Author Archives: Monique Jacobs
Okay – I’ll admit it – I am biased!
I was first assigned to live in Reno in 1981 and have lived here off and on since. The big sky struck me from the first day. There is something so elementary about the freedom of what goes on up there.
We can’t “batten down the hatches” of the atmosphere. The big sky – Nature – teaches a kind of surrender…an invitation to surrender, anyway. We accept that we are connected in deeply profound ways to all that God has made.
What goes on up there goes on
within me as well.
A number of years ago, I was with a friend who was struggling with her faith and her circumstances. I told her that I saw the face of God, heard the voice of God, in what went on in the sky. It was comforting for me to know that God “covers” me the way the sky covers the land and that the ever-changing sky was a clue for me of how God is daily adapting the message of love in order for me to hear it.
She was quiet for a long minute.
The night sky…I love that thought.
Have you looked up lately? The amazing thing is that all those beautiful stars and all that “comet action” is going on all the time. The timing just has to be right – the sun disappearing beyond the horizon – for me to see it clearly. So, I have to wonder, what else am I missing because I am only looking in one way?
Lent is about taking time to see things – to see God – differently.
Sometimes it takes this special time, when we are kind-of ”primed” to connect with God and holy things more closely, for God to be able to get through all the noise and distractions that our lives are built around.
So let me ask you,
how will you see God this Lent…
The Jesus Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
God, I thank you that I am not like other people…”
The tax collector, whose job was even less popular in Roman Palestine than in our day, took a different tack. He knew he was like other people, and in that piercing recognition, his prayer was: “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
A blind man begging by the road could hear a great crowd passing by. Hoping for some alms, he asked what was up and was told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” That name banished any thought of skimming a few coins off the unexpected traffic. Here was a one-time shot at what he longed for most – to see. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Sinful and unseeing, desperate for forgiveness and healing: I am that tax collector, I am that beggar on the road into Jericho. A consolation is that I am not alone, for there is no prayer more frequent in the churches of the East and West than Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” The blind man knew that in Jesus the merciful God has come close, and Christians soon discovered the power of the name of Jesus, which after all, means, “God saves.”
Early monks loved to repeat Kyrie eleison and the Holy Name as a way to keep the Lord close and devilish thoughts far away. Better to fill the heart with Jesus, they believed, than to leave it open to distraction and temptation.
In the fifth century, Diadochus of Photike said that we should give the mind “nothing but the prayer ‘Lord Jesus.’” The monks of Sinai brought Diadochus’s suggestion back to those Gospel stories of calling upon Jesus. the result was the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus Prayer became their equivalent of the Latin church’s hail Mary. It has its own kind of rosary, usually a cord with 33, 50 or 100 knots. Monks and devout laity wear a small version around their wrist, reminding them to call out to Jesus in their struggles. The prayer became linked to the body’s own rhythm of heartbeat and breath, breathing in Jesus and breathing out sinfulness.
Those who practice the Jesus Prayer learn not to be surprised by tears. Like any meditation, this one can bring stillness and heightened awareness, touching depths of feeling beyond the day-to-day range of our emotions. The Jesus Prayer names those depths in classic Christian terms with the language of compunction: sinfulness and mercy. Even as it does so, the prayer brings with it the only answer to our completeness – Jesus Christ, the Lord and Son of God.
I breathe him in, I breathe me out. Mercy indeed.
-Fr. Columba Stewart
Praying the “O” Antiphons
From December 17 to 23, the Church observes the ancient custom of praying each day one of the seven “O” Antiphons, so-called because each one addresses the God who comes in Christ with a different biblical title, beginning with the invocation “O”.
In Latin, the first letters of the titles, read in reverse order, form the acrostic “Ero Cras” which translates as “I will be with you tomorrow.”
These texts, traced back to seventh century Europe, are drenched in biblical allusions offering a rich source for personal prayer and reflection during these final days of preparation for the celebration of Christmas.
We list them here for you – briefly – with suggestions for looking more deeply into the scriptural heart of these antiphons, which appear in the liturgy as the Gospel acclamations for each day.
