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The Rev. Dr. Mary Lorraine Coufal

Many of us are sheltering in place due to the coronavirus pandemic-COVID 19 virus.  We are each gathered in our own special place.  Some are alone and some are with family or with friends.  Some are willing to be in one place for their own safety or for the safety of others.  Others are not willing.

It reminds me of the passage from Luke 13:31-35 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing.”

What does it mean to be gathered in?  Gathering in and sheltering in place can be pleasant or not so pleasant.  It can be delightful, a challenge or boring.  I think of small farmers gathering the cows together and herding them into a certain space for safety.  I think of parents calling to teenagers to invite them to something the parents think would be helpful for them, but the teenagers aren’t interested.  I think of being called together for a special meeting that interrupts what one had planned for the day.

What does it mean to be gathered in by God?  For me, it means to be aware of God’s presence.  Sometimes I find it hard to be aware of the Holy One when I’m in a large group.  As I’m reflecting on being gathered in by God, I’m conscious that I may not always be so willing to be gathered in by God.  When I’m in a difficult situation, I may think of what I can do rather than asking for God’s guidance.  I forget God’s invitation to come.  I forget to be aware of God with me.

God doesn’t promise an easy life but that God will stay with us.  In Matthew 28:20 we read, “Behold, I am with you always.”  God’s promise is that no matter what happens we are never alone.  We are always welcome and under God’s welcoming, sheltering wings.  God will see us through our challenges and difficulties and give us the strength we need for each moment.  We are invited to trust God and huddle under God’s wings.

May you remember God’s promise of being present as you are challenged how to live during these days of the coronavirus pandemic.

August 15, 2020 0 comment
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Sometime ago I experienced unexpected physical problems. Although I’d experienced physical issues in the past, this time it lasted days .

In such situations my mind goes to the worst case scenarios.
I rested, prayed, and read. I found helpful thoughts in A Wing and a Prayer: A Message of Faith and Hope by Katharine Jefferts Schori.  In writing about struggles and fears she wrote, “How are we going to respond to the next terror? Where is the blessing in this encounter?” (p122)

As I searched for the blessings of that encounter three came to mind.
-time to relax comfortably with my loving cat on my lap.
-reminded how smart she is for seeming to know when I wasn’t feeling well.
-thankful it happened on a long weekend when I wasn’t supposed to be at work.

Jefferts Schori continues “If my self image is based on having some disease, then its going to shape and limit who or what I can be in the future.  She quotes Phillipians 3:13 ‘Forget about the past, for I am doing a new thing – don’t you see it?’ Don’t’ let the past define who you can become. The future is not going to look like the past…In some sense, we can’t see the new thing God is working in us until we stop expecting this wound to define our future.” (pp.127-128)

It’s easy to say, hard to do, especially when physical issues remain and others develop.

I don’t, yet, see what “new thing God is working” in me. Still, the blessing today is having the hope that God is with me through whatever is happening and having the faith that something new will develop through it all.

In these difficult times I invite you to consider what might be the blessing or new thing developing in you.  If you wish, you may join in the following prayer.

Comforting God, we turn to you for hope in these struggling times.  We don’t understand why sickness and difficult events happen in our lives.  Help us to be aware of a blessing or new things that can come out of our struggles.  Help us remember that you are with us always even when we aren’t aware.  Amen.

March 27, 2020 1 comment
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Written by The Rev. Dr. M. L. Coufal

Last fall I bought a beautiful African Violet planter with pink flowers and purple flowers in the same planter. They bloomed for several weeks. Then the planter ‘s green leaves continued to live so I watered it periodically even though there weren’t any flowers.

About three weeks ago it blossomed again with beautiful pink and purple violets. About the same time I read “Colors bring out the depths of secret presence at the heart of nature.” (Anam Cara by John O’Donohue, p.3).

Just watching the green leaves slowly grow gave no indication the plants would bloom again. Yet deep within the plant was the secret presence of colorful flowers. It’s a reminder to us that within our inner depths is a secret presence waiting to blossom forth to show the heart of our spiritual nature.

We need to continue to strengthen it. There are many ways to do that. Reflecting as we tend our plants, silence, being in nature, expressing gratitude are a few ways. Each person knows what they need to do. Then one’s inner spirit flowers forth with colorful blooms.

March 26, 2020 0 comment
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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 1 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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