Boundaries

By Renaissance Girl

My dog started a fight with another dog yesterday. It was completely my fault. I was outside with some friends and took him off his leash to let him roam around while we talked. I didn’t even see the other dog coming — but he did. It happened so fast and I didn’t stand a chance of grabbing him. Eventually I did and thankfully, there were no major injuries — but my heart was pounding for a long time.

I don’t understand why my dog doesn’t like this other dog — he has no reason but their greetings are never friendly. So I Googled the question, “what makes dogs aggressive towards certain other dogs.” The first page to come up was Cesar Millan’s website. I have such respect and admiration for him, so I opened the article hopefully. Actually, he didn’t specifically address the question I asked, but this phrase caught my eye. “You need to become the dog’s pack leader and establish rules, boundaries, and limitations. You need to fulfill the dog as Nature intended him to be fulfilled.”  I don’t think about my dog being “fulfilled” but it stuck with me. In talking it through later, I realized that, similar to parents with children, I buck against boundaries myself so I don’t like to require them of my dog. But, aside from putting him and others in a dangerous situation, it also leaves him unfulfilled, worried about filling a spot that shouldn’t be his to fill.

Maybe that’s how God sees us — he gives us structures and boundaries so we are relieved of the pressure to be someone we’re not, and can simply be who we are created to be, and thus fulfilled.

The Community of Jesus

 

Sound of Silence

By Renaissance Girl

Four times a week I feed the fish in the Koi pond near the church.  It’s an enclosed space – literally inside the walls – and I’ve started looking forward to those moments of quiet, me and the fish and the sound of water trickling and wind through the bamboo. Sometimes I laugh as they tussle over first dibs on their food. Sometimes I barely want to breathe so as not to disturb the silence. But I always smile when they see me coming and rush to the side of the pond, mouths gaping. So eager and dependent and just themselves.

Sometimes I’m surprised by the things that start out as “duties” and end up being gifts. I just have to allow my perspective to be changed.

fish

 

.

Keep It Simple

By Renaissance Girl

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching . . . and the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

We’ve been reading through John’s account of the Last Supper in our morning services recently. What a banquet of truth and insight and encouragement for his disciples in a short span of time. This morning we read Chapter 14, vs.21-26. We arrived at the altar for Eucharist and had two phrases highlighted – “obey my teaching” and “The Holy Spirit will teach you.” It’s a matter of being in a state of listening. It’s not up to me to come up with the right answer or to feel defensive when my way turns out to not be THE way. “Keep it simple,” the Presider encouraged us, “Commit today to obeying God’s will, and listen for the Holy Spirit to tell you what it is.”

 

Leap Before You Look

By Renaissance Girl
 

“Even more, we may discover in our questing that seeking the will of God is not a task or a set of goals replete with programs or methods.” 

This is not what someone like me wants to hear. I hate to admit it but I tend to take a “how-to” approach to my relationship with God. I approach finding God’s will like looking for a good recipe — tell me the exact steps to take and directions to follow, and maybe even a picture of what it should look like when I’m finished and I’ll get started. And that, I am learning, is not how God works. It always reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones when he steps out over a chasm having to have the faith that the bridge is there because he can’t see it. I’m starting to accept that that’s what life with God is like — not because he’s tricky and wants it to be hard, but because if we’re trying to love him first, he’ll give us the next step right when we need it. And really, my way is a bit unexciting don’t you think? And rules out the need for a relationship with God? If I could see the whole picture of what the rest of my life will be, where would be the joy of surprises, and why would I need faith?
 
“What finding the divine will means is that we center our hearts on our relationship with God, seek first his kingdom, and generously respond to its challenges. Putting God first and responding to the needs around us are God’s desires for us and will certainly move us in the right direction.” Bridget Haase, OSU, Doors to the Sacred
 
leap

Suscipe

 
This past Wednesday was our annual vow service. It is one of the most beautiful nights of the year. The church, still clothed in Christmas garb, glows with the warmth of candle light. The vowed Community, robed with white scapulars, fill the seats on either side of the aisle the candidate will walk.  And the candidate, this year already robed and making final vows, exudes a light that comes with saying Yes.
 
I find everything about the service moving, from the hymns, to the speaking of the vows, to the moment where the candidate prostrates him or herself at the foot of the altar in a moment of total vulnerability and surrender. It’s an event where the ever-moving stream of history is almost palpable and the unity with monastics across time and space is humbling to say the least. And it is a moment that reminds each of us of our own call.
 
The most beautiful moment to me, is the chanting of the Suscipe — an ancient and traditional chant for the final vows in a Benedictine Community. The newly vowed sings it once on their own and then, in a chorus of support, the entire vowed community repeats it.  It is as though, through the Latin text, we are pledging to stand with the newly professed, and they with us — a bond of obedience and dependence on God.  And we sing it, knowing we will stumble, that sometimes we will want to quit, and that sometimes, we just need to stand still.
 
