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So much more than his Voice…

Not even 2 years ago, my father died of cancer…too quickly, really…in two weeks it was over, start to finish.

80th birthday breakfastHe was a joyful man. We celebrated his 80th birthday as a family one month before his death and he was set on fixing breakfast for everyone…ok, we all helped, but it was a delight to have him take charge in the kitchen.

Soon after he died, I called my mom’s house to check on her and I got the answering machine – with his voice still responding to the caller. I just listened…and then quickly, I called again…and again.

It was more than his voice…it was my Dad whom I was trying to reach – contact – possess…my dear Dad who was lost to me too quickly.

GodsembraceSince then I have pondered so often about the amazing love of God.  A God who would allow me to – perhaps –  love and long for my Dad more than I might daily long for Him. What kind of God would allow for substitutes?

Well, not really substitutes, right? I mean we would never “substitute” people for God…yet, I have come to believe that God is so free, so expansive, so “outside da box” that He rejoices in the love I have for my Dad, the way I miss his voice and touch, and meets me in the “middle” of that love, instead of needing me to love Him to the exclusion of loving my Dad.

father and sonI know, in some ways, I might seem to be walking a fine line here for those who read Scripture literally. I mean it says quite clearly in Scripture that “you shall love God with all your mind and heart” and love nothing before God or more than God.

I remember being VERY distressed as a child when I first learned the commandments – especially #1.  I wanted to be honest with God.  Yet, at that moment, at 8 years old, I knew I loved my parents more than I loved God and I hoped He would understand and that – eventually, if He was patient –  I would most likely love Him more.

But – I mean REALLY – it is not a competition, is it?

I love God deeply and have come to love God more and more and more in my life. I have spent my life trying to be responsive to this God and every day, I go into the world aware that God is the message of love I want to spread and I am the lucky messenger.you are loved

In I Corinthians 13 it says that God is not jealous…and I think that is what it all boils down to for me.  THIS is the God that I believe in and love…a God who cuts me slack and actually enjoys, revels in, the love I have for my parents / for others – God’s personal gifts to me.

Hey! Isn’t that a commandment too?

The love of God is immense…in fact, I would hazard a guess that the love of God is as big and wide, deep and tall, as you need that love to be.

My Dad was a joyful man. Where did that come from? From the God he knew as loving parent – a God whose heart is big enough, loving enough, compassionate enough that He is not threatened by any other love.  After all – ALL love comes from God, right?

If the love I experience on this planet between human beings and creation opens me up to the larger experience of God’s love – it’s all good.

Thanks Dad!

During these days of Easter we are reminded that love never dies…so, who is loving YOU today? Eyes wide open? Coming at ya!

10 Ways to Pray When You Don’t Want to Pray

When it’s hard to pray

mmw_quiet_0709Sometimes it feels hard to pray… because first of all, you need to find the desire. Then second of all, the question of what to pray for and how jumps onto the scene. And thirdly, sometimes it can just feel like work.

So here are a few ideas to try:

1.

Stop wherever you are and take one intentional deep breath. As you inhale, think silently or say aloud: Peace. As you exhale, think silently or say aloud: Thank you, Jesus.

2.

Holding your cell phone / iPad / computer mouse / landline telephone in hand… mentally scroll through your contact list of family and friends and picture one person’s face in your mind. Focus on the love and joy that person adds to your life… just for 30 seconds.

3.

Take a moment to step outdoors… whatever the weather… and raise your face to the sky and take a deep breath. Open your ears to hear one particular sound that catches your attention. Identify the origin of the sound whether natural or manmade and relish the gift of hearing.

4.

At some less-than-crazy moment in your day, take a minute to open and close your hand so slowly that you can feel and see every muscle that moves. Like reeeaaaallllyyyy slowly. What a marvelous idea from God… to give us hands.

5.

Take a sip of water and say a quick Thank You Jesus! for clean water. Many parts of the world are not so lucky.

6.

Smile at someone you don’t know. It will help you feel happy.

7.

Let someone else go in front of you in line. A simple act of kindness can make a world of difference.

8.

Intentionally slow down your driving. Let others get in the lane ahead of you… drive the speed limit everywhere you go… turn off the radio in your car. Be silent and still inside amidst the rush of traffic.

9.

Stop thinking about the past moment… or the future moment. Place yourself in the present moment and see what gift it offers.

10.

Tell God that you really don’t feel like praying right now. It’s okay.

[ btw… did you catch that last one? Tell God… also known as praying… sneaks up on you sometimes when you’re not thinking about it :) ]

What? Me Worry?

easter fire 3 Lots of us huddled in the cool air last night around the “new fire” that was sparking in the breeze.  Overhead the clouds warned of rain, yet looking around me at the faces lit with only a small candle, there was something else in the air…HOPE.

