Bits and Pieces

 

…I saw a butterfly today, black with a touch of yellow, and it made me smile
…A friend forgave me and I relaxed
…Remembering a favorite dinner coming tonight makes me forget how tired I feel
…A conflict resolved better then I would have believed when I awoke this morning

…The sun sets again and I’m in awe of how enormous God’s love must be, and I wonder with thanks at the ways Jesus works to set us free.

 
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Islands

 
The rhythm  of the tide
first draining the creek
then sweeping back in to cover;
all but the grassy crown of the small island.

Day in, day out
a stability that calms me.

Dear Lord I am aware that I am at low tide,
I return to you each morning hoping your love,
your forgiveness will sweep in with their warm waters
to fill again
my hollow spaces.

I spread myself out in the shallows of your great sea.
Let me be your little island;
one island in a chain of a million islands;
like a pearly archipelago.
I long to trust you whether the water be low
or high.

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The Time Between Winter and Spring

by Blue Heron

Spring has technically arrived on the calendar but the wind coming off the bay remains raw. The crocuses popped up some time ago, and lawns are slowly greening, yet the Spring I hope for remains at a distance. Cape Cod is such a unique setting. The waters north of the Cape are cold as they come down from the North Atlantic. The waters to the south of the Cape are warmed by the Gulf Stream . So we are at the intersection of two climates.
 
We have fish and animal life from both ecosystems. The cold ocean pretty much steals our spring away. But the warm waters of summer provide a mild autumn. I remember swimming in ponds in October.
 
I find within myself that I live at the intersection of two worlds. I want to think well of myself, and have others do the same. But in truth my mind darts around with jealous and angry thoughts, and much of my energy is spent longing after illusions. The truth is that I am in need of a Savior. If everything were wonderful, I wouldn’t need saving. I need help and I need changing if I am going to reach the land I really want to dwell in. So I live between these two worlds. I must choose between what I would prefer to think about myself and the actual truth about myself. I find this difficult. There are times I would like to perpetuate the illusion.
 
At such times I remember that Jesus has known me for a long time. He accepted me and forgave me long before I ever realized there was a problem. And so I am learning to stand on that ground. His intentions are not like mine. He waits, and gently soothes my thrashings when I finally come to see my need for him.
 
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Late Have I Loved You

 
The author of Sunday’s Lauds reading, wrote: “God’s love has gone forth in search of sinners.” The picture of this Love: active, initiating, seeking, always steadily in pursuit, counters my own unreality: here I was thinking that I was really working hard this Lent. . . . But then, lest I be tempted to despair of myself, the author, identified simply as “a Syrian writer,” goes on to say, “Reflect within yourself that your sin is great, but that it is blasphemy against God and damage to yourself to despair of his forgiveness because your sin seems to you to be too great,” . . . apparently he’s got my number.
 
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Be Perfect As Your Heavenly Father Is Perfect

by Sr Nunother  

Oh dear. I strive for perfect in all the wrong ways. There are days when everything I do is off kilter. I lose my glasses, misplace important papers, and walk into walls. I bite into a sandwich and mustard catapults onto my sleeve. I wipe it off with a paper towel, then Google “mustard stain” and learn to never rub mustard into fabric, always lift excess with a knife. I try harder. Lint on the black yoke of my habit becomes super important and I keep a package of sealing tape nearby for instant removal. My idea of perfect has to do with ego, pride, and self-improvement. God’s perfect has to do with forming a heart of love, forgiveness, and mercy. The Hebrew word for perfect, tamiym, translates as whole, sincere, complete, and filled with integrity. Now those are things worth striving for.

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

 by Sr Fidelis  

Lenten Spring

We’ve begun our Lenten journey. Lent has always been a time of inner reflection and repentance, usually associated with fasting in preparation for Easter. The word Lent comes to us from the Teutonic language, and it means Spring. The Old English word for lengthening days was lencten, and the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of March was Lenct. This juxtaposition of repentance alongside the hope of Spring is so beautifully expressed in the Lauds Hymn, based on the 10th century text, Iam Christe, sol iustitiae

Now,  O Christ, sun of justice, let the shadows of the mind divide, that the light of virtues may return when you restore daylight to the world.

