Thursday, December 27, 2007

Love Took Flesh

Here's what love is according to two little kids. Noelle, age7, says, "Love is when you tell a boy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday." 5 year old Bobby's idea is perfect for the season. He says, "Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."

A long time ago in Bethlehem Love took flesh and embraced the whole human race. That saving embrace reaches across the ages and enfolds you and me right now. We need never be lonely again. You will find an infant with arms open wide to hold you in Love's warm embrace forever.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Love Came Down at Christmas

"Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas."
(Christina Rossetti)
God is love. We don't have the words and concepts for an adequate description of God, but "love" probably comes closest to expressing what and who God is. God is Gracious Love, Freely Given Love, Love that we don't have to earn. "When the kindness and love of God our Savior dawned upon us, it was not because of any good works that we ourselves had done; it was for no reason except God's own faithful love." (Titus 3:4)
Over and over God tried to get that message through our thick skulls. Finally God decided to aim, instead, at our hearts by coming as a baby, a tender, simple, helpless infant lying in a manger. There may be a scrooge or two among us who doesn't like them, but most of our human race find babies irresistible. Love becomes a baby to hug us close and win our hearts.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Let God

God is completely present in me and loves me perfectly. God's presence and love do not grow. God could not be more present nor more loving.
The growth happens in me. I am not as aware of God's presence and love as I could be and I am not as able to surrender myself in love as I could. It is God who makes me more aware and more loving.
All the people and places and things that God has put in my life are ways that God makes me aware of God's presence and love. All the love that God sends my way through my relatives and friends touches my heart and makes me more loving.
All that is necessary for me is to let go and let God.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Into Great Silence

I watched the DVD Into Great Silence last night. The new documentary that captures compellingly the life of contemplation in the monastery of Chartreuse. Almost three hours long it is slow and deliberate and becomes itself contemplation. There is no narration and no background music. So lots of silence.
We get to see what the monks do: their work and worship and recreation. But the camera also takes its time just looking at ordinary things like the holy water font and rain rippling into a puddle and the corridors themselves. Starting with snow on the buildings and the surrounding mountains establishes a stillness that pervades the whole film. One sequence has an eternal feel where the camera speeds up and we see the sky over the buildings as a full 24 hours passes with stars and daytime clouds.
No individual monk stands out so we get a strong sense of community life even though there is very little verbal communication.
Throughout it all the bliss and joy of the great silence.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Contemplative Advent

Last night I came across a letter that I wrote when I was looking forward to coming here to live. Advent is a good time to renew my resolve. I wrote "I find myself inclined to a more contemplative life." Even in high school I seemed to like "meditation" or "mental prayer" more than many others my age. In my late 20's I often stayed overnight at a Trappist monastery to make a "day of reflection." Being here provides me with the liesure that is needed for a more contemplative life. In these last two weeks before Christmas I ask God to help me take advantage of the liesure.
In my letter I quoted Dorothy Day's quoting a Buddhist saying, "....the third period of life is the time of withdrawal from responsibility, letting go of the things of this life, letting God take over." I want God's help to value being over doing. To be still, to sit in silence.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


"To you, God, silence is praise." (Psalm 65:1) I want to find ways to be comfortable with silence, content with nothing said or thought. The silence of a winter night with no insect sounds takes me to God. Two close friends riding in a car can be comfortable with silence. Why not also in my relationship with God. That's mainly what I try for in centering prayer. No need to think nor talk nor make a plan. When we get right into the heart of who God is there is silence. It follows that the best way into the Divine is silence.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Contemplating Snow

It has been snowing for two days. Snow can be dangerous. Yesterday morning before the roads had been properly plowed I slid off the road going up around a steep turn. Fortunately rather than going over the hill I ended up against the bank on the opposite side of the road. The more I think about it, the more grateful I am to God for watching over me.
Snow can be fun. Speaking about the plow just now reminded me that when we were small most of the roads were not plowed. We had one road in our little town where we could sled almost a mile down hill. When the rare car would come along a warning shout went up from all the kids who were pulling their sleds back up the long hill.
Snow creates a beautiful stillness. When I went out to walk this morning the wind had died down and the snow was falling gently. I did not see a car for the entire time I was out. I felt surrounded by God.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December Dreaming