“Suscipe me Domine, secundum eloquium tuum at vivam; et non confundas me, ab expectatione mea.”

Uphold me, Lord, according to your word, and do not disappoint me in my hope.

suscipe

 

 

Epiphany Reflection

By Sr. Nun Other 

The Star was God’s birth announcement to the world, beckoning unbelievers to meet His Son. It has been said that the Magi each received a gift for their sacrifice: Caspar, who offered gold, the gift of charity; Melchior, the bearer of myrrh, humility and truth; and Balthasar, for frankincense (symbol of prayer), the gift of faith. They knew without “knowing” and followed without question.
 
My personal prayer for 2014 is to follow each Star that leads to Jesus, without demanding to first know the outcome.
 
20140106_130838
 

With Unveiled Faces

By Renaissance Girl 
This past weekend was the Gala celebration of Gloriae Dei Cantores 25th Anniversary.  A culmination of 25 years of following the Holy Spirit, and watching him take a small group of people and transform them and their sometimes feeble efforts into an expression of God’s love and healing. The church sparkled on Friday and Saturday evenings, bouquets bursting with peonies, roses, snapdragons. Sparkling branches seemed to bring out the vibrant colors and light of the mosaic and I found myself constantly being drawn to look at the apse.  
 
Of all the pieces, “Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice” by Finzi caught me off guard. It is a stunning interpretation of God’s love and sacrifice for us in giving his son. The harmonies literally seemed to carry the words through my skin and into my heart. The piece reaches a high point with this text, made all the more meaningful by the face of Christ overlooking us all from the apse. And it brought with it the overwhelming sense that this is where it is all heading — what we are all striving towards. 
 
“When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
and drink the unseal’d source of Thee.
When Glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,
and for thy veil give me thy face.”
 
apse

Greater Love

by Renaissance Girl

I saw the movie “Of Gods and Men” this weekend — the true story of seven monks in a monastery in Algeria who, in 1996, amidst growing political turmoil in that country, were kidnapped in the middle of the night, held captive, and eventually killed…just because they were Christian.  It would take too long to say all the things that moved me about their story.  But two stood out.  One was the scene where a young woman was in turmoil over an arranged marriage and asked one of the older monks if he’d ever been in love.  “Many times,” he said, “but then I found a love greater than all of them, and I left everything for that love.”  His genuine love of God was palpable – so real – based in everyday experience.

But almost more inspiring was a scene where a younger monk was praying in his cell.  Each monk had agreed to pray and decide for themselves if they would stay or leave the country — knowing that staying put them in death’s path.  Br. Christophe was in turmoil — terrified of staying, and yet afraid to leave his call.  He literally cried out to God in the darkness of his cell, “Do not abandon me! Give me faith.”  It took my breath away — this raw, human, throwing of himself at God’s feet. 

And I came away with the knowledge that I want that — I want to love God every day — to cry out to him in the most real way — in joy and turmoil.

monks

Wanderings

Yesterday’s sermon talked about obedience.  There was more to it, but that’s what stuck with me.  Of all the Israelites to be led out of Egypt, only one actually entered the Promised Land. That was mind boggling — and alarming.  So much had to do with obedience.  God gave them directives and they said, “Thanks for the suggestion,” and did their own thing.  Even after he specifically said they would not enter the Promised Land, they tried to anyway.  I could feel myself wanting to slide down in my seat.  How often do I grumble when I don’t understand what God is doing, or why I don’t have what I want.  And sadly, I could relate to their complaints even after God opened the waters of the sea, struck down firstborns, and all other manner of miracles to get them out of captivity.  I could probably make a list of the times I felt God told me to do something, and I said “Thanks for the suggestion,” and did my own thing anyway.  

 
I struggle with the idea that obedience, far from being a restrictive thing, is actually freedom when we live within the context of what God has for us. Perhaps I can take a lesson from the story of Israel before I spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness.
 
Wilderness

Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Hebrews12:1

Sometimes when I struggle with myself I am motivated by a picture of a crowd of watchers peering down from heaven, their smiling faces ranged around a balustrade. On a good day I imagine both the strangers and the dear departed friends cheering and laughing good naturedly. And on the bad days? Well, then I guess their faces are more earnest and intent, and perhaps some of them let their exasperation with their charge show in their faces.

I had to reconsider this image recently when someone pointed out that maybe some of that crowd might actually be very much alive, and looking up, not down. Some of the great cloud might still be a few feet shorter than me. I never imagine that the small people I know take much notice of my coming and going but who knows who is looking on. There’s nobody who sees more honestly than a perceptive child. Now there’s a new motivator to
 
keep up the fight.
 
 
 
 
 
_MG_6578A