Sirach 24: 3-4,7
Baruch 3: 29 – 37
Wisdom 9: 1-6 I Corinthians 1: 24
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
Exodus 3: 1-6
Exodus 19: 16-20
Exodus 20: 2-6
Isiah 11: 1-5; 52: 13-53: 6
Revelation 5: 5; 22: 16
John 15: 1-4
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
Isaiah 22: 20 – 24
Revelation 1: 18
Revelation 3: 7
Revelation 20: 4-6, 13
Luke 1: 78 – 79
Hebrews 1: 1-4
Malachi 3: 2
John 8: 12
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
Genesis 2: 7
Ezekiel 37: 21 – 28
Isaiah 26: 8-9, 40: 31
Isaiah 7: 10-15
Romans 8: 20 – 24
John 1: 1-18
This is a GREAT way to connect with all those who came before us and have prayed “Come Lord Jesus!”
Spend some time with these names of God this Advent…these few short days that are left to us this week and see what ELSE God has to say to you!
I love Einstein’s motto.
A young reporter once asked Einstein if he could go into detail and explain the Theory of Relativity for the interview at hand. Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I make it a practice never to retain information in my head that I can easily look up in the library.” Let the library carry the burden of the data that I don’t need everyday.
Thus, I am riding on automatic pilot a bit more often than carefully being attentive to the details around me. My sister tells me that I “rent space” in my body instead of inhabiting it thoroughly. I don’t really have an argument for that!
Therefore, many times I am surprised by life! I am easily amazed at the creativity and diversity of the world around me and of the people I encounter during the day, especially when something new pops up and demands attention.
I was in the store, grocery shopping on the weekend, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Have you ever seen one of these before? They are called Buddha Hand Lemons. I had to take a picture for you! How do you eat these things? How do they grow – on a tree like regular lemons?
I don’t often stand still gazing at produce, but this time I HAD to.
These lemons were such an interruption to the normal shopping excursion. No “business as usual” here at all…and that is what it took for me to look twice at the amazing things that God is doing.
When we were children, we lived within 15 minutes of the beach. We spent many hours in the sun, crusted with sand, building castles or looking for shells; for sand dollars.
For a while my sisters and I surmised that perhaps we had picked them all up – that there were no more to be had.
Yet, this just doesn’t fit with the way God works.
A God of abundance and generosity is never outdone…God is always giving. The key here is, am I watching…am I listening? I mean, what exactly does God have to do to get my attention? I know, God grows Buddha Hand Lemons!
The beauty and changes in nature highlight for me the activity that God does everywhere else. It is much harder for me to “rent space” in my head when I am surrounded by the extravagant color and shapes of the outdoors. It is like God gives me a gentle shake and says, “Don’t miss what I am doing here…what I am doing in you, too.”
So…what is God doing today in your life? Is there something new happening? Is someone calling for a little more time and energy from you? It could be God’s communication…not just for the good of the other, but also to get you to re-evaluate where you are going right now. Slow down, take a deep breath, and exhale and connect with someone outside your head.
Automatic pilot is good for some things – it let’s me focus on what is really begging for my time and attention. Like God…
All of a sudden the air has a chill to it – I can see my breath in the mornings when I walk the dog! – and the trees all over town and at the Lake are beginning their slow, magnificent transition of letting go of ”business as usual” and turning toward the long rest of winter.
Trees have always been an amazing revelation of following God, for me. They do exactly what they are supposed to do! They respond to the deepest invitation of their nature and conform (easily?) to the demands of each season.
Now you can see why they inspire me. I do not follow the same path for myself…at least, I am sure, I don’t do it so beautifully.
Why is it that CHANGE, which is so important for all of creation in order to get from HERE to THERE, looks so different on us than it does in the example of Brother Sun and Sister Moon?
I think it is our fear of being changed – of not recognizing ourselves on the other side of it – that makes us so leery, or resistant even, of releasing ourselves to the process which allows us to grow.
Do you agree? What do you think? Pause here, will you, and reflect for a second.
But…we don’t respond to change with our intellect – do we?
So…if our resistance to change is located in our emotions, then what is the formula that will help us to see this invitation as something that is not life-threatening – though, perhaps it will be life-style threatening.
Reflect for yourself:
- What do I like about the way things are?
- What isn’t working anymore?
- If I can’t change everything about what isn’t working anymore, what IS possible to shift? Is there a new habit that I can begin that would take some weight off the issues I struggle with?
- Decide to try this new shift in attitude, as well as in practice, for one week…ok, I know we are playing a mind-game here BUT mind-games can become pretty persuasive if they succeed!
OK – now determine what “success” would look like. What would make your efforts at shifting-what-isn’t-working-anymore feel ”successful?”
