Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As You Give the Grace, I Will Sing....

 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
      to be out of your sight?
   If I climb to the sky, you're there!
      If I go underground, you're there!
   If I flew on morning's wings
      to the far western horizon,
   You'd find me in a minute—
      you're already there waiting!
   Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
      At night I'm immersed in the light!"
   It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
      night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.  ~
Psalm 139:7-10 (MSG)

You Are My Hiding Place - Selah

Is there anyplace I can avoid God's Spirit?

Sometimes, it feels as though I am alone, and even though I know in my head that God is present, sometimes it is just really hard to sense his Presence.

Psalm 139 speaks of being afraid, I'm not afraid, just exhaustingly tired. I'm beginning to suspect some of my medication either doesn't like other medication or it doesn't like me.  Either way, there seems to be a battle going on in my body that is creating cramps that are preventing sleep. 

I feel like the person in this picture.  Not only do I feel a bit alone, but in my fatigue the world seems blurry, out of focus.

This morning I sat down to journal. I felt I needed to write something since I have been silent since the weekend, but I didn't know what I would write.  I don't exactly feel joyful. At the moment, a gratitude might be difficult.

Then Sarah Young reaches out to me from her devotion Jesus Calling.

Does it ever cause you to pause and step back when you have been thinking about something and then you open a book, receive a note or an email... and it is like a response to the thoughts you have been carrying!

Ummmm... Sort of like a burning bush or a talking donkey! : )
"There is no place so desolate that you cannot find Me there. When Hagar fled from her mistress, Sarah, into the wilderness, she thought she was utterly alone and forsaken. But Hagar encountered Me in that desolate place. There she addressed Me as the Living One who sees me. Through that encounter with My Presence, she gained courage to return to her mistress." (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)
This story comes from Genesis 16:7-14. Honestly, I had forgotten Hagar fled Sarah at the beginning of her pregnancy and then went back.

I respect those who believe these stories are literal, just as I always hope and pray these individuals will respect my belief they are sacred stories, to show me how to live, how to love, how to reach out to God......

I have preached and journaled about God's promises to always be near by, yet the reality is...there are days that feel blurry and out of focus.

God had made promises to Abraham and Sarah, in this passage from Genesis, God's promises widened to include Hagar when she was at a weak moment.  She ran away in to the desert or the wilderness....and it was THERE God found her. the wilderness!!!

I may google to learn how many passages in scripture deal with "the" wilderness.

Fact is, God has made promises AND I will make journeys into the wilderness. That is life and the reality is, I cannot run away from life.   I have to "go back" and simple BE.

Be with the pain.  Be with the fatigue.  Be with the blurriness.

Just be, and God will hear me and answer me...God will give me the fortitude to "live."

Sunday, during Parlor Conversations, I stressed the difference between someone saying, "I am living with cancer." and "I am dying of cancer."

My self talk, the words I carry in my head and in my heart...all those words create filters.  Those words are powerful and help me either LIVE and BE PRESENT or to simply fold in on myself and allow the fatigue to control my day.  

: ) Honestly, I don't choose to spend my day looking and feeling like this picture!

Zephaniah is one of those little prophet guys, stuck between Habakkuk and Malachi.  Zephaniah's voice kept telling the Israelites that "Yes" they had access to God, AND they also had to bother with people as well.  For me this morning Zephaniah 3:17 is telling me that "Yes, I have promised to be near you AND you have to continue living with the 'bothers' of your reality."
...don't despair.Your God is present among you,    a strong Warrior there to save you.Happy to have you back, he'll calm you with his love    and delight you with his songs.
My legs are still achy and my head remains fuzzy from lack of sleep...AND I am rejoicing to be alive in this moment of time!

The sky is blue with big white fluffy clouds.  The temperatures are cool.  Cooper has been here this morning, charming me with his smile...

Yes indeed.  Life is good. Thanks be to God.

I Will Sing ~ Don Moen


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Favorite People

I completed enough work I could play for part of this weekend!

