Saturday, June 30, 2012

On Leaving...

I shall stop talking about this "leaving" topic soon. It'll soon be time to look forward.

At any rate, today, I wanted to share the link to the blog post I wrote yesterday on my church blog. Yesterday was my last day....

Friday, June 29, 2012

"and it is in dying that we're born to eternal life" - Prayer of St. Francis

When I started to write this post, I went straight to my head. There was catechism and scripture quoting and all sorts of things. After it was written and as I fell asleep, I found myself thinking: where am I in this post? 

Are these not meant to be meditations on our experience with this? Why did I go directly to the intellectual, safe, place? 

What am I not doing that's made me put on my lecture pants? (I imagine them to be an orange plaid.)  Lecture-girl is usually guilt-driven (why yes, I have read emily freeman's "grace for the good girl" and I am doing the read-along too).

What is it in "and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life" that scares me?

Am I really dying to self? Am I really stepping aside and letting God lead me, guide me? When it comes to God versus the couch and potato chips, not so much.

Before we get to the possible answers to these questions, let's segue and talk a bit about "eternal life".

I grew up believing that "eternal life" meant heaven, and heaven was somewhere you went after you died.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays in the garden and right in the middle of this prayer, he says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3, NIV).

"eternal life" == "knowing God and Jesus Christ"

According to the New Jerusalem Bible (which gives precedence to accuracy over poetry), "know" is in the Biblical sense -- but not in THAT Biblical sense. (Truly, what did I learn as a teen?)

The heavily footnoted New Jerusalem Bible says that " 'knowledge' is not merely the conclusion of an intellectual process, but the fruit of an 'experience', a personal contact; when it matures, it is love." Love here being hesed (a fun word to say), often translated as "steadfast love".

Eternal life isn't later, we can experience it now. Just by knowing God and Jesus Christ.

End of segue. :)

The Prayer of St. Francis repeats a certain formula. In the first part, we are giving. in the second part, we are denying something for ourselves in order to give. That it is more important to console, understand and love, than it is to have someone else console, understand and love us.  

This denial has been referred to as dying to self, which I think is about the hardest thing God can ask of us. To put God first, always. To walk in the Way of Christ and live as he lived: healing, helping, loving.

Oh yeah, now I can see why I wanted to lecture. It's an impossible expectation that this "good girl" can't refuse and feels incredibly guilty that she isn't achieving some of these. (Emily freeman's book "grace for the good girl" explains so much better than what I'm about to summarize.) As a good girl, I seek to earn God's love, instead of accepting his grace and mercy. As a good girl, I see this as a rule, a duty, a requirement in order to be loved by God.

And so I put on my lecture pants about the true meaning of words and phrases and try not to think of how far I need to go in fulfilling this "rule".

But this is a prayer, not a rule. It's a call for the Kingdom of God to come here on earth through the gifts God has given us to be loving, compassionate, for we were made in God's image after all. We can each step into relationship and bring the knowledge of God's love for us through our actions, and it'll be unique for each of us who are uniquely created.

And so it is in walking in this way, of replacing the dark with the light, of being a light, of letting another know that they are loved by God because you acknowledge their existence, their pain and you love them still.

There, we get to experience God, to get a hint of what it is like to have the steadfast love he has for us, to feel in our skin why Christ died for us.

It is all God wants of us. To know Him --and the ways expressed in this prayer can help us with that.

May we pray it together?

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Blessings to you this weekend.

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to Make Room for God...

That's my latest challenge now that I'm leaving my job (and yesterday's post, below). I have an endless summer of Sabbath to discern what God has planned for me in this next chapter of my life.

I was afraid that, left to my own devices, I would fritter away my days surfing the net, watching tv, or playing Civilization IV.

So I made a schedule. A schedule, as soon as I finished reading it, I saw was unkeepable. I mean look at it...

It has footnotes and everything!

Those footnotes are lists of different ways of being attentive to God, things that I would do if I were away on retreat. (Incidentally if you can read the fine print at the bottom, "coursework" refers to the Inner Excavate-along that I talked about here, followed by Christine ValtersPaintner's "The Artist's Rule of Life".)

OK, I told myself, this is just a guideline, that when I'm aimlessly wandering the house, or flicking through channels, this is where I will come to see what it is I am supposed to be doing.

