Seeing

by Sister Spero

I recently had eye surgery to correct my vision, and the change is remarkable. Colors are brighter, lines are sharper—I see intricate patterns in tree bark I didn’t notice before. At the same time, I am aware of more cobwebs and dirt in corners that need my attention. This has started me thinking about vision—both physical and spiritual. I am sometimes envious of those who have spiritual vision, awed by their capacity to see truth and beauty. I realize now that this gift is as much a capacity to see ugliness, and comes with the responsibility to do something about it, so I should be praying for them, not envying them. I also judge others for not “seeing” something I think is obvious. Now that my physical vision is clearer, I realize how much I haven’t been able to see, without being aware of it. So next time I’m tempted to judge, I’m hoping to remember we all have different eyes, and to choose compassion instead.

Droplets

Knocking

by Sr. Spero

“…keep knocking at the innermost place of the heavens…”

I was stuck by this phrase from the hymn for Sunday Vespers (attributed to Gregory the Great, 7th century). It’s so simple. It reminds me of Jesus’s words, “Knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7).

Knocking is not usually difficult. It doesn’t take great effort—like running, or leaping or holding back floods. Whether blind, deaf, or lame (physically or spiritually), most of us can still knock. Gregory says, “keep knocking.” Even if you don’t feel like it, keep knocking.

The next phrase of his hymn tells us the reward: “then you shall receive the prize of life.” I find this very encouraging. With a little effort on my part, knocking—even tentatively—God will do the rest. He opens the door.

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To be light

Lord Christ,
Help us to have the courage and humility to name our burdens
and lay them down
so that we are light to walk across the water
to where you beckon us. . . .
The memory of hurts and insults,
driving us to last out,
to strike back
We name it
and we lay it down. . . .

Our antagonism against those
whose actions, differences, presence,
threaten our comfort or security
We name it
and we lay it down. . . .

We do not need these burdens,
but we have grown used to carrying them,
have forgotten what it is like to be light.
Beckon us to lightness of being,
for you show us it is not unbearable.
Only so we can close the distance.
Only so we can walk upon the water.
Blessed are you, Lord Christ, who makes heavy burdens light.

Kathy Galloway, Iona Community

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The Roar of the Waterfall

By Sr. Spero

Deep calls to deep “in the roar of the waterfall.” (Psalm 42:10).

God calls to us from the depths of his love to the depths of our soul. Psalm 42:10 says he calls “in the roar of the waterfall.” The images of the psalms can translate to many situations, so they are always personal. To me, at this moment, the waterfall is all the thoughts in my mind that compete for attention. They roar and fall down around me on all sides. But the psalm tells me that God calls me in the roar, and if I listen, I can still hear. Today, the waterfall is thoughts, tomorrow it might be an emotion that consumes me, but the message is the same. He calls through the roar of the waterfall. I just have to stop and listen.

Fountain

Thorny Weather

By Sr. Nun Other

Sometimes I clear my thought collection by writing poetry. I un-jumble the jumbled mess by sorting, eliminating, and re-arranging words on paper. Recently, I captured the words thistle thorns and placed them in my reject section. However, they persisted and insisted on space in my poem.

I’m of Scottish descent and somewhere in Scotland, there’s a clan chief and a run-down castle that bears my name. Enter the lowly thistle, scorned by gardeners, despised by children in bare feet, and just below dandelion on the least wanted list. It also happens to be Scotland’s oldest recorded National Flower. A 13th century legend tells of Viking invaders, who hoped to capture the Scots as they slept. Their plan failed when a barefooted soldier tromped on a thistle, cried out in pain, and woke the sleeping Scots. If I’m any example, Scots are not morning people, and the Vikings were quickly overcome by enraged clansmen.

The thistle is a symbol of tenacity. It’s both a humble weed and a complex entity composed of soft downy flower and sharp thorns. Its roots reach deep, it keeps a stubborn grip on the land, and flourishes in adversity. I’m aware that God hands me flowers with thorns now and then. The beauty of the flower is a blessing, but it’s the thorns that make me strong.

thistle

Inside Out

By Sr. Nun Other

The earth is composed of layers: surface, crust, mantle, outer core and inner core. And so are we. I have a surface-self, carefully constructed of what I want others to see. Successive layers, less in my control, lead to the heart of the matter. Psalm 51:10 petitions, Create in me a pure heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. God promises in Ezekiel 36:26-27, A new heart I will give you; and a new spirit I will put within you. While I’m busy trying, God is busy transforming. And I hope He finds my heart, fallow ground, plowed and waiting for the essence of Christ to grow.