KEEP DOING IT.
Don’t forget. Even though you might be a wee bit more resistant to change than the breath-taking trees around you this season – as a friend of mine said last weekend – this is only a season. The next season is coming soon, we can bank on it.
If we don’t do the work of this season – letting go of what isn’t working anymore – we won’t have room for all the new growth and beauty of what comes next.
We think we know ourselves so well. We’ve lived inside this body for so many years but there are amazing, wondrous, new breath-taking realities just waiting to take hold in your life. Things you haven’t even begun to dream about. Spring comes after the slow, deep sleep of Winter and this time – you’ll be ready!
I love to read…but you already know that. I have to admit that when I was young, I did not aspire to be a nurse or a doctor. I always dreamt of being a pirate or a brilliant detective or Tonto’s sidekick.
I could see myself hanging onto the rigging of the ship that I sailed with my shipmates – forget taking baths, pirates have the sea spray in their face! The treasure I’d find was also exciting, whether I’d find it as Bluebeard, Ali Babba, or Nancy Drew.
Who were your childhood heroes?
We didn’t just reach for the sky…we reached the sky!
We get so sensible – cynical? – as adults. We filter the dream from the concrete reality and so…more often than not…we stop dreaming all together.
Somewhere along the line, you may have been told to snap out of it…to get real…to grow up.
Yet – isn’t there great value in remembering the dreams; the joyful yearning of your hopeful heart?
Scripture tells us to be like little children again - and reaching for the sky was one of our best attributes.
What could you do to rekindle the sparkle of hope in the next 24 hours…and well, have fun with what life dishes you?
Perhaps there really is a treasure in your life that you have overlooked…or, perhaps, the treasure is God, the one who never lost sight of the joyful, hopeful person you are and can help you remember once again to believe in buried treasure…
When I first joined the convent I was 18 and the longest I had ever been away from home was 6 weeks. (This picture was taken on pilgrimage about a dozen years later.)
Beginning to live the vow of Poverty meant that I was already trying to live with less, to live simply, but a few photos of family and a little picture of Jesus behind glass which had hung in my mom’s childhood room made the new space feel a little more like home.
When I left the convent nearly 20 years later…the feeling of home as I once knew it was illusive and the search began again.
You, too, have had similar experiences, I’m sure. Leaving home for the first time can be tough and yet, well, it can also feel just like the adventure it is!
The need to “feel at home” is a real part of our human experience. When we are stressed out we eat “comfort food” that may have some of that “feel at home-ness” to it. When we lose someone we have loved, we may keep some of their clothing to wrap ourselves in when we find that the “home” they provided for our spirit feels painfully far away.
When we feel at home our souls can rest…we can settle in…and deal with the rest of life. It is important that the home front feels safe, feels right.
Sometimes in our lives we go through a patch of time when there is NO WAY to feel at home or something devastating may happen to the space we have made our own…and all our efforts don’t make the difference we long for.
Our spirits, restless and won’t be calmed.
If you are a spiritual person – or you are open to a spiritual consideration - you know that this search for “home” will be a continual theme of your life.
Our hearts were created not for a place…but for a person. Our hearts were made to find a home in God. No matter how we re-arrange the furniture of our lives, there will always be a place we cannot fill.
This is a powerful reflection and will take more time than this short space can offer. I have mused over this so often in my life…what makes a home a home for me? What do I want most in a home?
If we are honest, we know that what makes a place, an experience, feel like home isn’t really four walls. For me, it is being loved; feeling accepted and safe. It is the knowledge that there is room in someone’s heart for all the “wonkiness” of me – on my good days and especially on my bad days.
God loved me – loved you – before we ever had a wonky day. God loves us beyond the stuff we get hung up on…God is that safe place – that haven – that our spirits long for and search for.
The search for “home” will always be misdirected if we hope to find what we are looking for here. Our ultimate “at homeness” is with God. That, actually, is the whole purpose of this life we are living right now.
What does that mean? How do we “make our home” in God? Sometimes…I forget that connecting with God is not my work. It is God’s work. I just have to be open and tuned in to how God will communicate.
Say a little prayer right now…and ask God to open your ears to hear what you have always wanted to hear from God…be patient…let God say it over your entire lifetime in ways you can’t even imagine.
If we make our home in God…then heaven is all about reunion…all about moving in and feeling like we’ll never have to hit the road again in search of what will fill us.
