Tag Archives: invitation

Life is too short…

Life is too short to drink cheap wine,

a friend used to say

as he sipped his favorite red wine.

He died young

but enjoyed lots of fine wine

in his short life.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver asked.

She, too, knew the how fragile life could be

and the urgency of embracing the moment.

Even if we live for

eighty years or ninety,

is it ever enough?

Is there not one more thing to be done,

one more place to see,

one more goal to accomplish,

one more person to forgive?

Say yes to the invitation,

accept change,

act on impulses,

be kind and generous,

eat good food and

drink good wine.

Live each day as if it were your last.

"I've been waiting for you."

I had just finished making my purchase at Office Depot and complimented the young cashier on her earrings. I asked if she had made them. She hadn’t, and she told me where she bought them.

“Are they something you would wear?” she asked.

“I would.”

“I have been waiting for you,” she said. “Stay right there.”

She bent down, retrieved a package from the shelf beneath the counter and handed it to me.

I thanked her and walked out of the store with my gift—a small bag containing the same earrings she was wearing and a card with “Thank you” printed on the front and this handwritten message on the inside:

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. -Steve Maraboli.

Pass the kindness on. The world could use it.

She had drawn two hearts on the card and signed her name.

Since that encounter, I keep thinking of her intentionality and thoughtfulness. I am amazed at how planful she was in her act of kindness. It was only random in the sense of her having no idea who would receive it.

That encounter reminded me of a woman I met years ago after her one-woman show performed in a small chapel at my university. I had approached her to thank her for her presentation and we discovered we had both lived in l’Arche communities.

She shared that she decided to move to l’Arche after meeting a man from my community who was visiting her college for a weekend workshop designed for students to learn about l’Arche. She said that Ross had walked right up to her, lightly touched her arm and said, “I have been looking for you.” She knew in that instant that she was supposed to live in l’Arche.

I didn’t tell her that Ross did that to many people, because it did not really matter. What mattered was that she was the one who was open to hearing his message; she was the one who responded to the invitation.

How many of us are waiting for someone to choose us to hear a certain message or receive a gift? How many of us are waiting for an invitation?

Conversely, how can we be instruments of change by acknowledging someone, by inviting others to see in new ways or by acts of kindness?

After I had met the woman from l’Arche, I often thought about how Ross knew which people to approach. I wondered if he had an intuition that certain people were waiting to be asked.

Now I can see that we are all waiting, even if we don’t know it.

I walked into that store with a list of things I needed to buy; I walked out with a deeper understanding of generosity.

I was deeply moved by that young woman’s act of kindness, and I find myself telling this story with a sense of wonder.

Have you had similar experiences? The world could use more kindness, so please share your stories.

God-kindness-generosity

Becoming who I am meant to be

My word for the year is trust, and I have been weaving that word into my prayer and meditation.

I desire to grow in trust, and I have issues with trusting.

It is a conundrum. I want to trust, and I am afraid to trust.

As I considered Lent and where God may be inviting me to grow in trust, this question came to me: Am I limiting God by holding onto what feels safe?

I know that trust involves a great deal of letting go, but this question presented my lack of trust and my fear of letting go in a different way. This question involves how God acts through me.

When my friend Jim had brain cancer, we spent a good deal of time at the New Jersey shore. Jim would look out at the ocean and say, “Look how big our God is.” And then he would add, “Think big thoughts.”

Looking out over the ocean, it is easy to see vastness and openness. It is easy to imagine a God big enough to create not only the ocean but the sky above. It is easy to think big thoughts.

But I don’t live by the ocean, and my outside horizon is limited by houses and trees.

Here, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, the sameness of life, the smallness of life. Here it is easy to fall back into old beliefs about my inadequacies and to narrow my worldview.

I have tried to pay attention to when I am limiting my vision, when I am living and acting out of fear instead of trust, when I am living small instead of living large.

And in that awareness, I can see how often I choose to stick with what has been, rather than to risk something new; to cling to old habits and beliefs that feel safe in their familiarity, rather than let go of the old to make room for something new.

My Lenten question reminds me that when I live out of a small place, a place of fear or stinginess, I am not just limiting myself, but limiting how God interacts in my world.

I am continually tempted to play it safe, to stick with what is familiar—and God keeps inviting me to live larger, to step outside of what is known and familiar. God invites me into the great unknown. How scary that can be!

Trust me, God says. I know the plans I have for you (Jeremiah 29:11).

Again and again, I am invited to shed what has held me back and to become who I am meant to be.

Am I limiting God by holding onto what feels safe? The answer is yes. The follow-up question is, what needs to change so I can move from fear to trust?