Inside Out

Advent’s Thief

Jesus is coming as a thief in the night – “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven…” (Matthew 24:36)

“But how the heck can you be ready for something you don’t know is coming? How can we be ready for the unexpected? Well, we can’t.

“So maybe being awake and alert and expectant—all themes of Advent—has nothing to do with knowing or certainty or prediction, but has a lot to do with being in a state of unknowing. My instinct is always to use my knowingness—my certainty I’m right….—as a sort of loss-prevention program, a system by which I protect myself from the unknown and the unexpected. Which works approximately none of the time.

     “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42-44)

“Here’s the thing; like the house owner, knowing what to look for as a way of avoiding being robbed is only advantageous if we assume being robbed is a bad thing. But perhaps having an unknowing brain allows us to be taken unaware by the grace of God, which is like a thief in the night. Maybe it’s good news that Jesus has been staking the joint and there will be a break-in. The promise of Advent is that in the absence of knowing everything, we get robbed. There was and is and will be a break-in because God is not interested in our loss-prevention programs but in saving us from ourselves and saving us from our culture and saving us even from our certainties about God’s story itself.

“This holy thief wants to steal from us, and maybe that is literal and metaphoric at the same time. Perhaps, during Advent, a season with pornographic levels of consumption in which our credit card debts rise and our waistbands expand, the idea that Jesus wants to break in and jack some of our stuff is really good news. There’s just a whole lot of crap in my house—again, both literally and metaphorically—that I could well do without.”

I pray that we are caught unaware by the grace of God this Advent—that this thief be allowed to rip into our houses, and steal from us the hurts, fears, jealousy and wants, and replace these with love, peace, and Joy.

Scripture from NIV; other all other quotations from Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Copyright 2015, Crown Publishing/Convergent Books.

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I think it Begins with “R”

By Sr. Nun Other

This week a word came to mind, a word I’d never spoken. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting what it was. Hours passed, then it would reappear, only to disappear before I could write it down. I did, however, know it was similar to “restoration”. So hoping to spark the proper synapse, I tossed that word around for awhile. In the end, I consulted a list of synonyms and there it was: reclamation. Because of its unfamiliarity (and persistence), I carefully considered its significance. Reclamation is the conversion of wasteland into ground suitable for cultivationGenerally, the return to a former, better state, where more is received than has been lost, and the final product greater than the original.

This is much the same as God works with us. In several Psalms of deliverance, the writer unabashedly admits his own shortcomings and ensuing results. He calls on God, who sorts through the debris with great precision to build and restore, not just equal to, but better than. One such Psalm affirms: I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:1-3
Reclamation

Impressions

Last week, I started a week-long conversation with the Lord. It began with me in my frustration, asking God how long it would take me to change. ( well, honestly, it really began with me asking the Lord how long it was going to take the person with whom I’d just had an argument to change!)

As I settled down and began to listen more, He began to teach me.

He told me I couldn’t change myself. He told me I couldn’t become like Him just by copying Him. That wasn’t  enough.

I waited for Him to tell me more, but that is all I heard for that day.

The next day, I was talking to the Lord about some stress in my life and why He was allowing it. What good was there in it? As I listened, I heard Him say, “as you are pressured and press yourself against Me, my image is imprinted on you. All you have to do is throw yourself on Me.

As I went into our church a few days later, I looked at the bronze Adam & Eve on the doors. I realized the art form to make the doors, the Lost Wax process, is similar to what happens to us in Transfiguration – as we allow the pressure in our lives to push us towards Jesus, He impresses His image into us.Eve - from the main doors

Arms that welcome

By Sister Nun Other

I have a friend who considers the Bible the world’s greatest encyclopedia. She reads it in search of answers and is never disappointed! Recently, she told me of a verse, for her and me at least, newly discovered. That verse was Isaiah 50:10, which reads: 

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord. This morning I woke up anxious, not quite sure of my way. Then words from an eighteenth century hymn writer, Joseph Hart, cut a path through my musings.  He wrote, “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power. The hymn goes on to call the thirsty, weary, and heavy laden, and ends, “All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of Him. Essentially, it’s a parallel message to the one from Isaiah, both coming within a single week! For those of us who sometimes wander (and wonder), it’s a recommendation well-worth considering.