And then I read Jennifer Lee's post about her toe-ring. It's a beautiful, beautiful post about we who are broken, we who make plans and where God is in all that. (picture below used with her permission)

Who was planning this summer? Me or God? So far, I'd made it clear that I didn't trust myself -- or God -- to find the time from Him to speak. I am pretty sure that God needs all the help He can get to capture my attention. {/sarcasm}

I think that's why retreats work so well in creating space to spend time with God, because all other distractions are gone.

The important thing is, I hope, is my attentiveness to God. Thanks to Ann Voskamp's "1,000 Gifts" I have learned a lot about being attentive this year and continue to learn through practicing it. God speaks to me in so many different ways, whereas once upon a time, God had to deliver good "clue by four" to get my attention.

I don't want to waste my time this summer with a myriad of distractions, and I don't want to crowd God out with planned activities. So like they say in a certain movie about pirates, my schedule's just a guideline. I hereby promise it won't be rigidly adhered to, that there will be space for having fun in the park, at the museum, reading all day or just sitting at Jesus' feet.

Wish me luck.

How do you pay attention to God during your day?

Linking with most deep thanks to Jennifer's:
I am linking this to Ann Voskamp's "Walk with Him Wednesdays".

For those of you joining from God-Bumps and A Holy Experience, my story about leaving my job is here in Monday's post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Transitions, expectations and church work

One of my earliest memories of being in ministry (church work, if you will) is labeling lots of church newsletters and then walking all over the neighborhood, hand delivering them. I was a teen, post-confirmation.

Church work (along with singing) has always been central to how I express my faith -- for both good and bad reasons.

Good, being that I stepped up to fill a void. Good, in that I truly believe I was making a difference with my work.

Bad, in that I did it to show that I was a good Christian, to prove I was worthy of being called a Christian. Bad, in that I acted out of fear.

Yeah, I have some issues. I have shed or am shedding most of those bad reasons, but I still get tripped up in them sometimes.

Now, after spending a lifetime of volunteering, leading, working for a church -- now, I am stopping.

I've been told more than once that this will be really hard, to not be drawn back into that old way of being.

But I've promised God to sit at His feet and learn what it is that he has in store for me next, and it wouldn't surprise me that I will discover a few new things about being in relationship with God in the process.

I have to put to one side all speculation on the future, all that I am comfortable with now, all that others hope I will do, and allow God to reveal God's plan.

So for now, it is Sabbath, rest and discernment. And with any luck, I'll actually be patient about it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Joy Dare: the secret I've been holding...

Over the past few weeks, I've been writing down gifts that I've had to be a bit obscure about. I have been waiting for my church's official announcement so I could go public. It went out in an email on Friday and was announced on Sunday, so now I can share what's been going on.

At the end of the month, I leave my job as Communications Director (part-time) at my church.

For a bunch of reasons, but the two major ones are this: the job outgrew my skill set (my church needs someone to take them to the "next level"); and God has been calling me to something new and I needed to sit in the pews to answer that call. This new call started last October, during a retreat, and I partially answered it by refocusing my blog, but I always knew God wanted me to do something more.

And, basically, both my boss and I discerned that I had to clear the decks to answer that call: to ask, to listen, to obey. I know I am incredibly privileged to not have to work and be able to spend this time in discernment. (We shall see how soon I go stir crazy.)

So I thought I would re-share some of those earlier gifts, as they now make more sense to the casual reader.

May 24, #441. a decision to be made
May 25, #443. discerning conversation
#444. day out of joint, discombobulated
May 27, #449. words from my solo: "Bring a glimmer of the depth of God's will. Bring understanding, God's plan be fulfilled." (from the song "Holy Spirit, Come" by Jesse Manibusan)
May 29, #456. decision made
June 1, #464. a decision told (to staff)
June 6, #480. comments at "chatting at the sky" post on introverts - what a God-gift.
#483. putting together a playlist that expresses all I feel (will be sharing this later in the week).
#484. "and I live and I breathe for an audience of one" ("This Journey is My Own", Sara Groves)
June 8, #489. so many blog posts today reminding me that God is always with me.

and that brings us to this week, starting June 18:

