitary confinement. Cold, alone, and shut up in a squalid dank cell, she had little to be thankful for. But Corrie always seemed to find solace and faith in what beauty there was.

She writes:

     In only one way was this new cell an improvement over the first one. It had a window. Seven iron bars ran across it, four bars up and down. It was high in the wall, much too high to look out of, but through those twenty-eight squares I could see the sky.

          All day I kept my eyes fixed on that bit of heaven. Sometimes clouds moved across the squares, white or pink or edged with gold, and when the wind was from the west I could hear the sea. Best of all, for nearly an hour each day, gradually lengthening as the spring sun rose higher, a shaft of checkered light streamed into the dark little room. As the weather turned warmer and I grew stronger I would stand up to catch the sunshine on my face and chest, moving along the wall with the moving light, climbing at last onto the cot to stand on tiptoe in the final rays.
(p 139)

Beauty does not always shout. We must sometimes strain to hear her voice amidst the discordant banging and clatter of life. But one thing is certain: behind the faintest whisper, she is always there, echoing the voice of our loving creator.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cups Overflowing

"Look at all the mugs!," my friend said as she looked about my messy kitchen. It was true; mugs littered every surface. There must have been forty mugs out, and it was only 1:00. Right then and there I made a decision, quickly followed by a proclamation:

"That's it! Each person gets one mug. One! And I'm dealing with this right now!"
As I frantically searched for a box to put mugs in, Ami explained how she invested in dish sets, a color for each family member. I liked the idea, but I didn't want to go out and buy new mugs. So I assigned each child a mug from the ones we already had and packed up all of the other ones.

The first three days of our new "mug system," I became the cup Nazi.

"That's not your mug. Where is your cup?"

"Dad used it for his coffee."

"Travis, this is your mug. You have to use it! And you're not allowed to use the kids' mugs!!"

And you know what? I now have a wonderful husband who is also using an assigned mug!!
..Now, if I could just remember to use my mug!!!

All the dither about mugs and an abundance of children, the desire to serve seeming to clash with the need to simplify had me stymied.

My mind is crowded with cups and abundance- the overflow of cups in my life that I continually try to fill, the longing to do it all, feel it all, be it all, when ....

when only one cup is necessary.

I need to live my life with one mug. It's that simple. If I hold out my cup each morning and ask God to fill it, he will. He will never leave my cup empty.

Yes, surely "my cup overflows." (psalm 23:5) And yours will too, if only you allow him to fill it for you.

And when I allow him to fill my one cup, I find that the other cups are no longer needed....

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
~Matthew 6:33