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The Rev. Dr. Mary Lorraine Coufal

 

Late one quiet evening I was surprised by a very loud thunder clap. It sounded like it came from the courtyard by my balcony. It alerted me to the arrival of an unexpected summer storm. The wind blew hard and torrential rain fell. I learned there had been a lightning strike about a half mile away.

No damage was done here. The trees are deeply rooted and could bend with the wind.

It reminded me of the importance of being deeply spiritually rooted. Many times in life we may be suddenly surprised by a totally unexpected occurrence that stops us. It may take us awhile to get our bearings.

Breathing deeply, being still and calling on God for help gives us strength. We may struggle with decisions and grieve a loss for our normal  has changed. Being deeply rooted in God helps us,in time, find a new normal.

September 18, 2019 0 comment
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Blessed are the pansies that survive late spring frost that remind us of summer coming.

May they remind us to greet others warmly.

Blessed are the petunias that open their blossoms to the hummingbirds.

May we open our hearts to those we meet.

Blessed are the geraniums whose brilliant red color brighten our days.

May we brighten others with our smiles.

Blessed are the fuchsia blossoms that welcome the bees.

May we welcome those who come to us.

Blessed are the thistle seeds that nourish the goldfinches.

May we nourish others by helpful conversation.

 

Holy Creator, we thank you for these blessings. Help us to be blessings to others.

June 2, 2019 0 comment
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Leaves waving goodbye to summer.
Trees rooting deeper.
Annual flowers dying.
Autumn is here.

Birds preparing for southern trips.
Squirrels burying their winter supply.
Wooly worms predicting a cold winter.
Autumn is here.

Daylight getting less.
Twilight arriving sooner.
Driving home in the dark.
Autumn is here.

Breathing in cooler temperatures.
Enjoying colorful falling leaves.
Remembering God is within.
Autumn is here.

Seasons are changing.
People are aging
Growing deeper in God’s love.
Autumn is here.

October 22, 2018 0 comment
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Becoming butterfly 2

 

A swallowtail butterfly landed on a purple petunia.  Then it flew to another.  It ignored the pink and red petunias, red geraniums and other multi-colored flowers on my balcony.

What a fascinating and dangerous journey it had to become a butterfly.  I doubt it was aware of its process.  It just did what it needed to do to live. It grew from the tiny egg to the crawling caterpillar.  Swallowtail butterflyIt encapsulated itself in a cocoon, struggled out of it, and stretched its wings to build up strength to fly away.

I’m sure it has no idea of the joy its beauty brings to all who see it.  We can learn from the butterfly.  We never know what may result from what seems like small act or just living our daily lives the best we know how.  Usually we won’t know how our life struggles and experience may guide us to help others.  A return greeting to a drug store clerk may make her day.  Calling persons who may be having a hard time lets them know they are important.  Letting someone know you are thinking about them assures them they aren’t alone.  These and many other seemingly small acts can bring beauty into others lives like seeing a beautiful butterfly on a purple petunia.

As you see the butterflies, I invite you to reflect on how you, too, bring beauty into others’ lives.

August 25, 2018 0 comment
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I live in an Indiana city.  However, for most of my life I’ve lived in the  rural parts of the plain states.  Sometimes I long for the wide open spaces of  nearby sandhills and of  hayfields with distant shelter belts of trees.  I miss the song of the meadow larks, the ability to see miles in all directions, the occasional tree by the road, the sparse traffic and the sense of peace in spaciousness.

Here, I’ve needed to become aware of and appreciate a different kind of beauty.  Trees abound, ponds are plentiful, traffic seems constant and there are different songbirds.

My relationship with my current geographical space grows with the variety of nature here.  I’ve delighted in the budding of the redwood trees and the lacey white dogwoods as they introduce the spring season.  I enjoy watching the goldfinches compete with the red-headed house finches at the bird feeder.  I’ve yet to learn the names of the warblers that sing early in the mornings.  I’ve enjoyed the playful squirrels chasing each other.  However, I’ve not appreciated their destroying the bird feeder to get to the bird seed.

I’ve learned to marvel at the greenness of the overhanging trees as I drive home.  I like to think of the trees as reaching out to give an invitation of hope. I’ve observed the leaves turn from green to colorful autumn pink, orange, red and brown.  I’ve watched them fall to the ground as winter approached.

I’ve reflected on the leafless trees in winter, trees with their roots deep in the earth.  Trees, who seem to be resting to burst forth with life in the spring.

Spirituality is a place where I live_2Robert M. Hamma in Landscapes of the Soul: A Spirituality of Place writes about learning from children to simply be in place and be in relationship with all in that space, as children do.

In the Genesis creation story (Genesis 1:1-ff) after God creates, God said that it was all good.   There is beauty all around if I look for it.

