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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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This is the season of Lent.  Lent means different things to different people.  When Lent began, did you think of Jesus, his suffering, death and resurrection?  Did you think of penance?  Did you think of giving up something or stopping smoking or eating less?  Did you think of doing an extra kind act for someone daily?  Doing something   hard for forty days seems like a long time.  If you did, what led you to make that resolution?

What is Lent all about? The word means spring or springtime.  This is the time of the year in Indiana when winter is almost over and new life is starting to show itself in nature around us, to come out a little brighter.  Spring reminds us of new life coming from seeds and bulbs planted earlier, new branches and tiny leaves on trees.  The sky looks a deeper blue.  It’s a thrill to see the trees and bushes start to bud.  It can be a time in which we want to grow spiritually.  Lent can be a time for new spiritual life as we consider our past and begin again to renew an aspect in our lives.

In Joel 2:12-13 we read, “Yet, even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.  For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”

“Return to me with your whole heart…”  What does it mean to turn to God with our whole hearts?  We pray.  We worship God in private and sometimes in public.  But turning to God with our whole heart means more.

When we love someone deeply we want to be with that person often.  If we’re away from that person, our thoughts will often turn to that person.  We’ll wonder what he or she is doing and how their day is going.  The more we are with that person, the more we’ll learn to know and love that person.  We’ll learn what things please our special person and what makes that person sad.  We’ll probably want to do things that will make that person happy, that will let that person know of our love.  We’ll want that person to love us, too.  In this way we are turning our hearts to that person.

So, too, with God.  We can turn our hearts toward God.  How has God worked and entered our lives?  Sometimes God may do it in a big way, but usually God comes to us in little ways.  This is a good time to reflect on the times that we haven’t really wanted God to come into our lives very deeply for it might have meant a change in us.  It might have meant a deep realization that God is God and in control and we are not.  Maybe there is a certain part of our lives that we want to keep to ourselves.  This is a good time to talk it over with God.

God loves us.  God loves us so much that Jesus came to convince us of God’s great love for us.  We haven’t done anything to earn this love.  God loves us first, and because God loves us, we can turn to God and love God in return.

As we examine our lives during this Lenten season, we can see how God truly has been with us with strength and help.  Even though at times God seems far away, God is near!  By thinking of God, talking to God in times of suffering, sorrow and joy and trying to be more alert to God’s presence, we will be returning to God with our whole hearts, as Joel encourages us to do.

Enjoying the new life springing forth in nature, we can consider the new life that God is giving us.  I share this prayer with you, based on Hildegard of Bingen’s focus on God’s creation.

“O God, may I never forget how precious is the earth to you.  Help me to cherish every bit of earth so that in doing so I will be reminded of You who created and sustains this garden of delights, which I call home.  And may the care I show for it be a reflection of my love for all living things.”    Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka

 

March 26, 2017 0 comment
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This month we’ve had a change in the way we keep clock time.  We’ve “sprung forward” an hour.  Though not officially the beginning of spring on this Sunday, it reminds us of the beginning of spring.

Spring in Indiana brings hope as color rises forth in nature.  Crocuses show forth in lavender.  The daffodils and jonquils are bursting out in yellow and white.  Tulip leaves are pushing through the hardened winter soil.  The trees are starting to bud and sprout leaves.  Song birds are returning with their joyful melodies.  The earth fluctuates from late winter to early spring temperatures.  We even get some snow though it doesn’t last.

How can this encourage us to spring forward in our spiritual lives?

Are you feeling like the frozen ground waiting to thaw?  Maybe the rain would encourage the thawing if you would feel the sadness of a frozen heart.  Letting the tears come could soften your heart and let you know that God is present in the sadness and tears.

Perhaps you are feeling like the trees whose roots deepened over the winter and are getting new life from the nutritious earth.  Your encouragement to spring forward may be by reflecting on the ways God has nourished you in the midst of winter.

Do you feel like the tulip leaves carefully peeking up from the ground?  Your encouragement to spring forward little by little may be as God guides you gently through quiet and prayer.

Are you feeling like the spring daffodils with their bright yellow color spreading joy to all who see them?  Your springing forth may be sharing your own joy of God’s gifts to you.

Or are you like the cheerful songbirds encouraging others by offering the music of your life through your presence and not asking anything in return?

I invite you to take some time this season to reflect with gratitude on how God has encouraged you to spring forward in your own awareness of God’s gifts to you.

Creator God, thank you for the many beautiful examples of your love you’ve given us in nature this season.  May they inspire and encourage us to spring forward to deepen our own love for you and all creation.  Amen.

