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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


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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Peace Prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I 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.”

What a challenging prayer for peace.  Who is this person that wrote such a prayer?  What does he know about peace?

Francis of Assisi is attributed to having written this prayer hundreds of years ago.  He lived in the late 1100s- early 1200s.   He is most noted for his kindness and loving animals and all creation.    Many people celebrate his feast day on October 4 and around that time offer a Blessing for Animals.  Francis was born the son of a rich merchant in Italy.  He led a happy-go-lucky life, became a soldier, was captured and put in prison.  Then one day he had a spiritual awakening.  He believed that God told him to repair his church.  So, Francis rebuilt a falling-down church building.  However, he soon realized that it was people that God was meaning for him to help.

In his life, Francis had many struggles.  Yet, in spite of all his struggles and pain, he continued to give his life over to the care of God.  This, I believe, is the reason so many people are drawn to him.  He shared his peace and joy that came as he faced and dealt with his struggles.

What impresses me about Francis was his deep respect and reverence for all of creation and life.  Countless books have been written about him and legends told.  A popular one tells about how he tamed the wild wolf of Gubbio who was killing animals and people of the village.

What does that have to do with us, and with peace in today’s world?  We can look to Francis as an example of kindness and peace.  Because of his deep faith and trust in God and his love for all creation,  he was able to write a prayer like the peace prayer.

How do we find peace?    How is peace possible in today’s challenging world?   I believe that first we need to look at what keeps us from experiencing inner peace, acknowledge it and deal with whatever those causes are.  We can follow that by thinking of the ways that God has given us strength in struggle and been with us through our unpeaceful times.  We can be aware of all the good things that we do have, simple as they may be.

In being grateful for the ways that God has gifted us and has been with us in the midst of our struggles, we can experience an inner peace even as we may be experiencing outer turmoil.  In doing so, we can live out the peace prayer of Francis of Assisi and thus experience peace and joy in the midst of daily living.

May God’s peace always be with you.


February 19, 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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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 1 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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I’ve heard a rooster crowing in the morning here in my apartment complex.  It reminded me of one of my aunts. She had raised chickens in her back yard.  I remember going into the chicken coop to throw the chickens some corn or to carefully gather eggs.

This connected with a Gospel passage where Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets and stones those who are sent to it, How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing.”

Jesus must have known something about chickens.  I wonder if he fed them and gathered eggs when he was growing up.

Reflecting on this Scripture I wondered how God gathers us under God’s wings.  Are we willing to be gathered?

There are times when I may not be willing, when I don’t consider God in my decision making.  I get too absorbed in what I think is best.  Then, God usually uses ordinary life events to focus me into what is better for me, even when I’m resistant.

One example was the time I was getting some gentle nudges that it was time for me to move to another city.  I liked my job, my co-workers and friends and I was comfortable where I was, except for the cold SD winters.

The winter we had bitter cold, snow and an unusual amount of ice for an unusual length of time I knew that it was time to move on.

I was sure God was calling me to the Rocky Mt. area so I sent out many resumes.  No response.  Letting go of my own thought and asking God’s guidance I became willing to look elsewhere, though not in the far north.  In 6 months I had 7 on-site interviews and a new job.  God had called me into a place where I could grow spiritually in a new way under God’s wings.   There are still many difficult times in my new place but when I remember to let God gather me into a place, then I can deal with the difficulties better.

May you remember that God wants to welcome and shelter you under God’s wings, too.

June 6, 2016 0 comment
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