So, on my Favorite People page, I've shared pictures of three of my favorite people in one of my favorite places!

Nancy and I took Payton and Cooper to Purdue today for "Meet the Players" and a good old fashioned pep rally.

It was a good day, and I wanted to share!

Hail Purdue!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Seek My Face

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Peace I Give To You My Friend

I'm covered up this weekend preparing a packet to give elders this Sunday.  Much of my time will be in preparing the agenda that will also include the reports from each team.  Last year we took the month of July off and the August Session meeting was a circus!  This year, we have not met since late May, so in order to curb the talk/talk/talk from last year, I'm working hard to make sure there will be a structure to keep everyone focused!

Besides the Session Packet, I have a Listening Exercise to write for Parlor Conversations, a bulletin to prepare AND a sermon to write!

My sermon this week is going to be on Moses being called to go to Egypt and get God's People out and Jesus reprimanding Peter when he tells him that Jesus cannot go to Jerusalem and that he must not suffer.

With this in mind, I began reading Psalm 105. It is a long psalm describing how God worked through his people generation after generation...even within the chaos, the overwhelm, the messiness. Using Macrina's suggestion on pausing with one verse that speaks to me...

Psalm 105:4 says, "Look to the Lord and his strength, seek his face always."

In other words, "Sandi, trust me in the midst of your messy desk, your me in the piles of work you have yet to complete!"

Sarah Young, in her devotional book "Jesus Calling" writes:
"Though you live in this temporal world, your innermost being is rooted and grounded in eternity. When you start to feel stressed, detach yourself from the disturbance around you. Instead of desperately striving to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch the peace you have in God."
Psalm 105:4 reminds me to "Seek My Face" and depend upon God's strength, wisdom, insight...  and to then embrace and celebrate the peace that God has to offer me!

Praise God!

I'm still faced with many things to accomplish, yet taking a moment to pause, reflect, and pray allows me to work from a place of peace rather than anxiety.

I wonder if God is smiling, giving Peter a high five and exclaiming, "By golly, there is hope for this girl yet!!!" : )

This Is the Air I Breathe...

Blessings for a weekend spent breathing in the peace of God!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Call to feast with the shoppers...

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something. ~ Sandra Day O'Conner

Bind Us Together, Lord...

Macrina titles this entry from her journal as "The harvest at the shopping mall: feasting with the shoppers." I nearly laughed out loud when I read this title.  You see, I hardly ever go to a mall any more.  MAYBE two times a year.  But yesterday morning, while I was sitting at my computer, focused on work...Nancy called:
Nancy: What are you doing? 
Me: Working. 
Nancy: I'm wanting to do something for fun! 
Me: Ok.... what? 
Nancy: I want to go to the northside.  Go to the mall because I want to show you some jeans that I think would fit you better than the ones from TJ Maxx (I love the bluntness and honesty of my daughters!) and I want to go to the Homestore.  
Me: (I will skip the conversation regarding the jeans!) long as we won't be gone long! I've work to do.
Honestly? This might have been my second trip to a mall all this year and I open the book this morning to "The harvest at the shopping mall..." ? What are the odds?
"My restlessness drove me to the mall today. There I milled around among all the shoppers looking at things I didn't need and wanting to fill my emptiness by purchasing some useless item." (Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p 142) 
When we pulled up outside the Homestore, there was not a empty spot to be seen. Nancy exclaimed, "Why are there so many people!! Don't they have to work!"

I did not see that many shoppers with bags at the mall, but at the Homestore, carts were full with all kind of stuff and the check out lines were long.  I wish I had read this journal entry yesterday so I could have carried these thoughts as I wandered in and out of stores...looking at things I didn't need and wanting to fill my emptiness by purchasing some useless item.