March 19, 2017 0 comment
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Ash Wednesday

Most religions have a ceremony or a time in which the faithful reflect on their actions during the past year.  This is often combined with a time of discipline which may be fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent for many in the Christian church.  The forty days of fasting or penitence (not counting Sundays) may begin with the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful.

Many Christian denominations use this ancient ceremony of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful with the words from Genesis (3:10) “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”    Receiving ashes may be part of the act of confession, of penitence and as a sign of our mortality.  The Ash Wednesday service connects us with the past, with our present, and with our hope for new life in our Risen Christ.

Burnt palm ashes from the palms of the previous Palm Sunday symbolize our past history.  While anointing with ashes was widely used after the seventh century, there is evidence that it originated in Gaul in the sixth century.

This ancient ceremony has another valuable reminder for us.  Dust is of the earth.  Receiving the ashes reminds us that we, too, are from the earth.  The earth is very important to us.  Our earth is a gift from God.  Yet, we forget we need to take care of it and all creation, too.

The words of Isaiah still hold true, “The earth is mourning, pining away,…the earth is defiled under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws, violated the decree, broken the everlasting covenant.”  (Is. 24: 4-5)

More and more we are made aware of the ecological disasters of the earth such as the depletion of ozone layer, the destruction of the rain forests,  climate changes,  the massive oil spills and the chemical spills in the rivers     Each of us is led in different ways to take care of our part of the earth.  May being blessed with ashes help us renew our care of the earth.

In preparing for Ash Wednesday, I was reading some of the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century prophet, healer, preacher and mystic.  Hildegard understood that for those who live in Christ, all creation is God’s work, and that the earth especially is waiting with eagerness to be saved. .  Hildegard writes “Creation reveals the hidden God just as clothes hint at the shape of a person’ body.”  Praying with Hildegard of Bingen  by Gloria Durka  ISBN-10 0884892549

During this holy season, we are invited to repentance, reflection and renewal.  It is a time to reflect on our failings, not only in relationships with God and each other, but how we relate to ourselves and all creation.   Our relationship with God is effected by how we relate with all around us.

I invite your reflections to include how God has led you to positive relationships with others and creation.  Also, remember that though you are dust,  at the same time you are God’s special creation.  You are God’s handiwork whom God loves and in whom God delights.  (Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 18:19 (or vs.20 in some Bibles);  Ephesians 2:10

The more we are really aware of God’s love for each of us individually, the more we’ll be able to live that out in our daily lives and share it with others

Prayer:

Loving God, may these ashes remind us of our connection to you and our earthly home.  Thank you for delighting and loving each of us and for giving us our beautiful earth.

As we go through this season of Lent create in us new and contrite hearts.  Help us remember that our strength for repentance, reflection and renewal is in quietness and trust in you.  (Isaiah 30:15)  Amen.

 

 

 

March 11, 2017 0 comment
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“God sweeping over the waters…”  – Genesis 1:1-2

Movement and exercise have rarely been of value to me.  I didn’t see that as part of my spiritual life or connection to God.  I’ve prayed with Scriptures that focused on quiet and stillness such as where God came to Elijah in the cave  (I Kings19:11-13) or Ps. 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’ve been drawn to books such as Whispers in the Stillness: Mindfulness and Spiritual Awakening by Martha Lehane Sheehan.  I’ve made spiritual retreats to try to become more interiorly quiet and spiritually centered.

But recently the theme that has been running through my night dreams has been movement and exercise.

Why at this time of my life, I wondered.  Probably it’s because that’s part of my life that I’ve neglected.  A part of life many people seem to not only value but enjoy, though I haven’t.  I’ve reflected on the question of where is God in all this movement and exercise.

I was reminded that in the very beginning in Genesis, God moved over the waters.  Only after moving over the waters did God speak creation.

So I pray and ask myself, what new life or creation could come from my exercising or moving more?

Maybe it won’t be something new but more of an awareness of my body’s need to move to be healthy.  Perhaps it’s just to realize that God is in movement as well as in silence.  Maybe it’s to remind me that lasting growth comes slowly and usually only after much practice and sometimes pain.

So my new spiritual practices is to schedule a specific time for conscious movement and/or exercise.

My prayer:

God, You who swept over the waters, create in me an appreciation for movement and the new awareness or life that can come from it.  Thank you for the awareness that you are present in movement as well as in stillness.  Amen.

 

January 15, 2017 0 comment
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Winter in our area brings darkness sooner in the evenings.   In winter I look forward to Dec. 21st after which the days start having more sunlight, at least until June.

What is there about darkness that many of us do not like?  In the daylight there are many things to see or on which to focus.  I seem to have more energy when I see daylight.    I’m a visual person.  I feel safer when I can my surroundings.  In the darkness, I can easily stumble for I can’t see what’s around me.