522. a cup of Sunday quiet
523. finally getting the hand washing done
524. art
525. Ann Voskamp's beautiful video - a reminder of the gifts
526. seeing the ride home through a camera lens (which I had left at work!)
527. a sharpie hiding blue thread
528. a river in Egypt (I am not the one in denial! but it was funny...)
529. gentle breeze
530. taking photos to remember

new fern fronds being birthed out of old, dying fern

531. laughing over Aussie political comedy
532. someone hired to hold the fort
533. laughs and dancing at choir practice
534. sleeping in (a whole half an hour!)
535. unearthing "treasures"
536. resuming Tai Chi classes
537. lazy morning
538. bouncy dogs
539. grilled shrimp
540. golden madonna in afternoon light

541. crescent moon above marine layer
542. cool white sleeveless top
543. having a blast at worship

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Inner Excavatealong Week 1

I am running about a week behind the Inner Excavatealong, but I thought I would share one art journal spread that I've done (in my Full Tilt Boogie journal).

I'm at the beginning of a new chapter in my life, or will be as soon as work finishes up by the end of this month, so the read along was almost perfect timing. So glad I can go at my own pace.

You can see the photo exercise for week 1 peeking out behind the short page on the right. I've been documenting my last couple of weeks at work. It feels a little more scrap-booky than art-journaly right now, using foam stamps I haven't used in an age, and using photos instead of painting and drawing (and having way too much fun with washi tape), but as I go on (especially as I get more time), I'm hoping the pages will be a little more developed...

In case you can't read the two poems, here they are:

I am
an adventurer who likes to play it safe
a soul bestowed
green and gold
all shades of purple
soaking in the cool
trying to remember to breathe
just breathe
and waiting

I begin
at an ending
waiting to hear
I leap
        in faith
yet hiding under the covers
I seek
       my long-lost self
millimeter by millimeter
the self God created
I am really enjoying this, and I doubt I would have even picked up the book and started this if I hadn't happened to read it on somebody's blog. (Please don't ask me who.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

"it is in pardoning that we are pardoned"

We continue the series on the Prayer of St. Francis. Our guest today is Mary. She is a thirty something Catholic woman who enjoys gardening, swimming, and verbal sparring. She lives in a nondescript small town with her husband and two elderly cats. You can find her blog at St. Henry

Several years ago, one of my friends was killed by a drunk driver.  To protect his family's privacy, I'll call him Jacob, but that's not his real name.  Jacob had done some dumb things when he was young, but he turned his life around in a major way, had a family he adored, and was committed to being the best man he could be.  And just as it seemed that everything had come together for him, it was all over.  "Unfair" doesn't begin to describe it.

Those of you who've lost someone suddenly know the hurricane of emotion that swirls around you during those first few days.  Shock. Pain. Sadness over what that person was and the dreams they never fulfilled.  And anger.

If you know me, you know I'm the Queen of Grudge-Holding, and it will probably shock you to hear that I don't hold a grudge against the drunk driver who killed Jacob.  It certainly shocks me to think that; this person is probably the one person who I really have a right to be enraged with, and yet... I'm not.

It very nearly went the other way.  A day before Jacob's funeral, I had made my way past the initial shock and into the anger stage.  I wanted to make that drunk driver hurt like I did.  I wanted to beat the living daylights out of him.  I wanted to scream every curse I knew at him, to salt his fields and poison his well, to destroy something he loved as much as I loved my friend.   I wanted him to know what he had done to this man's wife and children and parents and siblings and friends and coworkers.  I wanted revenge. 

But something stopped me.  It was one of those moments that Oprah would call an "aha moment," and what I now know was the intervention of the Holy Spirit, although I didn't see it that way at the time.

As I was having my "crush your enemy and see him driven before you" fantasy, I suddenly had a vision of what this would do to me.  I saw myself becoming into a bitter old woman before I even turned 30.  I saw myself alienating people, giving myself an ulcer, and driving a wedge between myself and Jacob's widow.  I saw that anger and hate did not honor Jacob's memory; for all his faults, he was (and still is) one of the kindest people I've ever known.  Worst of all, I saw that Jacob would be disappointed in me. A lifetime of hating that drunk driver would not bring Jacob back.  It would accomplish nothing other than adding to my misery.