These long nights of December are grace-filled times for dreaming. Isaiah's vivid dream of a world without war. His beautiful dream in chapter 11 of a return to Paradise. All God's creatures living in harmony: wolf and lamb, calf and lion, human
child. Harmony with family and friends and foreigners. Are these impossible dreams? Did we destroy Paradise forever by eating from the sin tree?
In the song "Woodstock" Joni Mitchell sings,
"We are stardust, We are golden,
and we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden."
Well, for sure, on our own we can't get back. With God all things are possible.
Langston Hughes encourages our December dreaming:
Hold fast to dreams for when dreams die,
Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go,
Life is a barren field covered with snow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Swords to Plows

"They will hammer swords to plows and spears to pruning knives.
Nations will not take up arms, will no longer train for war."
These verses from the prophet Isaiah are on a plaque in the gardens of the United Nations building in New York. The Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh translation)has this note on the passage: "The prophet does not imagine a future without borders or distinct nationalities. International conflicts will stlll occur, but nations will no longer resolve them through warfare. Instead, nations will submit to arbitration at Mount Zion. The Temple will become the headquarters of a divine Security Council with a membership of one and unsurpassed ability to ensure compliance."
An interesting image: God as arbitrator among nations, helping us to settle our differences without resorting to war.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Moonset #2

Yesterday, after taking the picture from my bedroom window of the pale moon setting, I put on a heavy coat and went out into the still, freezing morning and took some more pictures from my deck. This final picture of the moon setting in the west is tinted by the sun not yet risen in the east. A gift.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I woke this morning a little before seven with the full moon shining in my bedroom window. When I checked it out it was setting where the sun sets in the summer and it was reflecting in the lake. I grabbed my camera, opened the window, and shot from there. The temperature was 14 degrees. There were no sounds at all. Just stillness and pale moon over the trees and in the water. A glimpse of God.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


The fall had been so beautiful and warm that I wondered why I was going away on vacation. Where do you vacation when you live in Paradise! Then Monday morning the temperature dropped to 22 degrees and we had our first frost of the season. I left that day for Baltimore and then Hawaii.
I seemed to have arrived at the same time as the rainy season. At least it is warm. The place where I am staying is as captivating as before. The trees are not blooming as in the spring but there are wild orchids popping up everywhere. I am amazed at Nature's ability to bring life out of this jagged lava. Equally amazed at God's bringing life out of our jagged ways.

Haven't figured how to do pictures from this distance.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Evening of the Year

Nearly 50 years ago an old friend wrote the following quote:
"Dusk has fallen once again, and we are in the evening of the year. In the thinning of the forests, in the lengthening of shadows, our life is seen as fleeting, our end as drawing near. Trees no longer set a limit to our vision, while through bare and nervous branches our gaze is lifted to the clouds. The sky seems incredibly higher and we appear as we truly are, less than our imaginings, more the creature.
In this season of falling leaves, of coldness and of want, we think of death. In this season of harvest, of gathering into barns or into bundles to be burned, we think of life to come."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spring into Fall

We are finally having seasonable weather, cool with some rain and fog. Until a few days ago the weather had stayed so warm that we had daffodils and daisies and groundsels in the lawn. Most peculiar was this section of the forsythia bush which had spring blossoms but fall leaves.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Glory in Glass

I went back a second time this week to the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh to see Dale Chihuly's magnificent glass installations. There is an enormous variety of these large installations standing among the plants in the many rooms of the conservatory. My favorites are in the last several rooms but my camera's battery failed before I got to them.

Light shining through colored glass has always been a turn on for me, stained glass windows as well as art glass. The light and color and shape give us a glimpse of the Glory of God.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Glimpses of God

The fall colors are at their height right now. As I drove home yesterday afternoon after two days away I was surprised to see how many trees has turned in such a brief time. It seems as if today's rain has made them even more vivid.

Yesterday a man I ran into asked me what I was doing in retirement. I told him that I am trying to live a more contemplative life.

"What are you contemplating," he asked.

"Mostly God in the beauty of nature around me," I answered.

"Pantheism, huh!"

"No," I said, "I think God is more than just nature."