And – get this – some really smart people say that heaven starts now.
Wherever we were…wherever we are…wherever we are going…
“In times of fear, look backwards,” he advised.
“Look where God has been with you in the past,
and remember that God will continue to be.”
An inspiring reading from end of the book of Joshua does just this. The Hebrew people have been in the Promised Land for years, and they are torn between their allegiance to the new God who brought them safely through the desert and the new gods of the new land (sounds a bit familiar…) in which they now find themselves.
Joshua, advanced in years, gathers the people to renew the covenant.
Find strength for the future by pulling it from the past. Remember the thousands of ways that God cared for you by giving you these great ancestors in faith, and giving you this land, and leading you out of slavery, and protecting you in your long sojourn back home.
We, too, find ourselves in a world which tempts us with the gods of cynicism, despair, and fear. The certitudes of yesterday may be a distant memory. Illness or anxiety or depression may be bearing down on us.
Remember God’s mercy and kindness in your life.
Know that the same God who was faithful in the past will be faithful in the future.
Whatever the hurricanes in your life, God’s grace is a certain stronghold. So hold fast.
Thinking about lots of wonderful things today…
In fact, it is easy – oh so easy – for me to obsess about getting to every venue for the “show-n-shine” events because these cars are so amazing!
Check out how many times he has already brought this squeak toy to me. He stands frozen in place, every muscle poised awaiting the toss.
His eyes don’t move from the objective
I am SURE that you, too, have found examples in your own life that point to a preoccupation with stuff.
Things that make us happy, lift our spirits, connect us to others who enjoy the same things…and maybe even distract us a bit.
Distract us from the other realities that don’t make sense, cause pain, take more effort and concentration, or just leave us feeling uncertain.
I find that I distract myself with stuff
when I feel alone or isolated
What if I could tune in to the presence of God in every situation so that I didn’t have to distract myself with other things?
My dog doesn’t take his eyes from his objective. I think I could learn something from my dog. What if I didn’t take my eyes from God?
God promises to be here TODAY for you…for me; in every circumstance and every experience, God will be present today. In the happy, mindless, superficial stuff and in the life-altering transitions and struggles God is – IN FACT – already there.
Possessions, obsessions, and stuff are all ok, aren’t they…as long as they don’t become substitutes for the real, mysterious joy of God’s company.
Hey! Check it out! See how everything in your life is pointing to God today!
I am an early bird…for the most part.
I love getting up early in the morning and sitting in the yard with my strong cup of coffee listening to the world wake up. The light is really beautiful at that time of day, as it crests over the tops of the trees and down onto the grass. I like being alone in the morning.
Did the apostles sleep well at night, I wonder?
It is so interesting that more than once in Scripture the apostles are snoozing through the really important stuff. We have the story of Jesus in the Garden the night before he died. He takes his closest friends to spend a little time in prayer right after they have dined together for the last time.
So often I wonder what it was like for Jesus to pull away and try to sort out his thoughts and emotions on this night. He was uncertain about the details but he knew that the reality of his suffering and death were coming fast.
You know the story. His buddies are tired – they’ve just enjoyed a meal with a glass of wine or two – and they fall asleep pretty quickly after arriving to the Garden.
Jesus is more alone than he would be if they weren’t there…because they can’t keep their eyes open…he is verifiably on his own.
Then again, the story in Scripture about the Transfiguration when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain for some quiet time. These are three guys that he hand-picked for this occasion. He connects with them in a special way and hopes to draw from their companionship.
While Jesus is praying, they fall asleep, it says in the Gospel of Luke.
All of a sudden they are awakened by the light of Jesus being transformed and the voice of God, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
The apostles are a bit befuddled. Peter starts rambling about tents and doesn’t make sense at all. The moment to support Jesus as a lucid, connected friend, has passed.
It could be easy to judge
What has my reaction been to the invitation of God to stay a while and pray? Have my senses always been on high alert? And when they haven’t – what have I missed?
I guess I am startled by how easy it is to MISS what is going on where the action of God is concerned. So much of what God does is done in the quiet. Yet, I am a person who values time in the quiet…who likes being alone with the Creator in the morning with my cup of coffee.
Help me Jesus to be a brighter companion – a person more aware of your action in my life and in the world around me! Help me to shake the sleep from my mind and stay awake. I don’t want to miss the good work you will do today…the evidence of your love.