I closed the door on bitterness and hate.  Every time I found myself starting to get angry at the drunk driver, I'd find a way to stop myself. I'd remember the type of man Jacob was and that revenge did not honor his memory.  Eventually, I thought about the guilt that the drunk driver must walk around with, how it must eat at him every single day.  I still can't find it in my heart to feel sorry for him - after all, he chose to drive drunk.  But I can tell him that his sin is forgiven, and he can go in peace.

And that's how I know that in pardoning we are pardoned.  By pardoning this man, I also pardoned myself from a lifetime of anger and alienation and regret.  Because I pardoned that man, I can focus on the way Jacob lived, not the way he died.  And maybe I gave myself the capacity to pardon a few other people I've been holding grudges against.

I still miss Jacob a lot, as does everyone who knew him.  I think he's a lot happier with the way I honor his memory now than the way I would have tried to do so had I continued on the bitterness track.  I hope that when I get to the pearly gates, he'll be there and just as glad to see me as I am to see him.  And I know that when I arrive, I'll have a much more interesting story than having spent my life on revenge.

"For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you" - Matthew 7:2

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Joy Dare Monday ... giving thanks

497. gray skies
498. making a bus connection
499. jacaranda in full bloom
500. marine layer and a longer walk to work
501. smile from driver who waited for me to cross the driveway
502. curious, but at peace
503. woo hoo! made it to 500!
504. fresh air
505. prayer answered
506. cheeping of baby finches
507. baby finch progress
508. feedback on an art journal page
509. waiting for glue to dry
510. half day
511. finished journal (making it not creating inside)

512. an amazing husband
513. warm water from the shower pulsing on my head
514. music saves
515. spiritual discussion over breakfast
516. beautiful art
517. sore leg, feeling sick
518. birdies are gone from the nest
519. feeling better and rested
520. walking around nephew's college campus in 100+ degree weather
521. ice cold water

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"For it is in giving that we receive" - Prayer of St. Francis

Today's guest blogger in this series on the Prayer of St. Francis is Helena Chan. Helena doesn't have a blog. Together, we went through EfM (Education for Ministry) for three of the four years and we now chant Lauds at the Cathedral once a month.

Rummaging through my closet, I recover a sizable 11 x 14 calligraphic incarnation of this prayer attributed to Saint Francis, 
delivered by the hands of a Benedictine monk.

Brother Roy’s black and blue ink flow from the outer edge of the page in concentric circles, 
toward the center – LORD – embossed and imprinted in the paper, 
anchoring the prayer as I touch, see, and sense.

Momentarily, my mind flits to another place, distracted from Brother Roy and the calligraphy before me. 
I pull “St. Benedict’s Prayer Book” off my shelf, wondering whether these Benedictines have this prayer in their collection. 
They do, and here it is:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;where there is hatred, let me sow peace,where there is injury, let me sow pardon,where there is doubt, let me sow faith,where there is despair, let me sow hope,where there is darkness, let me give light,where there is sadness, let me give joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not try to be comforted, but to comfort,not try to be understood, but to understand,not try to be loved, but to love. Because it is in giving that we receive,it is in forgiving that we are forgiven,and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. AMEN. 

These words feel a little different from Brother Roy’s, but this week’s verse is the same: 
Because it is in giving that we receive.

There’s a shift in this verse; it’s the beginning of the end of the prayer – a tying together and relating, 
a conclusion that opens up to something new.

Maybe this week, when it is Me giving, then We receive.
I remember a recent conversation.
“When you create and make something, like a new computer, someone can take it and do something with it. 
You empower someone else. If you made a computer that didn’t quite work, and someone relied on you to fix it, you would be trying to hoard power.”

If I hoard, I am a slave to what I hoard. And I cannot be free. 
I cannot be free alone.
I know now, that we are either all free, or all slaves.
Because it is in giving that we receive.
When I give what is true and empower others, we each receive freedom. 
This is the movement from “me” to “we” that I see in the prayer.

My spark of epiphany over, I return to be empowered by Brother Roy’s art. 
I walk through the circular labyrinth, tracing and breathing the words. This is a kind of lectio. 
The exterior action of following and slowly spinning the paper to pray the words draws me towards the Center interiorly. 
I arrive, LORD.