If Macrina had stopped right there, I would have had enough to consider today, but she continues:
"Suddenly something within me brought a poignant awareness of all the people rushing through the mall. It was as though in the midst of this crowded mall something holy was oozing through these scurrying human beings. I felt a sacred urge to kneel down in their midst and bow my head in honor of all the beauty of their lives that goes unseen. I overcame this urge rather quickly lest I be trampled...or locked up for being mentally unbalanced...I did find a bench...and had 'long looks' at the people. The long looks became prayers. I prayed the people as they rushed, casting healing glances in their direction." (Ibid)
I am a "people watcher".  I watch people at the gym.  I watch people wandering around a garden nursery. I watch people as they wait for a table at a restaurant.

I watch people, and I too sometimes think about how there is so much within that person, whom I don't know.  I think about how amazing it is that we are in this place, at the same time, and how we will shortly go our separate ways...yet our lives have touched ever so slightly in this moment of time.  We are connected by invisible threads.

I've had these thoughts and I have at times offered up prayers, yet Macrina's prayer touched my heart.  I wish to be a shopper walking by a Macrina:
"O God, I prayed, these are the people made in your image. Do you rush like this, God? Do you hurry through the heavens looking for bargains? O God, be in every heart that hurries. Be in every step that people take. Help them to know what it is they are shopping for. Feed the hungers of their hearts with a food they'll never find in shopping malls. Help them to slow down so they can taste their true hunger." (Ibid)
I believe in the power of prayer and I simply sit here and feel a sense of awe that someone sitting on a bench, might pray such a prayer as I walk by.  I wonder if my heart is open enough to feel the nudge of peace, love, or joy from that prayer?
Every knee shall bow....
"While still gazing at these hurrying people, I had a strange and lovely dream for them. I dreamed that everyone in the mall suddenly fell to their knees and adored the God in each other. A strange dra, perhaps, but wouldn't it be powerful if it came true? Can you imagine the peace of such a moment?...Can you see this moment of holiness? Can you imagine how heaven would feel?"
Like so many times throughout this book, I simply sit with a thought or image of Macrina's and think, "Wow..."  Macrina ends by saying she left the mall with empty hands, but with a heart that was full.


I am constantly saying, "Be the change that you want to see..." But, I'm not sure I would have thought of being a person of calm, love, the midst of a crowded store and with intention putting that sense of calm into the moment.  I'm amazed with the notion of praying a similar prayer over those who walk past me...

Because, even though we are separate, we are connected.  We are all one in God's tapestry of love and invited to dine together at God's Table.

God's Table is much bigger and broader than any Table I could find in any church here on this earth.

God's Table extends outside of our churches.

I am reminded of the passage from Isaiah that Jesus preached as I sit here pondering God's Table.  Luke 4 tells me of Jesus' time in the wilderness, and then takes me into the synagogue where I hear him preach:
  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In my mind, during those moments Macrina sat at the mall, she was anointing that "space" with the Spirit of the Lord.  No, People did not stop and kneel...but wasn't Macrina envisioning the spirit of Pentecost as expressed in Acts 2?
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says,
   I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
   your young men will see visions,
   your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
   I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
   and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
   and signs on the earth below,
   blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood
   before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
   on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
The question I will hold and carry in my heart today..."What if I truly saw God's Tapestry every time I looked at my family, the shoppers at Kroger or Walmart. What if I saw God's Tapestry within the images I am preparing for the 9/11 service?

Here's a good one....What if I saw God's Tapestry every time I looked out at my congregation?

Macrina envisioned every knee bowing and imagined the peace at such a moment.  By having done this....did she not send out the energy of peace into that space at that moment?  By having done it possible that one person's heart was slowed and that person also left the mall with a heart that was full?

I don't give God the opportunity to work through me nearly enough!

I think too small, depending on what "I" can do.

God, forgive me for not setting you lose within me to perform miracles...that I might never see and would be, by the world's standards, small and insignificant.  Yet, the world would see the small morsel of bread and the tiny cup of wine as small gifts.  But, I know...that small piece of bread and tiny cup hold Your Kingdom....HERE right my midst. God, help me to see your tapestry of love, in every face, in every creature, in all the scenes of nature... As I become more aware of your rich tapestry, may I then know true peace and may I share that peace wherever I go.  AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My response to my uncle...

