Monday, June 29, 2020

Sin = not noticing


Today my morning devotions/meditation (The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life) had a reading of Matthew 25:31-46. You know the passage: Jesus talks about the final judgment, separating the sheep and the goats. Then he tells them "I was thirsty, I was hungry, I was a stranger, I needed clothes, I was sick, etc." and the people ask, "When did we see you thirsty, hungry, a stranger, etc.?" The Lord answers, "whatever you did / did not do for one of the least of these, you did / did not do for me."

The devotional said, "Consider how Jesus portrays sin as a failure to notice and act." I had never thought of it that way. A failure to notice. Who am I failing to notice??

Sunday, June 28, 2020

love this in particular


A while ago I read this newsletter from Sarah Bessey. She wrote that during this time when she is house-bound with 4 kids, she gets a little time to herself by taking a 30-minute bath every night. On one night:


I got out of the tub ... And the thought came, unbidden, to my mind: I love this in particular. This, the hot water, the smell of the bath salts, the clean towel, the damp paperback on the edge of the tub, the rosiness of my cheeks, the languid heat rising from my limbs, the noise on the other side of the door: love this.…


...I’ve found - entirely by accident - that this practice of loving this in particular a few times a day is actually functioning as both an invocation and a benediction. ... This has been a nice surprise.


A while back I listened to an interview of Ross Gay, the author of a book called The Book of Delights, a book of essays he wrote each day about what delighted him. The practice Sarah Bessey wrote of -- loving this in particular a few times a day -- reminded me of what Ross Gay said. He wrote an “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt.” Can’t get much less highfalutin and deep than buttoning your shirt. Yet he delighted in it.


Without thinking too much about it, I started noticing little things I love in particular. It came naturally to me. I have read many times about the practice of gratitude, things like writing every day 3 things you’re grateful for, but I could never keep that up. Somehow trying to list what I’m grateful for was harder. It wasn’t something natural that just occurred to me throughout the day. I tended to be grateful for bigger things like my family, the fact I have shelter, my health, and so on. But with loving something in particular, size and importance did not matter.


Here are some of the things I love in particular that have come to my mind in the last few days.


  • My hat

  • A tree, green leaves, black trunk, its shadow on the green hill.

  • My granddaughter’s profile

  • On a walk around the block, the smell of a rosebush that wafted in the breeze when I was still around 4 feet away.

  • Crawling back into bed after breakfast with my book and my coffee.


I took pictures of some of the things and started a gallery. I keep forgetting to add to it, but it’s a start.


I am glad to have these reminders -- some little, some big -- of God's love in this world that can sometimes seem bleak and full of hate. How about you? What do you notice you love in particular?


Praise God for all the things we love in particular.


What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

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What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..

.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Optimistic?


I read an article this week called “Ignatian Optimism,” by Sandy Millar. She writes about “Ignatian optimism,” and I study and practice Ignatian traditions, but I think we could also call it “Christian optimism.” In our current time of a pandemic, with growing joblessness, riots, deaths, screaming matches, and name-calling, it is easy to be pessimistic. We wonder how things can ever get better. But it’s different for us Jesus-followers. We know “the ever-present and ever-active love of God in this world.”

We are called to participate in this movement toward the world as God dreams it to become, to make the realm of God as real here on earth as it is in the farthest reaches of heaven.

Thus, we can see the world plainly and truthfully and acknowledge what is wrong—and still rally with faith, hope, and love. This optimism does not rely on temporary outcomes but on God’s—and our—eternal, bright desire.

I do sometimes get pessimistic. I have days where I feel on the verge of crying all day long. I get discouraged and lose heart. But even when I feel sunk and stuck in the quicksand of hopelessness, underneath there’s hope, a certain hope, a deep knowledge that God is holding me up. As I send this message out, I pray you each have that hope within your hearts.

We are not supposed to ignore the bad things in life. We are not supposed to think, “Oh well, when we get to heaven everything will be okay,” and not care about what’s going on around us. In the Bible, on what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, while people cheered for him, Jesus looked at Jerusalem and wept, knowing the sadness to come (Luke 19:41-44). When his friend Lazarus’ sisters cried about the death of their brother, Jesus wept with them (John 11:33-35). He didn’t gloss over the terrible things that happened, he entered into the mourning they caused.

We, too, are saddened by injustice and cruelty, and we, too, enter into the mourning. But even while crying we try to remember Jesus’ love, we try to imagine and feel him beside us, helping us to bear it.

I read a poem by Malcolm Guite called “Christian Plummet” that ends:

One who takes Jonah as his only sign
Sinks lower still to hold you in his love,
And though you cannot see, or speak, or breathe,
The everlasting arms are underneath.

Even deep underwater like Jonah in the whale, when we “cannot see, or speak, or breathe,” God’s arms are underneath us.