Often in the Christmas season we talk about the light shining in darkness, implying that darkness is negative.   Yet, if we didn’t have a sense of darkness, we wouldn’t appreciate the light.  There are gifts in the darkness if we look for them.  Unless it is dark outside we can’t see the twinkling stars.

How does this affect in my spiritual life?

When I’m feeling darkness in my inner center, I ask myself some questions.  Is there something I feel led to do but am resisting?  Have I forgotten to be aware that God is with me and will light my way if I take the first step?  Am I so looking for sunlight that I can’t see the twinkling stars in what feels like total darkness?

We talk about Jesus being the great Light of the World.  In the Gospel of John 1:5 the writer refers to Jesus, the Word as “The light that shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it.”

And Isaiah 9: `1-2a  we read  “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;  Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing…”

I’m not always aware of light in the midst of whatever I’m experiencing as darkness.  Sometimes when I’m feeling inner darkness I just need to take reflective time.  Other times it seems I need to let go of remaining in the darkness and act on the direction I’m being led.

How do I know what to do?

Usually either my life situation or my dreams give me a clue.  As I respond, I may still have a sense of darkness but know that by my staying with it, I can find the gift and/or light it brings.

May you find the gift of starlight in the midst of your darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 8, 2017 0 comment
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What does it mean to listen to the Mind of God, to follow God’s mind?  I hear people say God has told them this or that.  How does that happen?

I believe we learn of God’s mind or God’s direction in numerous ways.  Some may actually hear the spoken words from God.  But I think there are other ways that most of us learn of the mind of God.    Scripture, creation, music, art and life’s coincidences are how I think most of us become aware.

Scripture consistently shows how God was faithful to God’s people even though they weren’t always faithful to God.  Jesus taught about a loving God and he demonstrated that in his lifetime by frequent healings and forgiveness.

In the book   Things Hidden:  Scripture as Spirituality  Richard Rohr wrote (p.200) that “Divine love is not determined by the worthiness of the object but by the goodness of the subject.”  He adds “Jesus didn’t come to change the mind of God about humanity but to change the mind of humanity about God. “

Scripture gives us examples of God as loving, caring, patient, merciful, compassionate as well as challenging.

God provided

  • Water for Hagar and Ismael when they were in the desert.
  • Provided manna and water for the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert.
  • Direction to Ezekiel to the mountain cave where God came to him in the quiet breeze.
  • Questioning of Job where he was when God created the world

Jesus gives us many examples, too.

  • Forgiving – Peter who denied him three times
  • Be merciful – woman taken in adultery
  • Compassionate – examples of healing – deaf man
  • Caring – changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana
  • Challenging –Gerasene Demoniac to go back home and recout all God had done for him.

The mind of God is a mystery.    Although Scripture gives us ideas about the mind of God, I also find  glimpses of the mind of God in the beauty of creation and in life’s coincidences.

When I look at nature and see the variety God created for us, I’m amazed.  In just around the block where I live I see robins, finches, hummingbirds, sparrows, doves and many other birds I can’t identify.  Then the variety of trees – oak, maple, evergreens, elms, poplars and others.  Present are even insects such as wasps, mosquitoes, bees and others, that I admit I don’t appreciate,

Once I heard that instead of complaining that roses have thorns, one should rejoice that the thorns have roses.

What an imagination God has!

I believe that God’s mind is present in what many call coincidences.  For example, after much research, I found the apartments in which I’ve lived.  None were what I thought I was looking for in the beginning, but each has brought joy as well as challenges.  Through all of them I’ve grown and hopefully became a more spiritual person.

A creation coincidence happened one Pentecost when a brilliant red cardinal perched on my balcony railing.  This happened only once in the 17 years I lived there.  It reminded me of the Spirit and the Pentecost passage in the Acts of the Apostles.

Another memorable coincidence happened when I was in the middle of a difficult four day exam.  One afternoon someone had a beautiful red rose delivered to my door.  This gave me hope and encouragement.

Other examples of the mind of God in our life are in music and art.  Often they touch my soul and leave me in awe.

The more I’m sensitive to such coincidences, the more I open my heart to God.  Then I’m aware of an inner peace and God’s help throughout life’s struggles.

Holy Mystery,

Thank you for giving us glimpses of You in Scripture, creation, art, music and life’s coincidences.  Help us be more sensitive and appreciative of all life and of your constant loving presence.  Give us the strength to listen to and follow your guidance.  Amen.