A few have sent me an email, asking how I responded to my uncle.

I admit to taking a long moment to consider my words, but when I spoke it was something very close to...

"Uncle Robert, you served this country as a soldier when you were a young man. Is this not correct?"

"You have cared for the earth (my uncle was a farmer), and you were a phenomenal hog producer, raising livestock that was not only healthy, but cared for in a humane and kind manner. Would you agree?"

"You have laughed with all of us as we have grown and you have expressed concern and quiet love when we have bumped up against challenges and obstacles. Would you agree?"

"You have been an avid Boiler fan for as long as I have known you! Would you agree?"

"You cared and loved your parents and have remained close to both mom and Uncle Rich and their families through all your life. Would you agree?"

"You married a wonderful woman and together you raised a loving daughter. Would you agree?"

"You have lived a life of caring for others, both in a physical sense and financially. You have been generous in giving to the church both of your time and your money. Would you agree?"

"Uncle Robert, obviously, I have not passed on to be with Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Rich, Louis, Aunt it is through my hope in Jesus which gives me focus today, at this moment.  You and I both know that as Christians, we have faith in that which we cannot see.  Even if we did not have this hope, would you have done anything differently?"

"For what its worth, I do have faith that it is not a lie. As I stand here with you, I believe with all my heart that when you get to this place, you will be rewarded for the love you gave not only to me, but all the other lives you have touched, many never being aware of having done so."

(moment of silence...)

"And, Uncle Robert? When you get there, will you tell Grandpa he was successful in brainwashing me to believe the sun rises and sets on Purdue?"

At this point, after agreeing with all my questions and admitting he could not think of anything he would have done differently, my much loved uncle laughed, the laugh of someone who seemed to have a sense of joy and peace.

I wonder if I to, when I know I am growing weak and my days may be numbered here on earth....I wonder if I to will suddenly wonder if it has all been a lie.  I've thought about this ever since my conversation with my uncle.  Just as he couldn't think of anything he would have done differently, I think I will keep on traveling the same path I'm on!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Feasting with the Call to Love

Genuine love is so contrary to human nature that its presence bears witness to an extraordinary power. ~ John Piper

What we love usually manages to get into our conversation. What is down in the well of the heart will come up in the bucket of the speech. ~ Vance Havner

Lastly: Love, and do what you like. ~ St. Augustine

One Bread One Body by John Michael Talbot

Macrina doesn't waste time getting to the crux of her thoughts this morning.
"What does it mean to love? How do we spread this table in our hearts?" (Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p 141)
In talking with couples asking to be married, I have often used thoughts of Gary Chapman from The Five Love Languages. Chapman begins talking how our culture has diluted the meaning of "love."

We "love" our children. We "love" the color red. We "love" fried chicken. We "love" the Indianapolis Colts. We "love"..... you get the idea.

Macrina expands on Chapman's thoughts by saying she believes "love" also suffers from underuse as a virtue.
"I would so like for my love to bear at least some faint resemblance to the love of Jesus. In my meditations this morning my thoughts returned to Sister Maggie, who died last year at the age of 83. On the morning of the day she died she walked into our superior's office and asked an amazing question. 'How do you love?' Sister Louise wasn't prepared for this one...What a wonderful question to still be asking when you're 83. What a wonderful question to be asking on the day you die." (Ibid)
My heart nearly stops as I read of Sister Maggie. Yes, I understand Macrina's thoughts of how wonderful...

I am reminded of sitting with my uncle this past February as he approached his time of passing to be with God.  This man was one of the most gentle, kindest, thoughtful men I had ever known.  I know he had a deep faith, yet he was a quiet individual who didn't wear his thoughts/beliefs on his sleeve. One morning, after a particularly difficult night my uncle took my hand and grabbed my full attention then asked, "What if it is a lie? What if everything I and you have said we believe is a lie?"
"Sister Louise spoke to Maggie about the love of Jesus, pointing out to her some of the ways Jesus loved. And then Sister Maggie burst forth with a cry of the heart that would probably be our own cry if we were able to check the depths of our hearts. 'Oh,' she said, 'I want to love. I want to love like that.' She died that evening. 
"I have a vision of God hearing her cry and saying, 'If she wants to love she's not going to learn it here, so I'll take her to my own heart.'" (Ibid)
I wonder how I can dare ask the harder questions, with such heart felt intensity that my uncle and Sister Maggie asked?