My challenge is to honor the earth where I live now and honor all creation.  It’s to use wisely what I need and recycle what I can.

Creator God, thank you for the variety and beauty of all creation.  Help me to honor all creation.  Guide me to live simply and use all things wisely.  Amen.

July 18, 2018 0 comment
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Some Christian denominations reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus during the season of Lent by reflecting on the way of the cross or stations of the cross.  Some are scriptural based.  Others come from tradition.  Yet, there are Scriptures relating to them with which we can pray. If you wish to read the entire Passion stories in each of the Gospels you will find them in Matthew, chapters 26-28;  Mark, chapters 14-16;  Luke, chapters 22-24 and John, chapters 18-20.  Below are 14 stations or ways plus the Resurrection with Scripture suggestions followed by a brief prayer.  I invite you to add your own prayer with each one.

  1. Jesus is condemned to death   Scripture:  Luke 22: 13-25                                                                                       Jesus, help us to accept others as they are, not judge them, but love them.
  2. Jesus carries his cross.    Scripture:  Mark 15:16-21                                                                                         Jesus, give us the courage to accept the difficult parts of our lives that we can’t change.  Teach us to use them as a means of growing closer to you and to others. 
  3. Jesus falls the first time.       Scripture:  John 12: 23-25                                                                                    Jesus, we fall and get discouraged.  We find our hope and strength to  struggle in  you. 
  4. Jesus meets his mother.       Scripture:  Luke 2:34-35                                                                                                Jesus, how painful it must have been for your mother to see your  pain and  suffering and to be unable to relieve it.  Help us to be compassionate to others by our attentive presence.                              
  5. Simon helps Jesus carry his cross.   Scripture: Luke 23:26;  Matthew 10:42                                                       Jesus, make us realize that whatever we do for others we do for you.
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.    Scripture:  Matthew 7:12;  James 3:17-18                                                   Jesus, you are present in simple things as well as great.  Teach us to be aware of and sensitive to the troubles of those around us.
  7. Jesus falls the second time.       Scripture:  Romans 12:9-13;  Psalm 13  Matthew 11:28-30                            Jesus, you fell under the heavy weight of your cross.  You know that we are burdened with our problems.  You told us to come to you and You will give us rest.
  8. Jesus speaks to the women from Jerusalem.  Scripture:  Luke 23:27-31                                                             Jesus, let your example and suffering teach us to respond to the sufferings of others in a loving way.
  9. Jesus falls the third time.                   Scripture:  Psalm 22                                                                                         Jesus, thank you for loving us.  We know that no matter how we fall, when we turn to you, you will be our strength and courage.
  10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.  Scripture:  John 19:23-24    John 49:16-24  (or Psalm 49: 16-24              Jesus, you gave up your life to show us how much you love us.  Help us to turn our hearts to you and love you ever more deeply
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.                   Scripture:  I john 4:9-12;  Luke 23:32-49                                                Jesus, we praise You.  Teach us how to follow your example and be forgiving, loving people
  12. Jesus dies on the cross       Scripture:  John 19:25-37;  Luke 23:44-49                                                          Jesus, you have touched us with your deep, everlasting love.  You have taken away our sins through your sufferings and death.  Help us to spread your love to others.
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.       Scripture:  John 19:38-40                                                                       Jesus, help us to accept the parting that comes when we must leave loved one, a job, home or life style.  Open our hearts to your Word, especially in time of doubt.  
  14. Jesus is buried in a tomb.       Scripture:  John 19: 41-42;  Luke 23:50-56                                                             Jesus, much of our life is spent waiting.  We wait in loneliness, in pain, and we trust in your constant love, even when you are silent.  We turn to you.
  15. Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!  Jesus is Lord!         Scripture:  John 20: 1-29;  Luke 24:1-49                                    Jesus you call us to new life in you.  You call us to a deeper faith and stronger hope in you, Our Risen Lord.  Thank you, Jesus. ALLELUIA.                                                                                                 
March 10, 2018 0 comment
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For many people, this week begins the 40 days preparation for Easter. The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday with the imposition of ashes on their foreheads, reminding all “that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:10) or “repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ.” This ancient ceremony is a sign of our mortality. This season can be a time of renewal and penitence “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Is 30:15) It is a time many focus on the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some talk about metanoia – conversion of the heart.

What does this really mean? How does our heart need conversion? How can this heart conversion deepen our relationship with Jesus? Are we not already living the best we know how? Prayerfully we ask God for guidance or discernment. Often it’s the little things that we need most to change.

We might be led to set aside five minutes a day for prayer and reflection on how God has gifted us that day. Maybe we need to be more accepting and understanding of ourselves and our needs, like getting enough sleep. Perhaps we need to be more understanding of others. Perhaps God is inviting us to be more mindful and present in what we already do.