Christ our Light…Thanks be to God!

easter fire 2Father George – on his 5oth anniversary of ordination, no less – called out from within the body, “Make this new fire holy, and inflame us with new hope!”

It was clear last night that the hope we long for – the hope that will ease the ache and sorrow of the struggles of this world – is so much bigger than ourselves. Our hope lies not in our own efforts to “put on a happy face” and wear “a stiff upper lip.” Our hope – that is meant to carry us forward when our own strength is drying up – is Christ. The Christ that is not conquered – by anything.

Christ our Light…Thanks be to God!

Over and over again in the readings this night we hear the same message made to everyone who has ever lived before us – “Unplug your ears! Open your eyes! I LOVE YOU and will not let you go!”

easter fire 6What seems crazy, unimaginable, ridiculous…becomes a reality! BREAK OUT THE PRESSES! God is in charge and “all things work for the good of those who love God.”  Sarah, the ancient bride of Abraham, will finally have a child! The chosen people, stiff-necked and stubborn, will be led through the desert with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night due to God’s pure mercy. No one will be lost. No one will be forgotten. If God counsels trust – and no worry – to my relatives in the old and new testaments, then I will embrace that for myself as well!

Christ our Light…Thanks be to God!

Fire transforms. Fire changes the substance of things. It is no coincidence that the church uses fire for the rituals which begin the celebration of Easter.

fire tried goldWe hear, in Scripture, about “fire-tried gold.” At a certain temperature the impurities within the gold ore dissolve and melt away, leaving the gold pure, strong, able to be molded and shaped into something precious and lasting.

No other analogy needed here. We get the point.

In the light of Christ’s fire – a fire of love that burns without ever being quenched - CAN YOU ACTUALLY IMAGINE BEING LOVED SO COMPLETELY? – we can never be the same.  We don’t walk out of that kind of reality the same way we walked in.

your flameLent is over. Today we celebrate being loved in ways that we will never deserve…by a God that just won’t call it quits on who we are.  He is Risen!!!  Alleluia!

I get it on one level and I don’t get it on many more…this is so much bigger than my head can comprehend. So – I am going  to leave it to faith and stop worrying.  God I believe – help my unbelief!  Thank you for your love!

Spread the Good News!!!!

Where Do You Belong?

” They do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world.” John 17: 16

The last days that Jesus spent with his close friends on earth were filled with lots of life and death reflections…in fact, the quotation from John’s Gospel above was so important to Jesus that he repeated it twice.  “They do not belong to this world anymore than I do.”

It means a lot to know that Jesus knows where I belong and to whom I belong…because sometimes, I really feel it.  I really feel like I do not belong to this world.

Jesus Ascends to Heaven

We have to be careful not to understand this “mystery” too literally. Jesus did not get sucked up into a cloud or ride one into heaven.  If we follow that concept through, so to speak, it becomes clear that thinking this way is more imagination than reality.

If Jesus really did “go up”, where did he go? To heaven? And where is heaven? In the sky above Palestine? But not above New York, Beijing, New Delhi, or Rio de Janeiro? Or does heaven wrap itself round the whole world? We can begin to see how outrageous things can get.

Actually, heaven is not a place at all. It is our definitive relationship with God, just as hell is the eternal severing of that relationship. ‘Heaven’ is where God is; and to be with God is to be ‘in heaven’.

Passing the Baton

Before Jesus leaves his disciples, he gives them their mission. Jesus, who confined himself to the people of Israel, tells them to continue his work all over the world. They will be able to do what Jesus himself could not do. “He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). They will be able to preach the Gospel to the whole world.  

We can do things in our lifetime that were beyond the wildest imagination of those early disciples. Satellites, television, radio, internet; our high-speed physical and technical mobility have changed the way we connect.   The next step of evangelization is to connect the message of God with the connections we make in every other way.

This mission from Jesus is definitely possible!

You live the mission as you continue the work of Jesus with your own hands.  You build the mission when you throw your weight behind good ideas that give life to others.  You expand the mission when you dream of things that have never been done before. 

The Ascension happened once.  The promise that it holds for all of us is eternal.  How will this call to discipleship change the way you live your life…today? 

Connect Me

I Am the Vine

Our Gospel this past Sunday was one of my favorites… “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  Click HERE to take a quick read… take your time and immerse yourself in the symbolism.

Great huh?

You Are the Branches

One of the great themes in this reading is connection.  God’s connection to us… our connection to God… our connection to other people.  The vine and the branch is a great visual for us to imagine the Body of Christ.