I ask questions... I am continually questioning and wondering... Yet, I wonder if these two people, asked from a deeper place?  I want to be able to dig down into the very depths of my heart...

How do you love?

These deeper questions ask for a deeper response.  Not a pat on the hand and a simple answer one might give a child.

Macrina challenges me to consider these questions that come from the depths of my heart where I normally do not dig.
"What do we see when we look into our families, our communities, our hearts? What do we see when we look into the faces of our parents, our sisters and brothers, our friends? Let's not wait until we're 83 to ask, 'How do you love?' Are we teaching one another what love is? I'm not sure of very much in life. I don't have a lot of ready answers, and I still do much wondering and pondering, but there's one thing of which I am certain. WE OUGHT NOT DIE UNTIL WE LEARN TO LOVE. Life doesn't work without love." (Ibid)
What does it mean to love like Jesus?

As a Christian, I believe I love, yet... and here comes the harder, the deeper question..... I am working on a 9/11 Remembrance Service.  Sitting with Macrina's thoughts, harder questions arise for me...

How do I love someone who I don't particularly like?

How do I love someone I don't know?

How do I love someone who doesn't love me?

How do I love someone who wishes me harm or even professes hatred toward me?

It is very easy to love my family and my friends. Even when I am "upset" with them, I still love them.

It is easy for me to "love" the needy among me...I send money or food, or clothing...but, Lord, I don't go live among them nor do I invite them into my home.

 I love from my abundance, it doesn't hurt or cost me to love.

That, I think, was the deeper question Sister Maggie was asking.  Honestly? I'm afraid to ask that question because I'm pretty sure I don't want to consider the response.

Today, I'm not ending my journaling with a warm fuzzy feeling.  Instead, this morning, I will carry the question of "How do I love?" with me throughout my day. Still, even in my unsettledness, I feel confident of God's love for me! Praise be to God!

Mark 14 never fails to stir my heart, but this morning vs 22-24

 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
   24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Even as I hold the hard questions...the deeper questions...I will also hold these words in my heart today and I will be glad.

Third Day
Children of God by Third Day

Lord, you showed us how to love, but I'm not sure my small heart can stretch as wide and as open as yours. Today, as I go about my day, open my eyes so that I might see as you me to love as you love. AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Come to the Table

"There is a table to which we are invited each day. It offers us trees and stones, sunshine and stars, eagles and angels, roots and water, joy and sorrow, earth and fire, flesh and blood, storms and memories, words and silence, spiders and webs, night and day, death and life, crust, crumbs, and loaves." ~ Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p 135

Come to the Table - by Michael Card

I have not thought of my striving to live from an attitude of gratitude as also being in communion.  Yet, Macrina's quote encompasses all of life.  The Table of Love is prepared for each of us...for me...each moment.  I am daily invited to come and to eat.

Macrina shares once again the poem entitled Love, by George Herbert. When read slowly, it is a powerful poem. The words that stand out for me:

'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'
Herbert's poem closes with the words...the challenge...the invitation...

"You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat." 

All to often I am grabbing a bit as I head out the door.  Or I grab a bite while driving some place.  Sometimes I grab a bite while I stand and do other things.

"You must sit down.."

Macrina writes:
"Unfortunately, most of us turn away from this table, not because we sense our unworthiness, but rather because we are so busy, we're oblivious to the invitation...we have to be at least present enough to recognize Love's invitation." (Wierderkehr, p 136)

Macrina writes of a time when she was sitting in the Greek Theater at the University of Arkansas when she remembered Herbert's poem. She began saying the words over and over again when she sensed the divine energy of Love standing before her.  