Pantheism, if I understand it correctly, equates God and nature. While I find God in the beauty and power of nature, I also believe that God is way more than that. A hymn we sang when I was young had "Out beyond the searching of the farthest star/ Thou art evey stretching infinitely far."

God made us so that what gets into our heads and hearts comes through our senses. So when God wants to come to us the way is through our senses. The wildly varied, glorious colors of the autumn leaves are glimpses of God.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sun and fog

The sun is an appealing image of God and of God's love. In his book The Experience of God Raimon Panikkar says "The origin of the word God is Sanskrit: Dyau, day, suggests brilliance, the light, divinity (like theos in Greek). Light makes it possible to see and light gives life. It is not at all by chance that the sun is accepted universally, including by Roman Catholic Christianity, as one of the divine symbols."

The sun is always shining. Clouds and fog sometimes block it from shining on us. At night our part of the earth turns away from it.

God's constant love is always shining. The clouds of our selfishness and self-centeredness keeps God's love from us. The fog of not knowing and not caring keeps us from experiencing the full rays of God's love. In sin we can even turn away from Divine Love completely. But God's love does not stop. It is always pushing toward us, trying to turn us back or to burn off the fog and the clouds that we throw up.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Autumn Reflection 2

I like this picture better than the one in the last blog. The sky, which has been doing marvelous things lately, adds a lot to this picture. This stretch of trees seems way ahead of the rest of the woods around here in changing colors. I wonder if it is the fact that its roots get watered by the lake. We had a very dry September. Many of the leaves are just turning brown and dropping.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Autumn Reflection

It occurs to me that the brief brilliant beauty of autumn is nature's way of helping those of us who love summer to let it go. These past few days have been exceptionally beautiful. Today's sunrise was another glory. There has been very little wind so the lake is like a mirror, reflecting everything along the shore. All day my eye keeps returning to the fall colors on the opposite shore as they are reflected in the still water, reminding me to be still so I can reflect the Divine.

The days have also been exceptionally warm, even hot. So I am still swimming, hanging on to that gift of summer. The water has cooled considerably but is not unbearable.
(Clicking on picture enlarges it.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Moon Reflection

"The sky tells the glory of God, tells the genius of God's work."

Psalm 19:2 (1995 ICEL translation)

The night before last I stepped outside just before going up to bed and the moon was glorious. It was a half moon, very bright, reflecting off some thin, elongated clouds, so bright only two stars shone near it. It seemed that the air was filled with moonlight and I was caught up into this Light. It was one of those moments that seem to stop the heart and then make it stretch for something more. I tried to find words to express what I was experiencing but could only raise my arms in surrender. I went in and got a coat and stood for a long while held by the moonlight.

Earlier the same kind of clouds had made the sunset a brilliant orange display and I sat in the yard enjoying it. The next morning as I was getting ready to pray I noticed some pink in the sky, and when I looked to the east the same kind of clouds were putting on a stunning red-orange display. I grabbed my coat (it was 43 degrees) and hurried down into the front yard so I could get a better view. Bliss.

Monday, September 17, 2007

To Be a Saint

I've just finished reading a terrific book, My Life with the Saints, by James Martin. It is a sort of memoir, relating different periods of his life to different saints. One of the clear messages of the book is that God calls all of us to be saints. No matter what our limitations, no matter what our circumstances, God wants to make each one of us saints.

God is not calling us to be St. Joan of Arc or St. Francis of Assisi. God made each of us different, with a unique set of gifts and talents. God will make each of us saints in our own peculiar way. Thomas Merton said, "For me to be a saint means to be myself." God wants to make me all that God created me to be. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "You can do something I can't do. I can do something you can't do. Together let us do something beautiful for God."

To want to be a saint, then, is not pride. It is to want what God wants for me. Merton quotes a friend as saying, "All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don't you believe God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it." I do desire it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Peace in God's Will

I am reading Dante's Paradiso, in a new translation by Jean Hollander with extensive notes by her husband, Robert. Several times over the years I have started reading Dante's The Divine Comedy, but I never made it out of Hell. So when I read a very good review of this new translation I decided to start in Heaven. I am hoping it might help me with my attempts at a more contemplative life-style.