Are you thinking big thoughts? Living large? Or do your fears hold you back? What keeps you from becoming the person you were created to be?

Living in the present

Next week, we are offering a Day of Reflection at the cancer center where I work. This year’s theme is Mindfulness, and my presentation will focus on the practice of paying attention to what grabs my interest, of noticing what I notice.

I recently came across a journal entry from a few years ago when a friend was facing cancer. My prayer for him was that he would be able to be present to what was instead of wishing for something else.

Staying in the present, especially when we are going through a time of uncertainty, difficulty or discomfort, can be challenging. I remember having an image of my friend with his heels dug in, as if resisting the reality of cancer was going to make it go away. Spending so much energy on wishing for a different present meant my friend missed lots of blessings that could not catch his attention; he was focused somewhere else.

It wasn’t until the last two weeks of his life, when he was on hospice, that he let go of his resistance and became aware of the present. In those last weeks, he was able to laugh again and to be grateful for all the people who gathered around him to show their love.

I plan to tell his story at next week’s Day of Reflection.     

How much do we miss by wishing for something other than what we have?

God-mindfulness-spirituality

Noticing what I notice, paying attention to what grabs my attention—and looking for the invitation in what catches me, is a way to be present to what is happening now in my life.

As part of my presentation, I will ask the participants to go for a little walk—it does not have to be far—and to pay attention to what they notice in the space surrounding them. Each person will notice something different—and even if two people notice the same thing, their reasons will be different.

You and I might walk to the corner and both notice the cedar tree out front. It may speak to you of strength and invite you to stand tall and straight; it may speak to me of color and invite me to live in technicolor.

Or we may both notice the red sportscar driving down the street. It may speak to you of speed and invite you to slow down; it may speak to me of travel and invite me to be open to something new.

It also might happen that the two of us hear the same invitation but from different sources—you may notice a fallen leaf that invites you to reflect on the cycle of life and I may notice a baby squirrel that prompts the same reflection.

The point is to notice what I notice and to hear the invitation in whatever presents itself to my consciousness. If I can do that, I will be more likely to be present to what is instead of wishing for something else.

God-mindfulness-spirituality

At home with myself

My home is filled with gifts, reminders of what has been.

Each room has treasures that speak to me of blessing.

Pay attention to what calls to you.

A family photograph, a candle’s flame, the tree outside your window, a bird soaring overhead,

Whispering your name and inviting you to come back to yourself.

If we are open to it, even a stone can be a door.

What stirs your spirit?

What stirs your spirit?

A sunrise or sunset?

The gentle lapping of waves?

A walk in the woods?

Art or dance or theater?

Giving a gift or receiving one?

Being present to someone in need?

What stirs your spirit?

In the silence of meditation, God speaks.

Inviting me to be open,

To be ready to let the breath of the Spirit softly brush against my soul,

Reminding me I am called to love.

Open the door

At Christmas Eve Mass, the priest asked us to recall a time when we had been the recipient of generous hospitality. He had been talking about the lack of hospitality Mary and Joseph experienced in Bethlehem, and then he shared a time he had experienced unexpected hospitality during a trip to Ireland.

The memory that came to mind was the time I had moved out of the l’Arche community feeling disillusioned and disappointed. My pride was wounded, and I was too distressed to make a decision about my next move. I felt let down and lost. After all, I had moved to l’Arche expecting to be there the rest of my life, and only a few months after arriving, I was leaving.

It took me a while to realize that my expectations had been way too high and to own why l’Arche did not work out for me. On the day I left the community, though, I was desolate.

Fortunately, the Sisters at the Benedictine Monastery invited me to stay with them for a week, which gave me a little breathing room.

A friend then invited me to stay at her house for as long as I needed. She would be away but her upstairs tenant (whom I knew) was looking after her house and there was plenty of room.

Unfortunately, the upstairs tenant did not share my friend’s generous spirit. She said I could stay for one night and then had to find someplace else. It wasn’t that there was no room, but rather that this woman was just inhospitable.

I felt so unwelcome that I did not even stay that one night.

Instead, I drove away discouraged and thinking that I would have to sleep in my car that night.

I had plans to meet a friend for coffee in the afternoon, and I was in tears by the time I got to the café.

Learning this latest development, my friend arranged for me to stay in her Mennonite community at the home of a young couple who had an extra bedroom. I moved in that evening.

I can still remember the couple opening their front door and inviting me inside. The welcome I received from this couple and the rest of the community was incredibly warm, and I immediately felt at home. The community shared everything they had; their attitude was that there is always room for one more.

It didn’t matter to them that I had no money or job, that I was spiritually and emotionally drained or that I had very little to contribute. They accepted me as I was and included me as a full-fledged member. They loved me back into wholeness, and I can still feel my heart swell with gratitude at their kindness toward me.