God, you are the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. 
Thank you for this exploration through St. Francis’ prayer and Brother Roy’s art. 
Help me to discern and accept with an open heart, 
the gifts you have given me to give to others, 
so that we all might be free; In your eternal Love, O Christ, Amen.

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

My First Full Tilt Boogie Journal

This is my first Full Tilt Boogie journal, a class I'm taking from Mary Ann Moss.

Being not quite ready to cut apart a vintage photo album, I cut apart a book Mum had passed along from a friend. "Great Thoughts from Master Minds". I thought this was a perfect title for my journal. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite get the binding to not cover "Great" so it's "At Thoughts..."

The "tapes" are velvet brown corduroy with green velvet on top. The center ribbon is some moss greenish grosgrain (I think it is called).

The binding wasn't as tight as I hoped and I found one was really really loose, so I made this dangle and twisted the cord around it until it was tight...

The saint's medal is of St. Philomena (who is supposed to be an early martyr but this has apparently been debunked)

Some pages inside....

possibly my favorite signature...
I am in my last signature of the art journal I learned out to make in Suzi's "A Lovely Dream" class, which will probably get me through to the end of the year.

I plan to use this journal to document my taking part in the "Inner Excavate Along" with Lisa Lamoreaux, which I will start on next week (being only a week behind in it). She's doing this for free on her blog.

This week's Prayer of St. Francis post...

Hi all,

This week's Prayer of St. Francis post will be delayed until some time on Saturday or maybe not til Tuesday.  My guest this week got called away on a business trip before finishing up her post and between her weekend and mine, getting it online will be a bit tricky.

Thanks for your patience :)

Hmm, St. Francis doesn't pray for patience, does he? No wonder he's my kinda guy. I'm too impatient to pray for patience too! Why do you think there's no prayer for patience in this prayer? Is it buried in one of the lines? Leave your thoughts in a comment!

(To catch up and read earlier posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Read-along of "grace for the good girl": chapters 4-6

I have a feeling this summer is going to be the summer of read-alongs. But here's one that started last week and that I meant to blog about but obviously didn't.

I've already read emily freeman's "grace for the good girl" once and really wanted to read it again. I loaned my copy to a fellow good girl, so I had to go get myself another copy which I've actually been underlining (in pencil).

Yeah, I'm such a good girl. But I think I can say for the most part, that I am a recovering good girl.

This week covers chapters 4-6, including my favorite chapter on Martha of Bethany.  As it's a read-along on the author's blog, you can catch up quite easily, or read along at your own pace. It's a great book, even if I disagree with the theology in chapter 10.

This week's questions (and my answers) are:

1. What is your main reason for hiding behind your fake fine? Is it because you are afraid (what will they think of me!), lazy (it takes too much work and I need a nap and a bowl of ice cream), or something else?
The main reasons I hide behind a fake fine (How are you? Oh,  I'm fine.): because I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear the truth (for goodness sake you’re asking me this during the peace — my church has epic peace-passing — not when we’re sitting down to coffee or whatever); because I don’t know you well enough to trust with the truth (um, yeah, that should go two ways, shouldn’t it); and laziness (I don’t want to go into that today). 
The social convention is so strong to say “fine” that whenever someone actually answers that question with me honestly, my initial thought is: oh, they must be lonely and don’t have someone to talk to … and ever so often ends up with “oh dear sweet God, get me away from this crazy person” (this would be with a complete stranger). 
So respecting boundaries is important and I think you have to be in relationship with that other person (friends, small group, whatever) to open up. I see that as a process: share something a little bit vulnerable and find that they can be trusted with it (and not be all judging about it), share a little more. This probably explains why there are so few people who actually know the real me. 'Cause this is time-consuming work! (And too "good girl"? Possibly.)
2. In what ways do you resonate with Martha’s good girl ways? (see pages 62-64 if you don’t know what I mean)
My favorite chapter. So of Martha's good girl ways, mainly seeking to please God instead of just be with Him. All God wants is for me to be.
3. Has your idea of the spiritual disciplines and the purpose of the law shifted in reading chapter six? If so, in what ways?
Biblical law is something I'd learned to skip a while ago. Mainly because Christians aren't expected to keep kosher. So it boils down to the two commandments Jesus cites in the New Testament: love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your might and with all your soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. 
I am a rule-keeper, and I have a Rule of Life that I keep -- that I keep because the goal is not to get me in good with God, but to become closer to God. I think of all the rules that I do keep and abide by, and I think keeping them is either fear I'll be horrifically punished or that I'm trying to prove my worth. It can drive a person nuts. Which is why with the help of my therapist, I've learned to go easy on myself, for I am/was a good girl with super-high expectations.
Check out the book -- and it'd be fun if you could join in on the read-along. We can get to know each other a bit better!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Joy Dare Monday ...