In the third canto the first person Dante meets in heaven says, "In His will is our peace." This line was one I heard about when we studied T.S. Eliot in college. He refers to it in his own lines:

"Teach us to care and not to care.

Teach us to sit still,

even among these rocks

our peace in His will."

I have known, then, that this is the way to a peace that can possess our hearts even in the midst of pain and worry, but getting my will in sync with God's will is not easy. As I become more aware of God living in me and, especially, as I become better able to give myself to God within me, I want God to help me think the way God thinks and to want what God wants. In that way my will lines us more with God's will and I will be more and more at peace.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blissful Stillness

Last Wednesday was a uniquely quiet day. There was not a ripple on the Lake. No breeze. Sometimes hours would go by without a boat anywhere in sight. No ducks. No geese. No sound, not even a distant sound of a lawn mower or of a truck backing up or of a dog barking.

The day was sunny and warm. The stillness and peace made me think of the silence of God. I found myself wondering if this were what heaven was like, this perfect bliss.

At a funeral yesterday I this is what we pray for when we say, "May they rest in peace." An end of suffering. But even more, to be held forever in the warm embrace of Blissful Stillness.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

God in Others

If this attempt I am making to let God make me more aware of God's presence within me and around me in nature and art is authentic, then I should be able to find God in people as well.

It is easy to see the Divine shining in the people I love: relatives and friends and children such as those in this picture. It is not so easy to recognize God in the people who annoy me or take advantage of me or whose behavior makes me mad. God is not in the bad things or in the evil that people do, but God is in the persons who do them.

Recently I made a very deliberate effort to treat some people who were getting on my nerves the way I would treat God, to love them. The problem didn't entirely disappear, but that did help. I wasn't always on edge the way I had been with them earlier.

I do find God in people who need me for physical things such as for food or utilities; but when they are emotionally or psychologically needy it is not always easy for me. I pray that as I become more and more aware of God in me and in the beauty and goodness around me, I will find it easier to recognize the Divine shining in those I find unattractive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beauty, Truth, and Goodness as Default Settings

As I have been thinking about trying to make God the default setting of my brain I realize that part of the problem is that we are not pure spirit. We are also material and most of what we know and remember is material stuff. Our imagination is full of images of things.

So, one of the things to do, is surround myself with a lot of good and true and beautiful things that carry the Divine to me. Nature works overtime where I live to make our neighborhood beautiful. The view of the lake from my home is stunning. In my home I have beautiful pictures and objects that human beings have made. God is Beauty.

The things that I read put me in touch with the Truth. Both novels such as "Black Swan Green," and non-fiction such as "My Life with the Saints" have given me a more truthful view of the world than I had before I read them. God is Truth

Surrounding myself with good people, neighbors, friends, and relatives, also puts me in touch with the Divine. God is Goodness.

Hopefully the more I surround myself with Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, the more these kind of images will stick in my memory and imagination. Then when I am not intentionally doing something else, my mind would be more likely to jump back automatically to these images.

This helps to make God the default setting of my brain.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

God on My Mind

Five days ago I was given an ultamatum. So far I have chosen not to do anything about it. Anytime that I am not occupied with something else my mind slips back to the ultamatum, wondering what to do, replaying the conversation. It has become the default setting of my brain.

I got to thinking how wonderful it would be if God were the default setting of my brain. When I am not actively involved in something else my mind would automatically slip back to God and God's presence in me and God's gracious love for me. Hopefully the more time I give to contemplation and prayer, the better chance there is of that happening.

God's presence in me is always the same, always complete. What would change is that the Divine would be what occupies my mind rather than an ultamatum about something very insignificant. Like the "desktop" on my computer, God would pop up whenever I wasn't thinking about something else.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Contemplation: Listening 2

The following quote from Helen Flexner in Volume 3 of Imaging the the Word helps me understand listening as contemplation: As a child I was told that grandfather spent an hour every morning and evening listening to God. So when I came suddenly upon my grandfather one day seated motionless in his armchair with closed eyes. I knew he was not asleep. He was talking with God. I stopped short where I was and stood very still. Perhaps if I listened intently enough I might hear God’s voice speaking to my grandfather. But the room remained quiet, not even the faintest whisper reached my ears. After a long time my grandfather opened his eyes, saw me and smiled at me gently. These moments of intense listening for God’s voice in the room with my grandfather are among the most vivid memories of my early childhood. Posted by Picasa


