Sunday, November 29, 2009

Present Presence


I find it helpful during Advent to keep myself focused on the present coming of Jesus at every moment into our lives. Jesus lives in us always. God can help us during Advent to cultivate a stillness that enables us to reflect on the constant presence of Jesus in us and in the people and things around us.
The most profound artistic expression of this truth that I know of is in Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory." I first became aware of it in a TV version starring Geraldine Page with a narration by Capote himself. It proved so popular that a slim gift book of the short piece was published at that time. I read it again last night and I will watch the old TV show sometime soon.
In the climax of the story the seven year old Truman and an old cousin who is his best friend are lying in the grass watching their kites cavort, when she says, "My, how foolish I am! I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are, just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me I could leave the world with today in my eyes."
(This picture of course was taken a while back when the trees were still in color and the sunrise highlighted them on the opposite shore.)
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Friday, November 27, 2009

White Friday


Our first significant snow must have begun in the early morning. By 7:30 AM it was about an inch. When I cleared my car around 2 PM it had about 4 inches on it. Everything but the roads was covered. I took this picture around 9 AM when I went for my walk. It's a moist snow, clinging to the bushes and trees even as I write this at 3:40 PM. Fairyland. I'm sure this made me happier than any amount of shopping might have.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009



We thank God for fruitfulness and for harvest, home and health, for sunshine on this special day, for love received and given away.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jesus King


Since 1776 kings and queens haven't had much meaning for us, so what do we make of a feast called "Christ the King"?
In John's account of Jesus before Pontius Pilate Jesus says in effect that "king" is not the way he thinks of himself.
One way I find helpful to think of this feast is that Jesus wants to be the dominant influence in my life, the center, the reason I live. His strategy for winning our hearts is simple - He loves us. Such powerful love is irresistible. We drop our defenses and surrender ourselves totally to Jesus.
I remember when, after communion, I would finish drinking the Blood of Christ left in the chalice and rinse it out, I would talk to Jesus moving in this sacramental way into my bloodstream. I would ask Jesus to make my blood his, to make my body his, to change my mind into his so I would see things with his eyes, to make my will his so that I would want what he wants, to turn my heart into his heart so that I would love the way that he loves.
If I could let that happen and every Christian could let that happen, then Jesus really would be our "king."
(The picture is the grand basilica at St. Vincent's in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.)
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Friday, November 20, 2009

The Third Age


I keep meeting people who don't know what to do with themselves in retirement. After more than three years my doing nothing or very little has suited me, but I realize that would not suit others. Part of the problem is that we identify ourselves with the work we do. Joan Chittister in her book called The Gift of Years:Growing Old Gracefully says, "Even to use the word 'retired' makes employment the center and fulcrum of life." What are we when we are not what we used to do?
She says that the French call the time after retirement "The Third Age", a helpful way to think of it. Just another way of being. If we haven't begun already, it's a time to find meaning in life by being rather than doing. By being in relationship with others and with God.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Elusive Beauty


I awoke this morning to 34 swans gliding into our cove. It was a dark rainy morning and their whiteness brightened the surface of the water. I tried several times to get an adequate picture of the flock but failed. This picture is the clearest. Like God, their beauty eludes us.
I suspect these swans were forced down here by the heavy fog. It has been many years since swans were in our cove. A neighbor who loved swans was very excited by their presence. They stayed several days and then flew off one bright moonlit night. A few days later he died. It was as if they took him with them when they went.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

God's Family Circle


Sometimes when I am praying I find myself thinking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Father as a intense circle of love into which I am inserted. The circle is within me and spins me outside of myself into another plane of existence where time ceases.
It is so hard to find words to talk about God and our relationship with God. St. Augustine says that when we think we've got it, then what we've got isn't God. Names and images can help us get some sense of the Divine. I'm sure that's why nature and art are so important to me as glimpses of God.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

...and no place to go


These colors certainly catch my eye on my morning walk. With all the big trees beside it naked, this small tree hangs onto its colorful dress, hoping for a late date.
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I have known for many years that apocalyptic writing uses deliberately exaggerated natural and cosmic disasters to make the point that, no matter what evil is out there, God has already triumphed over it in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The war is won. There may yet be a few skirmishes here and there, but evil has been definitively defeated. We can count on God to take care of us.
But I would sometimes catch myself wondering why the apocalyptic imagery had to be so terrible and frightening. Yesterday I got to thinking that what this style is saying is that the tragedies and difficulties in our lives and in our world are merely faint echoes of the extreme disasters described in apocalyptic. If God triumphs over such extreme imaginary evil, then he certainly has the power to protect us from whatever real evil threatens to destroy us.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

November Sun


Last Sunday morning's sunshine was glistening on bare branches and making a stark November day splendid. When I turned from this scene and started walking home everything was so glorious I gasped out loud, "Oh my God!" I felt at one with road and woods and weeds and the Radiance.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Profligate Nature


I was at a gathering tonight where mention was made of Annie Dilliard's "An American Childhood." Her book "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" has influenced this blog. Here is a quote from it that I find amusing:
Nature is. above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance!...This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent. (p.65)
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All Souls Day


Did someone say that there would be an end,
an end, Oh, an end, to love and mourning?....
Now the dead move through all of us still glowing,
mother and child, lover and lover mated,
are wound and bound together and enflowing.
What has been plaited cannot be unplaited.
Only the strands grow richer with each loss
and memory makes kings and queens of us.
Dark into light, light into darkness, spin.
When all the birds have flown to some real haven,
we who find shelter in the warmth within,
listen, and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven,
as the lost human voices speak through us
and blend our complex love,
our mourning without end.
-- May Sarton
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