With everything that was going on, she knew that God only asks her one question, "Will you let Love serve you; will you sit and eat?"

She writes that it was a sacred moment as she sat quietly and let the morning fill her. She prayed "the morning" and silently she "ate up the dawn."
"I was feasting at the table of daily life." (Ibid)
This morning, in my gratitude journal of 1000 Blessings, I wrote how I loved "the moment when the sky was quiet, wrapped in shades of pale pastels that waited the arrival of the magnificent sun." 

I did pause, and I can appreciate that I was feasting at the table of daily life in those minutes.
"Our experiences feed us all we need to be holy, yet it is only in reflecting on these experiences that they can be changed into prayer."
"The Table of Daily Life" is the final chapter within this book, "A Tree Full of Angels."  It is like Macrina saved the best for the last, or perhaps I needed to work through the other insights and thoughts in order to fully appreciate the gift of being invited, daily, to feast at the table of life.

In this last chapter, Macrina shares experiences that have fed her at the table of daily life and how journaling with these experiences has turned them into prayer.  She writes, 
"It wasn't prayer that I was searching for, but rather a prayer that was searching for me. The prayer found me when I accepted Love's invitation to come to the table of life." (Ibid)
In his abundant grace, Jesus offers the invitation to Come...and everyone every morning. He offers me the invitation and sadly, there are days I am living under the illusion that I am too busy to pause and sit in order to taste life's moments fully. I allow the noise of all that is around me and within me to deafen the sound of life. Macrina writes,
"We are often content to remain shallow. We fail to plumb the depths of all we can be. Busyness, noise, and shallow living are three great enemies of the spiritual life. Flannery O'Connor suggests that human nature is so faulty it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does."
Macrina challenges me to recognize that each morning I stand face to face with the grace of a new day. She invites me to proclaim the truth: I am not too busy to taste the fullness of life today."

Again, in his grace, God gave me freedom of choice so the choice is always mine to accept or to turn away because I choose to spend time in worry or activity.

Years ago I read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. In the book, Lewis provides a series of lessons for a young demon, Wormword, to help him understand ways to undermine faith. The lessons center on daily living and the choices we make that keep us from feasting on the holy.  Basically, Wormword is taught by Screwtape to let the humans do what they do naturally.  Wormword is shown how to offer to us things that cause anxiety, fear, worry and to then simply stand back as we choose to feast at the table of fear.

There is a familiar saying that claims, "Time is money" but this morning, as I sit with my thoughts and reflections I think time is life and if I want to live life from the place of wholeness in Christ, I want to find the fullest time.  It is to easy for the busyness of life to leave little room for the very Source of Life.

Sadly, God gives me time and all to often I don't have time for God.  How crazy is that!

A woman shared with me this week her hectic schedule and the grieving that has been a part of her already packed calendar:
"The past month of Sundays have been filled with band and cattle showing. This Sunday, the kids will be showing cattle in another state. This past month has also been a month of people dying. A few weeks ago it was a young father in the community, then right after that it was my best friend's nephew then two days later a friend of my daughter's mother was murdered.  My friend _____'s son had a heart attack then just a few days ago a classmate of my daughter killed himself. I just learned that on that same day a friend of mine drowned in a pool. 
"There are too many memorial services.  Its depressing. Every time I turn around, there is another funeral."
Where is the invitation to feast at life's table within such moments as these?

I believe the invitation comes in the pause.  And in that pause, we can give all the pent up energy, the raw emotion to God...because when I hold this kind of life "within", I miss seeing God in the midst of such pain and fatigue. There is simply no room!

It is in these times, when I may even be saying the right words for others, yet my soul is feeling empty that Wormword and Uncle Screwtape are laughing in delight.

"Sandi! Come to the Table, I've prepared for you...!"

Jesus, my Friend, my Teacher, and my Savior! Thank you for the invitation this morning to feast upon the morning sky.  I wasn't consciously aware how those moments were feeding my soul, preparing me as I opened Macrina's book to the last that I could appreciate her words from my own experience. By your Spirit, help me to sense your invitation throughout my day.  When "Wormword" tosses me crumbs of worry or fear, help me have the strength from having feasted at your table to resist. I look forward to these last few pages. Open my heart so that I might be fully present to your Word. And Lord, surround my friend as she walks/lives during a time of intense busyness and grief. AMEN.