Mary simply sits and listens to Jesus. He is my guest as well, living in me and loving me constantly. I want to learn how to be still and listen to Jesus telling me of his love. He speaks of it in the sounds of my morning walk: the different songs of birds, the wind whispering through the trees or roaring through the woods, the far off sound of a train laboring up the 17 Mile Grade, a dog barking in the distance. I hear his voice in the intense stillness of the wilderness, in the trickle of Red Creek, and in the crash of its water falls. Rain on the roof as I lie in bed during the night. Lake water lapping at the shore.

Many years ago for my walk I tried plugging my ears into a CD player. After two days I gave it up. I missed the natural sounds.

We live in a noisy world. Here on the lake during the week there are boats and wave runners and lawn mowers. We make a lot of noise ourselves. The noise of the news can be a great distraction.

To hear Jesus tell me his love requires a contemplative kind of listening. Centering prayer seems to sharpen my ears so that I am more aware of the sounds of love around me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Contemplation: Mary's Choice

Last night, as usual, I read over next Sunday's Gospel and some commentaries. The story of Mary's choosing to sit still and listen to Jesus rather than help Martha in the kitchen is a good reminder to me, a year into my retirement, of how I want to spend my time. It may strike some of us that Mary is being inconsiderate of her sister's need.

Luke Timothy Johnson in his commentary says, "Jesus refers rather to the essential note of hospitality which is to pay attention to the guest." In his translation of the passage he has Jesus say, "Mary chose the good part," which is exactly what Luke's Greek says. In a note Johnson says that maybe even closer to Jesus' meaning would be "Mary made the right choice."

I can spend too much of my day busy about nothing. It is still hard for me to learn that being is more important than doing. Jesus is always with me as my guest. I want to spend more time in stillness paying attention to my guest. I will need lots more help from God to make "the right choice."

Happiness is like a butterfly. The more I chase it, the more it will elude me. But if I sit still it comes and softly sits on my shoulder

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Contemplation: Walking

I am becoming ever more aware that my morning walk is an extension of my centering prayer that immediately precedes it. It seems to open me particularly to seeing Beauty in the most ordinary things. I seem to notice something new every day. On a damp morning like today the spicy scent of the purple crown vetch is pleasant. After a heavy rain the night before just the slightest breeze makes it sound like its raining hard in the woods I walk through. When I walk in a fine mist of rain I find myself remembering how, as children, we put on our bathing suits and ran around in the rain.

The bergamot is beginning to bloom in the swampy area near the little stream that runs under the road. It's brilliant red blossoms stand out amid so much green. It reminds me of friends who several years ago dried its leaves and made Earl Grey tea for me. I like its nickname "Indian Paint Brush."

Queen Ann's Lace is true to its name. Everywhere there are the daisies. I noticed this morning a weed about two feet high that has pretty yellow five-petal blossoms, maybe St. John's Wort. And in the midst of the wildflowers a single hoya with two stems of pale purple blossoms has planted itself from someone's yard across the road.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Fireworks can lift me right up out of myself. A momentary ecstasy. Some spray and fall like golden waterfalls. Others spread open like red or green or blue blossoms. There were some this year that, just as they seemed spent, suddenly crinkled for a second into silver lacework. I would be lifted up into their beauty. Then I would become aware of the people seated around me. Then I would be swept up again into the light and shapes and color, exploding, fading. A grand way to celebrate freedom.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Contemplation 101

I am reading Patricia Hampl's "Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime." She writes prose as lush as the Matisse paintings that she describes. The following is a quote from chapter 1 and has been an enormous help in my trying to be more comtemplative:

"Can you say," I once inquired of a sixty-year-old cloistered nun who had lived (vibrantly, it seemed) from the age of nineteen in her monastery cell, "what the core of contemplative life is?"

"Leisure," she said, without hesitation, her china blue eyes cheerfully steady on me. I suppose I expected her to say, "Prayer." Or maybe "The search for God." Or "Inner peace." Inner peace would have been good. One of the big-ticket items of spirituality.

She saw I didn't see.