I come to the picture of a thick, stalky vine… like a tree trunk but also like a grape vine growing up from the ground.  In my mind, the vine is more wild and free than a tree but thicker and sturdier than a grape plant.

The branches shoot off from the home part of the plant in all directions… and I think of that fragile tendril at the end reaching and searching for the next solid place to cling to… much like the animators’ creations in Disney’s Fantasia movie.

The seeking part is what intrigues me.  How does the branch know where to go?  How does it decide when to make a new blossom or a new leaf?  How does it know when to make a grape?

It’s Connected to the Source

The branch knows all it needs to know because it is connected to the source… to the vine.  As long as the branch stays connected to the vine, there will be new blossoms, new leaves and new grapes.

There is a powerful message in that simple image for us.

When we as branches… stay connected to God as the vine… we will blossom and grow and produce fruit.

How to Stay Connected

Pray.  Love and serve one another.  Be a disciple.

Go be a branch today!

Where do you find yourself?

Spring is FABULOUS!

What a wonderful time of year!  The sun is shining longer.  Flowers and trees are popping out blooms.  The grass is growing green.  The air is feeling fresh and warm.  These days are feeling so nice!

How’s your spirit feeling?

Do you have a skip in your step?  Are you bouncing around your home or office with excitement to get outdoors?  Is the fishing tackle calling you to the lake?  Do you have the itch to start planting flowers and veggies in your garden?

How’s your spirit feeling?

Maybe it’s time to clean out the closets and pack away the winter coats… or put a fresh coat of paint in the kitchen… or plan a day-hike and picnic in the mountains… or dust off the patio furniture and the barbecue.

How’s your spirit feeling?

It’s That Time of Year…

… when we can get so focused on other things that we forget to take a moment and breathe deeply and ask ourselves where God is in our lives.

It’s easier to concentrate on the chores of springtime.  We have been putting them off for months now so it’s time to get to work… to clean… to sort… to toss out.

But it’s also that time of year to focus on new life… on Resurrection… on the gift of salvation… on the breath of God that will come at Pentecost.  In fact, it’s the perfect time of year to reflect on all things spiritual.  Because everything in our physical world… at least here in the northern hemisphere… is growing and blooming to remind us of the goodness of God and creation.

So how’s your spirit feeling?

Take a few moments each day to do a quick spiritual inventory.  Rate yourself on these questions… or create your own.

On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), how would you answer?

  1. How happy were you today?
  2. How well did you give your best effort in your relationships today?
  3. How well did you give your best effort in your work today?
  4. How well did you surrender yourself to God’s will today?
  5. How well did you serve the world today?

Maybe there are other questions that you want to add to the list.  Keep track of your answers for a week and then calculate an average.

How’s your spirit feeling?  It’s a great question to be praying about during spring!

That Lovin’ Feeling

Has it already passed?

The joy of new life that comes with Easter resurrection.  Do you still feel it?  Or has it already passed?

We are still in the season of Easter and will be for many more weeks until the Feast of Pentecost on May 27.  So theoretically… we should all still be basking in the glow of Easter joy.

But honestly…. are we?

It’s so easy to go back to the routine…

… of daily life / work / activities / ways of thinking and doing.

Maybe your Lenten journey culminated in an Easter Sunday feast with family and friends and the joyful return of whatever food and drink you had been sacrificing for all those weeks.  Maybe the anticipation of receiving sacraments at the Vigil Mass has given way to a satisfied spirit that is now resting in the peace of God’s grace.  Or maybe there wasn’t anything too out-of-the-ordinary at all that happened for you.

Perhaps the end of Easter is when all the discounted candy is gone from the grocery store.

Did Easter change you?

This year or last year or the year before?  Did resurrection make a difference in your life… back then or now?

Should it change us?
Should we be different people on the other side of death?

YES!

But how?  How does something that Jesus did nearly 2000 years ago make a difference to us today?  And why should it?

Those are tough questions that can’t be answered in a blog.  They need some figuring-out in each of us… we can only come to know those answers in our own hearts.  Thankfully we have lots of help… from people / priests / theologians / books / Bible / Church / liturgy… who can help us discover why resurrection is important and how we can live it everyday.

The Church isn’t relevant.

We can be tempted to believe that the Church / going to church isn’t relevant in life anymore.  And we can manufacture a lot of justifications and rationales to support that belief.

But honestly… there are more good reasons for the Church / going to church than there are not-so-good reasons.  And Resurrection is one of them.

Think about it.