During this Lenten season, we can turn to Jesus and ask Him for strength to let go and be open to a change of heart, a new life and deeper relationship with Him.

I believe the more we are aware of God’s love for each of us individually, the more we’ll be able to live out that love in our daily lives and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all around us.

Let us together “Repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ,” and share that with others.

Have mercy on me, O God,
Because of your constant love;
In the greatness of our compassion
Wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
And of my sin cleanse me.

I recognize my faults
I am always conscious of my sins
Against you only have I sinned
And done what is evil in your sight.

A faithful heart is what you want;
Fill my mind with your wisdom,
Create a pure heart in me, O God,
And put a new loyal spirit in me.

You do not want sacrifices
Or I would offer them
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit’
A heart contrite and humbled,
O God you will not spurn.
–Psalm 51:1-4, 6, 10, 16-17

Suggested Scripture Readings;
Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm 91
Romans 10:8-11
Luke 4;1-13

February 18, 2018 0 comment
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Snowfall indicated by white cloudy day
No blue sky visible.
When will the snow come?
How long will it last?
How much will fall?

Not important this weekend.
No need for me to leave my home.
No driving necessary.

Open the blinds.
Watch the snow fall.
Tiny white flakes
Seemingly chasing each other.
Who will touch the earth first?
Where else might they land?

Barren trees, pine trees,
Parked cars, roof tops.
All quickly frosted with a
Thick layer of
Soft fluffy white.

God’s winter beauty.
Quiet, gentle, peaceful
Urges me to soft, inner stillness
Reminding me.
God’s within.

January 2, 2018 0 comment
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Many, many years ago a friend shared that receiving spiritual direction had helped her grow in her relationship with God.  This was a new thought for me.  I explored  that spiritual practice.  Since that time I’ve found it invaluable as part of my spiritual journey.

Spiritual direction is a spiritual practice in which an individual or group share how they are living their lives in order to grow in their relationship with God, the Divine and/or deepen their spiritual life.

Spiritual director is a title for a spiritual guide/companion or mentor.  The practice of spiritual direction  has been a practice for thousands of years though it wasn’t given that title.   In Hebrew Scriptures we find many examples such as Samuel being guided by Eli  (I Samuel 3:1-18)or Joseph who interpreted dreams (Genesis 40:1-41:37).

In the early days of the church people would go to the desert to consult with the desert mothers and fathers for spiritual guidance.  These desert mothers and fathers had gone into the desert to deepen their own relationship with God and thus were known as ones who could also guide others.

Even today, people who want to deepen their spirituality or focus more intentionally on their relationship with God, look for a guide or mentor.

Receiving spiritual direction is an opportunity to share one’s spiritual hopes, struggles, joys and concerns.  It helps one be accountable in growing spiritually and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.  In spiritual direction the directee shares with the director what has been important in their spiritual life since the last meeting.  They may share their prayer life, dreams, life experiences and where they are aware of the Divinity in their life.

A spiritual director listens to what is said and reflects back.  The Spiritual director is also aware of God’s spirit being the real director.  Thus the spiritual director does not usually give directions but through asking questions helps the individual find the directions that are already in one’s heart.

I find that talking with a spiritual director on a regular basis helps me stay focused on how God is working in my life and helping me in ministry.  It helps me be aware of when I think that all I do depends on me, rather than on God.  It helps me remember and be thankful for the gifts God gives me.

Now, not only is spiritual direction a very regular spiritual practice for me, I’ve also become a spiritual director for others who want to use this spiritual practice to deepen their spiritual life.  I encourage all who are interested to engage in this spiritual practice of meeting regularly with a spiritual director.

 

December 17, 2017 0 comment
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Summer is a very colorful time of the year in Indiana.  My balcony flowers are showing the brilliant summer colors.  The crimson and deep pink geraniums are growing cup-sized blossoms. The rose-bud geranium is starting to bud.  The variegated purple and pink  petunias are waving over their containers.  The yellow and purple pansies have survived the summer heat so far.  The  brilliant yellow and orange marigolds are glowing in the sunlight.  The pink and salmon-colored begonias are overflowing their planters.   The grass is such a bright green.

The white cumulus clouds float across the bright blue sky.

 

The sturdy geraniums encourage us to be strong in the midst of difficult times.

The rose-bud geranium challenges us to be patient with new growth.

The variegated, waving petunias bring us joy.

The tiny pansies show us that there is beauty even in small things.

The golden marigolds brighten our cloudy days.

The full-blossomed begonias remind us of God’s overflowing love.

The multi-shades of green grass give us hope.

The billowing clouds invite us to send our thoughts and prayers to God.

God of Color and Beauty,

Thank you for the summer colors and plants that encourage us, lift our spirits, and bring us joy.

May this summer be a time in which we enjoy the great gift of summer beauty.  Amen.

 

 

July 2, 2017 1 comment
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