"It takes time to do this," she said finally.

Her "this" being the kind of work that requires abdication from time's industrial purpose (doing things, getting things). By choosing leisure she had bid farewell to the fevered enterprise of getting-and -spending whereby, as the poet said, we lay waste our powers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Two perfect summer days. The light was so vibrant this morning that I took my camera with me when I went for my walk. I remember reading somewhere long ago that when we take pictures we are really taking pictures of light. I don't know whether that is still true with a digital camera, but it certainly seemed so this morning. I took 42 pictures, mostly of weeds, but really of the transforming Light.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Discovering Self

Today I came across a passage that precedes yesterday's quote from Thomas Merton: "A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It “consents,” so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree....For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self."

Merton himself spent a long time searching and even after entering the monastery he still did not stop discovering his true self. Many people come to a good sense of self during their late teens. It took me almost twice those years. While I am now pretty comfortable with who I am, who God has helped me become, I want to keep open to further discovery.

I came to love e. e. cummings in college. One of my favorite quotes from him is "To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else --means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." He was one of several writers who encouraged me through the years in my struggle to come to terms with myself.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The True Self

I am reading James Martin's My Life with the Saints, a very engaging spiritual autobiography.
I would almost describe it as a page turner. (Just before starting it I returned a novel to the library after reading only 20 dreary pages.) Chapter 4 "The True Self" begins with a quote from Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation: "For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self." This reinforces my reflection a few days ago about each weed being exactly itself for the beauty of the whole scene.

Sometimes when we look at ourselves we don't like what we see. God made us who and what we are to make our part of the world beautiful. Acknowledging who and what we are and making the most of our gifts is the way to holiness.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

True to self

The other night a friend told me that this year in Disneyworld the figures are not covered with flowers but with a variety of green plants in different shades. I'm sure this must have been in the back of my mind when I went for my walk this morning (Actually it was more of a stroll. The wind of the last three days had stopped and everything was still and the morning sun was warming the cold air. It made me feel like moving slowly.) As I crossed a little ditch I was struck by the wild variety of shapes and textures and shades of the green weeds. I stood still and was caught up in how the many different weeds were creating something beautiful.

As I continued strolling I got to thinking how important it was for each weed to be itself to create the beauty of the whole. That makes me think how important it is for me to be true to myself so that my part of the world is a beautiful as God wants it to be.

It is tempting at times to try to fit in and conform to what others expect of us, especially if we think we are weeds. But God made us each different to add our specific bit of goodness and truth and beauty to the world. It is crucial that we acknowledge who and what we are and be exactly that person. That's the way we honor and express the Divine in us and make our part of the world beautiful.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Stillness as Prayer

Four years ago I traveled through the Dolomites in northern Italy. Spectacular mountains. I caught myself often humming "Finlandia," with the words to "Song of Peace"
We stayed one night in the Panorama Hotel on the largest high mountain meadow in Europe, whose name I've forgotten. I was wakened in the morning by the sun and got up and started to do my usual centering prayer, but I couldn't contain myself and hurried out to see the early sun on this meadow surrounded by even higher mountains. It was glorious.
As I walked I started thinking that I should be trying to talk to God since I had skipped my usual morning prayer. Gradually the words came to me that I entered here yesterday, especially the lines, "Be still and know that I am God within you. No need to talk nor think nor make a plan." The first verse was complete in my head when I went back inside and wrote it on the back of an envelope. Some of the second verse was forming but I didn't really finish it until I got home.
This experience helped me understand that being still is itself a prayer. Whenever I am caught up in beauty, even if I don't think of God directly, I am caught up into the Divine. My early morning walks have become that kind of experience for me.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Be Still

These are words I wrote to be sung to the melody of "Finlandia." An old hymn called "Be Still, My Soul" used the same melody. Also "Song of Peace," something I found many years ago in, I think, a Scout song book. It has become a kind of theme song for my attempts here at the Lake to be more contemplative.

Be still and know that I am God within you.
No need to talk nor think nor make a plan.
Be still and know that I am God within you,
And let yourself rest quiet in my hand.
Be still and know that I am God within you.
Full peace and joy shall all your heart command.