Radical New Life

A more unique invitation has never been made to you.  Jesus, never one to waste time, offers something new…something that will resurrect what is dead within.  First step? Meet him in this new day – ears and heart wide open – asking to see yourself as he sees you – full of endless possibilities.  Second step?  Don’t doubt that he sees you that way.  Give way to HOPE!

People of the Resurrection

Resurrection is REAL!

It’s pretty easy in these modern times to quickly gloss over this whole Easter thing.

We are immune to retail displays of bunnies / eggs / baskets / candy.  It’s all just commonplace anymore… and if you are a buyer of such goodies then you probably look for exactly what you want and get out of the crowded aisle as quickly as you can.

There is a commercialism to Easter much akin to just about every other holiday on the calendar.

If you are one of the lucky ones…

… who is somehow connected to the preparation and events of people being initiated at the Easter Vigil, then Easter probably has some deeper intentional meaning for you.  As you participate in the journey of faith leading up to the celebration of sacraments, it is a fabulous opportunity to grow spiritually in the wonder that is new life.

But for many, Easter is just another Sunday… a little more special than most… but basically the same as the rest of the 52 other Sundays during the year.

We ARE people of the Resurrection!

Jesus’ death was a gift!  It may seem hard to frame it in that context… after all, it was bloody and gory and horrible.  But it was a gift to all of us.

So how will we receive the gift?  How will we show our appreciation?  By living as People of the Resurrection.

Here’s a bit of Fr. Bob Chorey’s homily (pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine in Fernley) from this 2nd Sunday of Easter… it’s good stuff.

The Resurrection, it is THE event of history.  It is THE event that began us, as Christians/Catholics.
The Son of God was killed, executed by humanity, and the Father raised him to new life and gave him back to humanity.
We have spent almost 2000 years living and experiencing this mystery, and we are nowhere near to exhausting the meaning of this event.
We have spent almost 2000 years of taking this event into our own hearts and lives, and letting it change us.
And by doing so, we have participated in the Resurrection of Christ.
This is all magnificently shown to us in our gospel passage and readings for today.
We have the resurrected Jesus coming to the disciples the first day of his resurrection.  He comes to them in the evening, in the darkness.  He comes to them as they sit in fear behind locked doors.
He does not come with recriminations, accusations, guilt or shame.  He comes in peace and breathes upon them the Spirit.  Thus, for John, the Church is born.

{ Click HERE to read it all… it’s worth the time! }

The Church is born!

We are born!  In the resurrection of Jesus, we are made new.  We are called to change and be changed by living as one community, one world.

We are challenged to live as People of the Resurrection… a people filled with hope and love and care for one another.  When we use our hands and our feet to be Christ on earth, we live out this call and give back to God what Jesus so generously gave us at the cross… himself.

How are you living the resurrection?  Do share with us!

And Then He Said Her Name…

 The Way Was Blocked

The last time she was there they had rolled a stone in front of the entrance of the tomb…kind of funny, really.  Jesus was dead.  Where did they think he was going?  Yet they blocked the way…there was no access to the one who called himself LIFE.

No access to Life?

Mary must have felt that way. Dead inside…like maybe, she couldn’t feel anything anymore – ever.

“She saw that they had moved the stone…Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardner, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned…” – John 20: 11-18

She goes to the tomb, expecting to find the stone across the entrance…but it has been removed.  She goes to the tomb expecting to mourn Jesus in a way that quiet and privacy allow…but she is not alone.  A man who seems to be the gardner is there talking to her – disturbing the solitude she craves.

Nothing is as she expected.  She is perplexed, frustrated, angry, frightened, distressed beyond words. 

Because she expected to see one thing and actually saw another – she almost missed it – she almost missed the encounter with God.

Jesus Saw it Happening Right in Front of Him

Jesus saw that she was on overload.  Often in Scripture it says that he looked at people “with great love.”  Imagine him looking at her that way as he cuts through the confusion, the questions, the near hysteria – and simply says her name. “Mary…” 

…and she knew him.  She sees him for who he is.  It takes her breath away. 

Stay with this image for a while.

 

 Expectations can be limiting.  Do they blind me to everything else that is offered?  If I only see what I am prepared to see, what happens to the wonderful things God wants to show me that I haven’t imagined yet?

So – God give me the ears to hear when I become blind and my eyes no longer offer me a glimpse of you! Allow me to hear my name – the way only you can say it.  Call me by that name and open my heart to the transformation that is possible – because it is you, like holy Mary Magdalene, that I race through life looking for.

  • What name does Jesus call me? 
  • When do I hear him speak my name to me?
  • What does it mean to me that Jesus knows my name and remembers my name?
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