Their hospitality was what I wished for Mary and Joseph upon their arrival in Bethlehem.

I was grateful for the priest’s invitation to recall how blessed I was by generous hospitality.

What is your memory of hospitality?

God=hospitality-spirituality
God-vulnerability-faith

Suddenly

One of the readings at Mass on Pentecost Sunday was Acts 2:1-11. When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly…

The word suddenly caught my attention—and held it. Throughout the rest of Mass and in the days since then, I have been repeating it.

Everything changed for the disciples on the first Pentecost. In one moment, the old life was gone; a new life started.God-vulnerability-faithI thought of times in my life when suddenly everything changed. My own Pentecost experience on March 7, 1973, was a life-changing encounter with the Spirit. I had new hope and vision after that encounter. Life looked different; the possibilities seemed endless.

That was a good suddenly.God-vulnerability-faithThere have been other times, though, when things changed suddenly, but not in a positive way. Jim’s cancer diagnosis was like that. One day, he was fine and then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Life looked different, but the possibilities were not evident.

Fortunately for me, in between those two events—the first when I was twenty-one and the second when I was fifty-nine—I had plenty of other times when my life was going in one direction and then changed course. All of those course shifts taught me the importance of restoring balance as quickly as possible—and of trusting that no matter the direction, God was always with me.

But, why now did this word take hold? What is the significance?

I prayed for insight. Every time I found myself repeating the word, suddenly, I would ask God, “What is the invitation in this word?”

The next weekend at Mass, our pastor talked about personal missions—not going on mission or being a missionary—but rather having clarity about my specific mission, God’s plan for me with my exact history, gifts, skills and talents.

One would think that by my age, I would have great clarity about my life mission, especially since I have spent most of my life working in mission-driven nonprofits.

But then I think of Sarah and Elizabeth having babies in their old age, and I know that God does not have the same expectations of age that we do.

The thing about sudden events is that there is no way to anticipate them or to plan for them. But there is a way to live that makes it easier to receive them.

For me, that means letting go of expectations, dropping my defenses and keeping my cynicism in check. It means being open and vulnerable and willing to be born again in the Spirit.God-vulnerability-faithNext Friday is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an invitation to ponder unfathomable love and an invitation to keep my heart open to receiving and giving love. If I can do that, the Spirit’s sudden movement will be a breath of fresh air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God-generosity-gratitude

The invitation of memories

Every Good Friday, I participate in the Living Stations at my church, an adaption of the Stations of the Cross that incorporates eye-witness accounts from those Jesus met along the way to Calvary.

My role is Pilate’s wife, and I share the story of my dream about Jesus and how Pilate was conflicted about condemning Jesus.

The presentation can be very moving and emotional as different characters talk about their encounters with Jesus.

This year, the words spoken by Simon of Cyrene brought back a memory.

Simon talks of how he thought he had bad luck because he was just minding his own business when a guard pressed him into service. But then Jesus looks at him with gratitude and he realizes it was really a privilege to carry the cross.

I was taken back thirty-four years to the day a woman moved into the guest house where I was the hospitaler. I was opposed to her moving in because she had cerebral palsy and was  difficult to understand and very unsteady.  Truthfully, I was afraid to live in the same house with her.

She did not know I objected to her moving in.

Like Simon, I thought it was my bad luck, but in the end, living with Margie was my good luck. She taught me so much about God and myself and the world. She taught me about fidelity, hope, persistence, expectations and acceptance.God-generosity-gratitudeI believe that when memories resurface, they contain something beyond the original event, some message for today. So, what message was God sending me? What invitation was being extended to me by this memory?

At first glance, many things can seem like bad luck, like I am getting the short end of the stick. But with time and distance, what had once seemed unfortunate turns out to be quite fortunate.

Is God reminding me of that lesson because I have been on the verge of forgetting it? Or am I in the midst of something that I am thinking of as bad luck—and God is reminding me that one day I will look back on this as a time of good luck?

Back to the memory of Margie moving in with me. That first evening, she typed a one-page thank-you letter and slipped it under my bedroom door. Her note expressed her gratitude for my generosity. If only she knew!

As I read her words, I was filled with humiliation at my lack of generosity. I had aggressively and vocally opposed her moving in, and was quite angry that my wishes had not been respected.

But in that moment when I felt such humiliation, I was also given the gift of humility.

God showed me that my resistance was just a symptom of my fears and that my fears were unfounded.

Like Simon of Cyrene, I felt “pressed into service,” and it was a moment, an event, that changed my life direction and moved me one step closer to letting go and trusting God.

God-generosity-gratitude