Be still and know that I am God within you.
I touch your heart and make you more aware.
Be still and know that I am God within you.
Your love grows stronger through this quiet prayer.
Be still and know that I am God within you,
Embraced forever by my tender care.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


"Between the dark and the daylight, when the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupation that is known as the children's hour."
Longfellow is referring to the time when his daughters are allowed to be with him. Actually last evening at twilight time the children, my nephews and nieces, had all gone home and I was alone.
The Lake was completely placid, absolutely still. The only sounds a few birds getting ready to settle down for the night. Twilight is a kind of silver gray. It invites contemplation. It calls me to be still, as the water and the air. These long light summer evenings after sunset are grace-full. God is in all the excitement and fun of the day filled with people as well as in the twilight, but the peaceful silver gray water makes me more aware of the Presence.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spirit of Unity and Diversity

One of the things I like in the Spiderman movies is the message, usually given by his grandmother, that Peter's unique gift is given for the good of all.
Spirit makes each of us a unique person with a unique set of gifts and a unique set of interests. None of us is the same as anyone else. That's the diversity Spirit creates.
It is the same Spirit, however, who is the source of that diversity. In the one Spirit we all live and move and have our being. That's the unity that Spirit creates.
It is important not to confuse unity with conformity. Through the centuries and today there are many people who would like to contain Spirit, make Spirit behave in a more orderly fashion, decide where Spirit will act and where Spirit won't act.
We celebrate the wild variety of our individual gifts and the far reaching community that they create and we thank Spirit for both this unity and this diversity.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Home to Stay

I am home now for the rest of the summer. And today was like full summer. Hot and sunny. Lake calm most of the day. This morning when I came back from my walk I swam for the first time this year. Air was 65 degrees. Water was cold. Didn't stay in long, but it was so good to be in the water, feeling it caress my body as I glide through it. I feel so at home in water. Our bodies are made up mostly of water. One author whose name is gone from my head right now says that we are simply water up walking around. For me, it is one of the most powerful images of God's living in us and around us. We move through Spirit and are soaked in Spirit and joined to others in Spirit.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


The most spectacular view that I saw in Hawaii was the Pali (cliffs) only about a fifteen minute drive up into the mountains north of Honolulu. The experience is breathtaking in both senses of the word. At the official overlook the wind is fierce. I'm told that on really windy days you can lean against it as you can a wall. About thirty steps down an old road there was only a peaceful breeze.
To my left was an enormous expanse of cliffs with deep crevices that caught the light and shadow. During rain the many crevices become a series of waterfalls. Spread out before me was a wide fertile valley that extends all the way north to the ocean.
This was one of those experiences, like the Grand Canyon, where I couldn't take it all in. I couldn't get it all in my camera or in my head or in my heart. I am aware at such times of an immense joy. I am noticing more and more that this joy includes a kind of ache at not being able to encompass the whole scene, wrapped up in the thrill of seeing such beauty and majesty.
This experience helps me to understand those times when I experience an immense joy at the awareness of God's presence. Since God is Mystery I can never encompass God and so the thrill I experience at the Beauty and Majesty is shot through with a kind of ache at not being able to know the Divine completely nor to hold all of God in my heart. An experience like Pali expands my awareness and my ability to surrender in love.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dandelions and Violets

Yesterday morning, my first morning home, was warm, sunny, perfect. During my morning walk I came across a small plot of dandelions and violets lighted by the early sun, the bold yellow and shy purple an arresting mix. Dandelions get a bad rap. Nobody tries to get rid of violets. Yet both are gifts of wild nature. Lots of other "weeds" blooming, signaling spring.
Not so the trees. When we look at our hills they are still not green. The leaves of most trees are just little curls of various muted colors. They are still afraid to trust the weather. Seed packets do say that our hills can't count on being frost free until mid-May. Surely though yesterday's warm sun and today's warm rain will coax the leaves to open a little further.
I was afraid that I stayed away so long that I wouldn't get to experience spring here in these hills that are home to me. I'm glad that new life is not complete, that I'll get to see leaves opening and the hills turning green. An important way God shows Godself to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pearl Harbor

A God filled afternoon. Sun shining, beautiful clouds, cooling wind stirring white caps on the bay. Pearl Harbor is an unforgettable experience. Stirred up all kinds of thoughts in me. I sat next to a Japanese American family during the excellent movie about the attack and then stood near four men speaking Japanese while we were on the Arizona Memorial. I wondered what they were thinking and feeling. While President Roosevelt on the screen is speaking of "a day that will go down in infamy," I'm thinking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Mixed feelings. While we are being very solemn and respectful honoring those who died here I am thinking what a terrible waste war is then and now. Japan and U.S. have been friendly nations since not long after we were killing each other in the war that began here.