God is pretty awesome. I struggle to trust in God but I'm getting better at remembering that God's there with me. It now takes half a day instead of several, or never. I worry, I fret, I lose sleep and then it's like ... oh, yeah. God's here with me and will be.

And I'm almost successful in putting the worry away. Almost.

This might be why this week has been easier to find the gifts God displays around me and within me.

Here are the gifts from the past week.

473. looking in the mirror and finding a curl in the middle of my forehead

474. lavender blue of agapanthus bloom
475. peonies at Vons

476. finding a lost letter
477. baby laughter
478. irish whisky cupcake with Bailey's butter cream frosting (ate it before I thought to take a photo)
479. first harvest for the season (cucumbers)

a curvy Japanese cucumber and a Burpless cucumber. This is a photo that isn't taken with my
crappy iPhone for once...
480. comments at "chatting at the sky" post on introverts -- what a God-gift!

481. favorite bling hat appears to be lost
482. repairing an art journal spread that got glued together a bit
483. putting together a playlist that expresses all I feel.
484. "and I live and I breathe for an audience of one" - Sara Groves, "This Journey is My Own"
485. bobbing crows
486. reminding myself to stop worrying and trust that God is with me and will be with me
487. the spicy scent of cocoa chai tea
488. agreeing it was an awful movie
489. so many blog posts today reminding me that God is always with me
490. items crossed off the to-do list at work
491. lost hat found
492. baby bird!

"Who are you lookin' at?" Thanks to my hubby for climbing up and getting this shot!
493. one of our dinner guests figuring out the baby  bird is a red house finch

excuse the blurry shot

494. waking to the baby bird cheeping  and its parents singing
495. leftover plum tartlet for breakfast
496. four baby birdies (those must be two beaks on either side of the baby bird in photo above)

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

"to be loved as to love" - Prayer of St. Francis

This is the same St. Francis as in the other posts,
this is how small the statue is!
Today's post is from my husband, Dan. Does he need any more introduction than that?

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek … to be loved, as to love.
The prayer has it right on the surface.  It is in loving that we are loved by others.  If we never extend our love to others we will probably not receive love from others.  But reality is deeper and has many more layers than that.
The two great commandments are “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and “you must love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38).
I actually see three commands here.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Love yourself.
Perhaps the most difficult of the three, and in a way the most important, is the last; love yourself.  If you can’t love yourself, you won’t be able to enter a loving relationship with God or with your neighbor.
And, I think it proceeds in this order:  Once you love yourself, once you accept who you are, once you are comfortable in your own self, then you can extend that love to others.
The a priori basis of the great commandments is explained in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  The common interpretation is usually whoever does not love his/her neighbor does not know God, because God is love, but I suggest an alternate interpretation.  Whoever does not love himself/herself does not know God, because God is love.
So, how do you love yourself when it is so difficult to do so?  As always, you start with God because we know that God is love, that God loves us, and that God’s love is unconditional.
The beautiful Hebrew word chesed describes this love from God.  It is frequently translated into English as loving-kindness but it also contains traces of grace, compassion, and charity and reflects the covenant between God and Israel.  
Chesed is an active noun because God’s love is active.  The loving-kindness from God provides the grace and salvation we use to fuel our acts of love.  It is our actions such as compassion and charity that demonstrate love to others and return love to us.
So returning full circle, I think the model of love that we should follow begins with God’s love toward us.  Because God loves us, we know we are worthy to love ourselves.  When we love ourselves, we love God and we love others and we demonstrate that love through loving actions.  Finally, that love is returned to us, completing the cycle.