May we all be Christian optimists. In every moment of every day, may you know the deep, deep love of Jesus.

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis
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c: 408 318 2037

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What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Mother

This painting by Titus Kaphar was on a Time magazine cover this week. In the written piece accompanying the painting, Kaphar says:
I paint a Black mother…
eyes closed,
furrowed brow,
holding the contour of her loss.

In the discussions and conversations about the protests and riots following the death of George Floyd, the ones that evoke the most empathy in me are when black mothers speak of their fears for their sons, having to teach them ways to act in situations, not because they need to mind their manners and be polite, but because they might get killed.

We all have fears about our loved ones, and for us mothers and fathers, fears about our children loom large. Someone said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body" (Elizabeth Stone, teacher and author). When something bad happens to my children, it feels like it is happening to me. I cannot think of a greater pain than the suffering you feel when your child suffers.


The painting reminds me of the many images of Madonna and child. I think of the pain for Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she held her baby son. In several Bible stories she heard prophecies about her son and “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Jesus was her “heart...walking around outside [her] body,” and she pondered his life in her own heart.

Imagining Mary standing beneath the cross where her son Jesus was hanging is unbearably, achingly heartbreaking. Jesus embodied their love when he told the disciple standing beside Mary, “here is your mother.”
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27).
Even as he was being tortured to death Jesus cared for his mother. How must Mary have felt -- hearing his words of love, watching her beloved son suffering and dying.


Titus Kaphar’s painting reminds me of Michelangelo’s Pietà. Here, too, a mother is “holding the contour of her loss,” her beloved son, dead. 

It is hard to bear the sadness in this world. As we hold the contour of our loss, God holds us. May we rest in the healing of his love.



Saturday, June 6, 2020

The tree says...


My strength is trust.
I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
                               -- Herman Hesse
Recently I happened upon this video.



I was enchanted by the repeating phrase, “A tree says…” I read it right before going on a walk and started wondering what the other things around us say. In Herman Hesse’s passage, many of the phrases are true of God, of us, and our relationship with God. In my reflections, it turned out that was true of other elements of nature, too. We see -- and hear and feel -- God in everything.

Here are some of my thoughts. How about yours? What do you imagine God’s creations are saying?
The cloud says: I am white, I am gray, I am a wisp, I am fluffy, I am heavy.
        I blow in the wind and disappear,
        I release the rain, snow, hail, and sleet to water the earth.
        I quench your thirst.
The sky says: I am blue, I am gray, I am white, I am midnight, I am starry, I am hidden, I am brilliant.
        I am above you, I am below you, I am around you.
        I am the portal to outer space, to billions and billions, to infinity.
        I protect you. 
The grass says: I am green, I am brown, I am smooth, I am rough, I am pristine, I am weedy.
        I spread far and rest your eyes.
        I cushion you. 
The stone says: I am hard, I am sharp, I am round, I am gray, I am white, I am big, I am small.
        I skip on the water.
        I support your steps. 
The rose says: I am red, I am all colors, I am curvilinear, I am blowsy, I am petals, I am thorns.
        I am the flower your nose wants to smell.
        I bring you joy. 
The wind says: I am soft, I am hard, I am mischievous, I am sad, I am gentle, I am rough.
        I make the trees beautiful and I tear the trees down.
        I breathe peace.
In the book of Isaiah, it says:
You will go out in joy
        and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
        will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
        will clap their hands.
The tree says:
A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life.
I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
My strength is trust.
I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
                -- Herman Hesse
The tree says “I trust that God is in me...Out of this trust I live.” Amen, may it be so for us all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Help

How can I write about something else when all this is going on -- the murder of George Floyd, the riots and destruction, the virus, the quarantine, the angry, hurtful words, the chaos, the fear?


I turn to my favorite Psalm, Psalm 46.


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.


There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.


The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.


Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”


The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.


When I hear the words, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” my shoulders drop, I breathe more deeply. I feel a stream is flowing through my heart. Today I had a new thought about that river. I read people saying there cannot be peace without justice and it reminded me of the verse, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24, famously quoted by Martin Luther King.) That river whose streams make glad the city of God contains justice.


In a passage by Anne Lamott imagining a discussion with her Sunday School class, she writes:


I hate this. It would be so much skin off God’s nose to give us a map?
Well, I would tell my kids, God actually does, and I would have one of the big kids read Psalm 61 from the Hebrew Bible: “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”


And in Psalm 121:


I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.


In Psalm 146:


The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.


I lift up my eyes to the mountains, to the rock that is higher than I, to the fortress, and find my help. I see the river whose streams make God glad, filled with justice, peace, and love. I pray I may be a drop of water in that river. I pray that you, too, find the peace and love of God flowing into your heart. He loves you.