Granting an acceptable time, also give a penitent heart that kindness may convert those whom longsuffering has borne:

And give some kind of penance to carry out, through which our sins, however grave, may be removed by your greater offering.

The day is coming, your day, through which all things flower again; may we rejoice in it, led back by it to your grace.

You, let the entirety of all things worship, O merciful Trinity, and, made new by forgiveness, let us sing the new song.  Amen

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“Wonder”

by Blue Heron

A new year is fast approaching, and each year it becomes harder to self generate much hope. This world is black and blue; even more than bruised, it is bloody and broken. And there is also the conflict of the struggle against the darkness in ourselves. What remains is that which we have already attempted to repair; the striving and straining that leaves us at the end of our own efforts.

It is into this bleak winter that God again shows up on our doorstep. In utter simplicity He lays the baby down. His Son, payment for our sin-filled condition. What is there about this baby that batters the inner walls I have erected to protect myself? The little hands and feet — the vulnerability. There seems to be nothing that God would not stoop to, to get my attention. His heart full of tenderness, expressed in a child. Ever ready to forgive. We have little hope in ourselves, but good cause for hope in such a God of new beginnings.
 
This poem by George Macdonald can perhaps apply to baby Jesus entering our world.
 
Baby
Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.
Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.
What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the Starry spikes left in.
Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.
What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.
What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.
Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.
Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.
Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.
Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherub’s wings.
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.
But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.
                                                               George Macdonald
 
 

Simple Choices

by Melodius Monk  

One of the hallmarks of the Benedictine life is Obedience. I guess for all followers of Jesus, as we try to live his instruction to “come, follow me,” obedience is a part of life. Obedience is a fresh daily choice, even for those of us that have taken life-long vows of obedience to in a monastic community.

I’m not talking about life-altering choices.  It’s often the little things. Did I take the time to go back to a friend I was upset with and get resolved? Did I give my best effort at my afternoon work assignment, even though I didn’t like the job? Did I prefer my brother, or my co-worker’s request for help, over my busy “to-do” list? Did I forgive that annoying person that hurt my feelings this afternoon?
 
Many times I choose not to do these things, sometimes unaware of the choice I’m making, sometimes aware.  Yet even if I make a wrong choice, in the struggle for obedience my faith grows. I learn a little more about Jesus, about how simple and freeing his obedience can be, all the while still wrestling daily with how tough these simple choices can feel.

Worth a Thousand Words

 by Sr Nunother  

I was interested to learn that the now popular phrase “aha moment” has both a dictionary definition and a scientific explanation.  Defined as a moment of clarity in which one gains wisdom, it’s scientifically marked by a sudden burst of high-frequency brain waves. This past week a photographer friend sent pictures of a rainbow over Cape Cod Bay. They were taken on a dark, stormy November day that offered little personal solace. Without fanfare or words, they became my Advent “aha moment.” Into my darkness and need, Jesus quietly does the unexpected. He comes with a promise of love, hope, and forgiveness.
 

A Memorial to Remember

by Melodius Monk  

Driving through Oklahoma this week, I was privileged to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the site where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed in 1995. I was only 12 years old when this tragedy took place, and though I remember hearing about the bombing, I wasn’t old enough to understand the scale of this life-changing event. Maybe naivety about what had happened was partly why I found this visit so moving. Walking into this sacred space, I was overcome with emotion. As the guide talked us through the events of the historic day and pointed out the symbolism behind every piece of the beautiful memorial, my eyes quickly filled with tears. I was particularly struck by two pieces of the outdoor memorial that are called the “Gates of Time.” The east and west sides of the memorial are flanked by two large gates; the east wall representing the time 9:01, one minute before the bombing, and the west wall 9:03, one minute after the explosion. The significance of the 9:03 wall caught my attention. It  was to show the city and people’s deliberate choice to move forward from this evil act, toward reconciliation, rebuilding, and …..specifically hope. In my normal, far less tragic life, it often takes me days to even want to start to forgive when I feel hurt, let alone the minute after such evil.  The overall impact of the memorial was strong in many ways, but one thought that stuck with me was this: I wonder how much good we could do, individually and collectively, if each of us would regularly embrace this hopeful attitude of the 9:03 wall?