 

 

January 2, 2017 0 comment
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Chosen by a Kitten

After my first pet, a much loved cat, died, I spent some time grieving her death.  When I felt ready, I made many trips to different shelters looking for an older cat to adopt.

One morning I stopped in a new shelter and sat in a room with several cats and a 6 month old kitten whom I ignored.  The older cats all ignored me.

Miss K, as she was called jumped on my lap and contentedly curled up and let me pet her.  Intrigued and not really wanting a kitten, I left.  I went to a couple other shelters again.  I didn’t find the “right” cat.  None of the cats really interacted with me.  I thought about Miss K and how she had chosen me that morning.

Later that afternoon I decided to return to the first shelter, thinking that if Miss K was still there, I’d adopt her, even though she was only 6 months old.  Since she was so friendly and social, I was sure one of the many families visiting the shelter would have adopted her.  But when I returned, there she was!  She again quickly jumped on my lap. My heart went out to her.

I thought of how God chose us, and often leads us in unknown ways.  Scriptures on God choosing us that came to mind were from John and Ephesians.  We read in  John 15:16; “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit…” I John 3:2  “Dearly beloved, we are God’s children now…:”

Sometimes I forget God has chosen me and each one of us to go forth and bear fruit.  Going forth and bearing fruit might mean going out to others.  On the other hand, it might mean sitting and praying quietly as I gently pet my kitten.

This gives me the opportunity to reflect on Ephesians 1:4 “God chose us…before the word began, to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, to be full of love.”  Miss K chose me to give her a loving home and to love me in return.  Loving all of God’s creation, human and other, is another way of bearing fruit and sharing God’s love.

I invite you to explore how you are God’s chosen one bearing fruit and sharing God’s love.

September 5, 2016 0 comment
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I’ve had a dream recently in which I’m to take a written test of several pages.  In waking life, I’ve struggled with taking tests though I’ve always passed.

In the dream I’m having a couple problems.  The directions are in very fine print so small I can barely read them.  The other problem is that some of the questions are about events I’ve not been interested in so haven’t paid attention.  One event in the dream was of an award in 1992.

As I prayed with this dream I wondered how my vision of God’s working in my life is too small.  How can I see more clearly and see the bigger picture of life?

What situations am I ignoring that would deepen my relationship with God?

I thought back to 1992.  What would be beneficial for me to remember?  Two significant events came to mind.  In early 1992 I took a written four day exam.  Though it was difficult, I passed.  The second event was that I was ordained a transitional deacon.  Both were life-changing as I made final preparations for priesthood ordination.  I reflected on the many ways I was aware how God was with me, especially at that time.  There were times that seemed like God had forgotten about me.  Looking back, I now can see how God was directing me though I wasn’t aware at the time.

I wonder what long test am I about to take?  Will it be long in duration?  Will it be of short duration but feel like a long time?  How will my life be changed?

I need to be mindful of God with me in whatever comes.  These reflections helped put in perspective many current situations that seem like tests.  God is always with us, even in the midst of struggles.  Remembering God’s presence will help to have a broader vision knowing that God is in control.

Hidden God,

Thank you for night dreams that help us reflect on your goodness.  As we encounter situations that seem like tests that come in our lives, remind us of your presence and guidance.  Give us a broader vision and greater understanding of your love and guidance.  Amen.

August 21, 2016 0 comment
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Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is fitting and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

The past few months have felt intense.  From all appearances, it seems the intensity will continue.  I have felt weary.  At times I’ve felt life burdensome.  I need to be refreshed.

In the midst of busyness and needed activities it’s necessary to take time to remember what is really important.  I believe it’s important to take time to reflect on one’s spiritual calling, to reflect on how God is present in all of life. Some may do this near lakes or oceans.  Others get refreshed by camping in the woods or mountains.   I do it by taking specific retreat days to be quiet, reflect, pray and enjoy nature.  God leads each person differently.

I need the quiet, silent, alone time with my comforting cat to examine how God has been giving me life and sustaining me.  I become aware of times when I forgot God was in control.

During these quiet days, there may be challenges as I focus on whatever yoke God is offering.  I may feel peaceful.   Other times I may feel like I am in a dry desert.  Am I willing to stay with the feeling?  Am I willing to listen to what’s in my heart?  What I may hear is to be aware how my daily calling is really fitting with God’s help.

So I pray:

Compassionate and Merciful God,

Thank you for these quiet days.  Keep reminding me that where I am is where You’ve called me to be.  You are present in the midst of busyness even though it may feel like You are absent.  As You refresh and renew me during these reflective days, help me deepen my awareness of Your constant help and presence.  Then, guide me to share Your compassion with others who are weary and burdened.  Amen.

 

August 5, 2016 0 comment
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