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Joy Dare Monday

tawny frogmouth owl from last year's trip home to Australia
452. weeding
453. warm sun
454. bbq salmon for dinner
455. eating too many calories again
456. decision made
457. heavy baby
458. buzzed by hummingbird
459. reading Esther
460. bouncing "senior" dog on a walk
461. carpenter bee amongst the zucchini blossoms
462. entertaining baby
463. choir summer party
464. a decision told
465. pork grease with a good friend
466. being trusted
467. shaping the wisteria
468. bee landing on my shirt while I weeded
469. making sausage rolls
470. singing "holy holy holy"
471. creamy PanPastels
472. bouncing moth

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

God's Stories... discerning God

I seem to be saying more often than not that it has been quite a week. More on that some other time. This month's God Stories are short, as I posted two sets in May!

Friday, June 1, 2012

To be understood as to understand... Prayer of St. Francis

Today's post comes from Patty Stewart. Here's her bio in her own words: "I am blessed to be part of the Newman Center, Catholic Community at UCSD staff; I have been part of the staff since November 2004. Time flies when you’re having fun! It seems like I stopped in for daily Mass at 12:10 just “yesterday”. I continue to manage day to day operations, serve as Advisor for the Faith Formation committee, direct the Christian Initiation process with a community team, and share leadership with other staff on the Building Tomorrow endeavors, Pastoral Council and the Liturgy committee. Occasionally I have to stop and see what “hat” I am wearing at any given moment.

My life experiences happily include 38 years of marriage (whoo hoo!), 3 remarkable adult children, and 3 delightful grandsons. For 30+ years I have worked in 6 parishes or Catholic schools in Faith Formation and liturgical ministries up and down the Pacific Coast (from Seattle to San Diego). My formal education includes a BA in Economics and an MA in Theology.

I believe that our lives unfold in ways which allow us to continually grow in love and service to one another as we strive to live out Gospel values. I look forward to the upcoming year with the new associate and new opportunities for our community to go deeper…still. At the end of each day, our faith is not about what we do, but about what God does in and through us."

O Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand;
We come helpless into this world seeking to be understood….the first sound we utter is a cry of drawing in air bewildered by a new environment.  We beg to be understood when we need food, comfort, or sleep. As we grow our cries change to words and actions: “Mom, I’m hungry!”; hitting our brother or sister when angry; hugs of happiness and tears of frustration, hurt, sadness…still seeking to be understood.
In the petty moments of the day, I still seek to be understood.  But upon deep reflection and prayer I realize that the gifted moments of my life are when I seek to understand. Yesterday afternoon held many examples, mostly which I had missed until my journaling time this morning.
I had an event on my list of “to-do” things for the day: Feeding the Homeless, cleverly dubbed God’s BBQ. I was committed to attend and be present but I also wanted to begin a project at home. I made a choice NOT to do both. I was a tad anxious about finding the exact location in Mission Bay as I get lost easily, even with smartphone technology. I did indeed locate the event and as luck would have it I was a needed body to serve food. Serving, doing, is easier for me than meeting and greeting.  Soon students came to help and it was important for me to allow them to serve.  No problem … until I realized I’d need to put myself into welcoming mode. I drew in the breath of God and made my way down the line of those waiting for a meal. I began with small talk and a welcome.  What was difficult for me became gift: short conversations with people waiting to be fed. They too were seeking a comfort zone to converse. 

It is not about me; nor do I wish that it were. It is about sharing God’s love, Christ’s command to Love One Another.  To love another means to want the best for that person and to be a part of that growth, however briefly. To love another calls for understanding. How does it feel to have to stand in line for a meal? What is the impact on one’s life if they do not have a home? Or enough to eat each day?  So many aspects to assimilate. But actions can speak volumes! 
I sincerely hope that at this stage of my life I have learned that all those I encounter are Christ.        “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matt 25:34-40
The day’s gifts did not end at the park. They continued as I answered emails, wished friends a happy birthday, went to the grocery store and picked up the mail. Moments to wish others blessings, to look into the eyes of those we encounter and see their goodness. Life is full of opportunities to do so.  Had I chose to re-line the pantry with new liner I would have missed so much life, goodness, love. 
O Divine Creator, Maker of all life, grant that, knowing you have always heard my cries, pleas to be understood, is more than enough for me and that in turn I may be your eyes, your ears, your presence to those I encounter daily.  Thy will be done.

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)