Saturday, October 14, 2017

Finding God in all things

One of the things I love about the Jesuit tradition is their emphasis on "finding God in all things." Today one of the Fathers said, "When someone is at a retreat and really getting it, I could give them a phone book and they'd find God in it." I often think of finding God in all things when I get a glimpse strangers showing love to each other.

Right before this morning's presentation, I snapped a picture of an example of that. A younger and an elder woman were walking together on the sidewalks of the buildings here in the retreat center. The younger woman not only hooked her arm into the elder's arm, she put her other hand on the elder's arm, too. She leaned her body and inclined her head to hear and speak to the elder woman. She nodded often. When they came to stairs, she carefully took a step and waited for the elder woman's foot to reach each step, too.

Chocolate covered cherry

At the retreat, I have decided to go on a "Facebook Fast." I will use my time to meditate and pray, and not on Facebook. Just to note: I actually think Facebook gets a bad rap, but I understand. I love Facebook for what it was when I started using it, and what I still try to use it for -- community. I love "talking" with my sister, my cousins, my brother, the rest of my family, and my friends. I love reading about what they're doing and thinking, seeing photos of what's going on in their lives. Now, I know we tend to show only our positive side on Facebook. I have said that it's like those newsy Christmas letters we used to send with our Christmas cards -- full of the good things that have happened in our lives, not much about the bad, or the hard, or the sad. But I like the newsy Christmas letters, too, and I like Facebook for the same reasons. It's no substitute for real-life talking and friendship, but it's still community.

Anyway, I decided not to go on Facebook during this retreat. I made an exception that I would post my blog entries, but that's all. Every day, though, at least once if not more, I have gone on Facebook on my phone. It's truly a habit. I check my emails, then click on Facebook. Each time a memory has come up in my memory stream. I start looking at the memories, enjoying them, then realize, "Oops! I'm on Facebook!" and I close it.

It makes me laugh at myself and it reminds me of when I used to fast sometimes while going to college. I'd go for a full day not eating. At Calvin, in the bookstore checkout area, they usually had a display of single chocolate covered cherries. You could buy one at a time for a matter of cents. They were my favorite kind of chocolate covered cherries -- clear liquid inside, not that too sweet white stuff. I would often use the halls of buildings on the way to avoid the snow and cold as I walked to class. I would sometimes allow myself the treat of going through the bookstore checkout and buying one of those cherries.

Several times on days I was fasting, I'd buy a cherry, eat it with great enjoyment, and then remember, "Oops, I'm fasting!" Very much a creature of habit!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Forgive = a new relationship

Here at the retreat one of the Fathers gave a talk on forgiving. He said a sentence that really struck me. He said, "Forgiveness is a re-imagining of our relationship with Jesus, not just a 'car wash.'"

I thought of our liturgy at church, which always contains a part for "Words of Confession and Grace." It's quite common that after the pastor reads a confession on our behalf, he will recite 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I love that part of the service. I love the reassurance that all our sins will be washed away, and God will not even see them anymore when he looks at me.

I have to admit, though, I was thinking of it kind of like a "car wash." I was thinking of my heart with sin all over it, and Jesus washed them all away.

What does it mean that forgiveness is a new, re-imagined relationship with Jesus? Does it mean when we have a heart full of sin we are kind of estranged from Jesus and his forgiveness makes us more like his friend? Or his sister? Does it mean when we have a heart full of sin we're kind of embarrassed or ashamed to be with Jesus, and then when he forgives us we are comfortable and close to him? Does it mean when we have a heart full of sin, we are tied to things, to stuff, to success, to what we think is important, and when Jesus forgives us we are free to be with him, and happy?

Lots to think about. What do you think?


I wrote a while back about hineni, the Hebrew word for "Here I am." Hineni has become a refrain in my mind. I keep thinking about it and finding more and more in it (pronounced hee nay nee).

Right now I am at a 5-day spiritual retreat at the Jesuit retreat center in Los Altos. It's my first silent retreat. We meet once a day with a spiritual director, and have two "presentations" where a leader gives a guided meditation or talk.

For me, hineni seems to be the topic of thought and prayer for this retreat. Yesterday I googled it and found a bunch of references to it in the Jewish tradition.

I'm sure there's much more.

One thing that struck me yesterday is the rabbi in that first search result said that "hineni" means more than just "I am here" or "I am present." When they're taking roll in the Yeshiva there's a different word for "here" or "present," poh. Hineni means "I am here, willing and ready to take on the mission you give me."

How's that for a lot to think about?! What does willing and ready mean? What is my mission?

I was mulling over the many things that may be coming in my life, to which I am saying I am ready. There's so much that could be coming, that it could be my mission to go through. So often things just come out of the blue, right? Like ALS for my brother, cancer for my friend. Of course there are happy things out of the blue, too, like a bonus from work, or an exciting opportunity. 

It's a little -- more than a little, a lot actually -- scary to say, "Here I am, willing and ready." How can I know I'm willing or ready when I don't know for what? It makes me think of when our pastor had us all paint a little canvas to symbolize the cover of the book with the story of our lives in it. I drew a curving path with a shining cross around the curve. It was meant to signify that we never know what's coming around the curve, but we always know Christ will be there. So even though it's scary not knowing, it's good I do know Christ will be there, walking beside me every step of the way. Holding my hand. Like the friend that he is.

Hineni in Hebrew. I think if I ever got a tattoo, this would be it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Its smell woke me up.
It blocks our view of Mt. Umunhum.
It turns the sun orange.
It makes us turn on our headlights.
It cancels recesses.
It reminds us to pray.