Monday, May 7, 2007


I'm told that "Aloha" includes wishes for love and peace and is appropriately used to say hello and goodby. I am coming near finishing my time here in Hawaii. No easy access to the internet nor cell phones. Some of the time has been hectic but there has been time for reflection.
My sister lives in a clearing on an old lava flow. Can't see the neighbors. Can't see any lights at night. Good opportunity for solitude. If I were living there this blog could be called "Whole Hermit by the Lava." An afternoon spent there by myself was a precious gift.
I am in awe of the volcano. I became aware of the Divine in the enormous power and in the destruction that ends in creativity. The Hawaiians call her Pele. Something close to what the Scriptures call "the fear of the Lord." Living on the volcano I could almost sense the energy boiling deep within the earth and within myself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lost in Contemplation?

No, I have not been lost in contemplation. It was the internet that got lost last Monday, April 16, when we were without electricity for twelve hours. I got on very briefly on Thursday. Dropped computer off at dealers on my way out of town.
I am on my way to Hawaii to visit my sister. Usually travelling alone as I often do offers lots of occasions to be still and contemplate. But not this trip so far. I changed planes in Huston and we were an hour and a half late leaving there, waiting on the runway. I didn't get into this motel until 2 AM. This morning has been quiet.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Melt My Heart Like April Snow

I haven't been able to get on line since we lost electricity Monday night. From Sunday night to Tuesday morning we had 40 mile an hour wind and constant snow. By Tuesday morning we had had five and a half inches of snow. As I drove through the woods the north facing side of every tree trunk was plastered with snow from the ground up. Spectacular sight. I was thrilled with the beauty of it and felt a sort of ache because I couldn't take it all in. Just so with God.
When we had some snow for Easter the phrase "April snow" kept coming into my head from some old song and I couldn't think what it was. I asked after Mass if anyone knew where it was from. Some man asked, "Would you be thinking of "The Twelfth of Never?" That was it, so I memorized the song and have been singing it a lot since then. This m0rning as I was walking and noticing that in just two days five and half inches of snow had almost entirely disappeared, I started singing it and it occurred to me that the line "hold me close, melt my heart like April snow" made a good prayer.

Monday, April 16, 2007


"Peace to you," Jesus says three times in chapter 20 of the Gospel According to John. This is his Easter gift to us. Earlier in chapter 14 he had said, "Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."
The peace Jesus gives is not the absence of war. It is an inner peace that comes from the Spirit that the Risen Jesus breathes into me. The Spirit enables me to be still and, like breath, expands throughout my body and soul, my mind and will, bringing every part of me into harmony with every other part of me, making me feel together, at one with myself, at peace.
This same Spirit fills all other people and all other creatures in our world and brings us into harmony with one another. A deep spiritual tranquility comes from the growing awareness that the Spirit is breathing me into harmony with the Divine and with myself and with all creation.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Being not doing

When I told people I was retiring they immediately asked, "What are you going to do?"
I said, "Nothing."
They said, "Well, don't you have some hobby or something you could take up?"
They looked confused or sorry for me when I replied, "I just want to try not doing anything."
In our culture it is hard to value being above doing. Going from 60 or 70 hours work a week to none is a difficult adjustment. I catch myself doing busy stuff.
I realize that even deciding to start this blog is moving from being to doing. I hope it will help me reflect for myself, but I also want to share with others what God is doing in my life. Being here has been a blessing.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Three times in the last two weeks I've come across this quote from Teilhard de Chardin:
Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.
I've come to live alone here by the lake to let God get at me. I believe that God is always present, but I am not fully aware of God's presence. The beauty of the lake and the woods and even the April snow help me to grow in awareness and fill me with an ever deepening joy.