All of my life...I have a reason to sing!!!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quiet Angel

This morning I'm heading for the hospital to be with a family from my be a friend.  Before heading out, I wanted to share this video on this sunny Monday morning. I thought it very appropriate as a reflection moment to go along with Macrina's book, A Tree Full of Angels.


How and to whom might you be a quiet angel with today?

How and to whom might you share some crumbs of grace?

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Being a Seeker AND a Dweller

" a dweller. Your dwelling will save you from the unproductive restlessness that seekers sometimes fall into." Macrina Wiederkehr (A Tree Full of Angels)

 I journaled on Thursday that it seemed as Macrina was writing in response to my own questions and doubts; that she had read some of my journals or had listened in on some of my conversations.

Her friend Reid wrote a letter sharing:
"Sometimes I think I can only claim to be 'Christian.' When one breaks it down any more than that, I begin to waver and can't make a clear choice. Even the Bhagavad Gita has a place in my heart. Am I a fence sitter or a lost sheep?"
I journaled about my own journey of Seeking here...  This morning I will continue journaling with Macrina's thoughts on being a Seeker, yet also a Dweller.

Macrina offers her friend,  Reid the stories of two seekers who are dear to her heart, Nikos Kazantzakis and Simone Weil.
Nikos Kazantzakis 1883-1957
"Nikos was a wonderfully passionate Greek who lived as one with wings. He could not slow down. He lived hunting for God. In his autobiography, Report to Greco, he is talking with an old monk at the Sinai Monastery. The topic of the conversation is his terrible restlessness. He says to the old monk, 'I belong to the heresy called, 'always uneasy.' I have been battling ever since childhood. 
"The old monk leans forward , 'Battling with whom?' he asks. Nikos hesitates and suddenly feels terror rising in his heart. 'With whom?' the old monk asks again, 'With God?' 
"'Yes,' Nikos answers, 'with God. Can this be a disease? Father, how can I be cured? 
"'May you never be cured,' the old monk answers. 'Since you are wrestling with God, alas if you are ever cured of this disease. 
Looking for truth...
"For Nikos this struggle was truly a dis-ease. He spent his life always uneasy, yet wrestling with the Divine. He was not cured of this dis-ease until the great healing of death. His life was a passionate struggle to find God." (Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p 127)
Seeking, I think I was looking for a place to be "comfortable" to be in a place I could fit in with all my questions...and doubts. Now, I realize it wasn't exactly "comfort" I sought as much as it was desperately looking for  God in those places.  I had books and audio CDs by many wonderful spiritual teachers of different paths.  I kept thinking, "If I do this..." or "If I practice this..." and "If I follow this wisdom..."

All those teachers, and I only felt more and more confused and "dis-eased."

Macrina offers the story of another Seeker, Simone Weil:
Simone Weil 1909-1943
"The other seeker I offer you is Simone Weil. I suppose we could say she was a Jewish Christian, for she was steeped in Christ. I think the reason Simone found more peace than Nikos is that she learned something Nikos never learned. She learned to wait. Her entire life was a waiting for God. She claims that we can do nothing on our own to get to heaven, but if we wait long enough, God will come and lift us us. 
"I am especially touched as she describes a mystical experience she had while reading George Herbert's poem 'Love.' She claims that during one of these recitations Christ came down and took possession of her. Yet even after that experience she struggled with her intellect. Writing of this experience she says: 
'Yet I still have refused, not my love but my intelligence. For it seemed to me certain, and I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms." (Weiderkehr, p 128)
I have never read anything Simone Weil has written, but this insight alone describes so well my own learning!  I feel as though I have discovered a Soul Sister!

In my restless seeking, I kept going here and there...listening to this teacher and that preacher...SEEKING for "truth."  I was born and raised within a main-line denomination...but was all I had been taught "truth" or was it simply the words of some writer of curriculum?  I kept thinking there had to be more......I wanted my head to feel as full as my heart.

Thursday I journaled that during my seeking, I discovered words and teachings within all kind of paths that I had also heard within the sacred Scriptures, the Bible, of which I was raised.

I didn't articulate it as well as Simone, but I also, in all my seeking, began to discover Christ as Truth within the words of other teachings.  With that discovery, I realized "Truth" was everywhere in everything and my frantic searching was only causing me confusion within my unsettledness.  I felt dis-eased.

Although I did not use these words, I came to a similar place...and I finally began to be still!  In the stillness, I realized I could seek Christ by staying on one path and strive to go deeper within that one path rather than to be broad by staying on the surface of many paths.  I began to understand that my head could feel as ful as my heart by going deeper into the path of my ancestors...within the Church.

So, my Truth, became the Christ of the Holy Bible and I decided to seek that Truth not only within the church, but within the denomination I was most familiar.  By going back to the church...and PC(USA) I knew what I appreciated and needed within this system, just as I was aware of those places that caused me to bristle. : )

Macrina continues:
"I give you Nikow and Simone because I think the four of us have a common problem: the need for certitude. Our intellects, clear as they are, can at times be blocks to spiritual growth. Jesus said that it was hard for a rich person to get to heaven. Well, I say that it is hard for an intellectual to fall int the arms of God. But it can happen, as Simone has shown us...No matter what church I belong to, there are two things I must hang on to for dear life. One is my head. The other, my heart. Thinking and loving integrate well." (Ibid)

One is my head. The other, my heart...

PC(USA) is in transition and continues to be "reformed" ... and that only comes from continually being in process, something that may be uncomfortable and confusing for many.  I realize this denomination has its faults, just as I realize it has strengths.  But I believe that Christ's Church is much bigger than the faults and strengths that can be found in any denomination.

For me, I need the structure of this denomination. I can also grow within this denomination because of its openness.  I am part of a denomination that is in process and it will never be perfect because it is a denomination of sinners...some of whom are truly seeking to know Christ and to make Him known to others. It is with these sinners, I strive to connect and to walk alongside.

As Macrina realized...No matter what/where I belong, there are two things I must hang on to for dear life. One is my head. The other, my heart. Thinking and loving integrate well.

Macrina concludes her reflections with Reid by sharing one more quote from Nikos that was taken from his reflections on his childhood...before he lost his ability to wait.
"I remember frequently sitting on the doorstep of our home when the sun was blazing, the air on fire, grapes being trodden in a large house in the neighborhood, the world fragrant with must. Shutting my eyes contentedly, I used to hold out my palms and wait. God always came - as long as I remained a child, He never deceived me - He always came, a child just like myself, and deposited his toys in my hands: sun, moon, wind. 'They're gifts,' He said, 'they're gifts. Play with them. I have lots more.' I would open my eyes. God would vanish, but His toys would remain in my hands.'"  (Wiederkehr, p 129)
Being/Having the heart and mind of a child...

All I need, as I continue to Seek, is to have the heart and mind of a child.

"All I need?"

To do this I let go of what "I" believe to be Truth...and to wait... to wait with open hands in order to receive the gifts God so wants to give me...the "toys" which to play.

God of Truth, help me to calm my restlessness as I journey along the path of the church...where I believe you have placed me.  By your Spirit, help me to continually be seeking your face. Spirit, help me to wait with open hands. Help me to be childlike in your presence. AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Friday, August 19, 2011

Amazing Art

No, this isn't a post on Macrina's book or some other spiritual reflection yet I wanted to share this wonderful art with others.

This morning I was blessed by Lorenzo Duran's Leaf Art while reading what The Redhead Riter had to say this morning.

Lorenzo's blog is in Spanish. There is a button along the top you can click to have it translated to English, but this is only important if you are interested in contacting him to make a purchase.

Here is a sampling of this gifted man's work.  Enjoy!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi