Thursday, March 31, 2011



This morning the water in my neighborhood stream is running freely. Bushes and branches are covered with another form of water: sleet that came in the night.
Water covers most of the earth's surface and permeates more than half of my body. The presence of so much water in us and around us makes it a perfect symbol for God's life that saturates us and our world. In chapter four of John's Gospel Jesus says, "The water that I give will become in them a spring gushing up to eternal life.
One of the times that I am most aware that I am more liquid than solid is when I go for my morning swim in the summer. As I glide through the water I am occasionally aware that the water in me and the water around me is one. I enjoy being part of the water, sinking, rising, moving through it. Sometimes, like Loren Eiseley, I feel part of all the places that water reaches. From our Lake it flows through two rivers before it joins the Ohio River and then the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Like water the same God is in me and in all that is good and beautiful in the world around me. That awareness comes at times in prayer, in a walk alone in the woods, in an airport crowd. The one God uniting me and the universe.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Survivors of Solitude


Last evening's sunset was a lovely surprise. The day had been mostly cloudy with very light snow most of the morning. Temperature did not go above 29. A nice, quiet exit.
"Survivors of solitude" is what John O'Donohue calls contemplatives in his very good book on Celtic spirituality, "Anam Cara." That phrase is a terrific insight into solitude and into its value for the contemplative life.
True solitude involves silence, which the author says is one of the great victims of modern culture. He says, "One of the reasons so many people are suffering from stress is not that they are doing stressful things but that they allow so little time for silence. A fruitful solitude without silence and space is inconceivable."
Thankfully, I live in an area that provides the space and silence, but there are still a lot of different sounds that I can turn on. I want to be a survivor of solitude.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Haunting Mystery


In the Transfiguration story light and cloud are apt metaphors for a God that we can never completely grasp, never fully comprehend. Peter's suggestion of tents reflects a desire to nail down this inexpressible mystery. A common temptation, although some are more comfortable with the ambiguity of the Divine than others.
Once I face the truth that God is Mystery and can never be grasped completely I begin to get a glimpse of how rich that Mystery is. I want to be drawn into it.
It's as if I am moving with Jesus through dimensions beyond time in a dense and discouraging cloud; but Jesus coaxes me, "Come on, don't be discouraged. What lies ahead is pretty wonderful." As I let Jesus lead me further through these dim dimensions, we find ourselves coming into a bright light that both blinds and illuminates us. I am overcome by the beauty and goodness of God and haunted by the awareness that there is so much beyond that I have still to fathom. I want to plunge myself more and more wholeheartedly into the Mystery.
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Friday, March 18, 2011



When I look out before dawn I see figures that are black and white and gray. Color is there, but I can't see it. The rising sun shows me the colors that were already there, as in this lush summer morning several years ago.
During the lifetime of Jesus his disciples could see only his humanity. His divinity was there, but they couldn't see it. In the Transfiguration a few of them got to see the glory of his divinity shining through.
The Divine is in me and in everything around me, but I don't always notice. Then a quick movement. A sideways glance. Suddenly there's God. Like the disciples I wish that I could hold onto that moment.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Divine Spread Everywhere


I just read this wonderful passage this morning in Tielhard de Chardin's "The Divine Milieu."
"On some given day a man suddenly becomes conscious that he is alive to a particulr perception of the Divine spread everywhere about him....It began with a particular and unique resonance which swelled each harmony, with a diffused radiance which haloed each beauty...All the elements of psychological life were in turn affected: sensations, feelings, thoughts. Day by day they became more fragrant, more colored, more intense by means of an indefinable thing--the same thing. Then the vague note, and fragrance, and light began to define themselves. And then contrary to all expectation and all probability, I began to feel what was inexpressably common to all things. The unity communicated itself to me by giving me the gift of grasping it. I had in fact acquired a new sense, the sense of a new quality or of a new dimension. Deeper still: a transformation had taken place for me in the very perception of being. From then all being had become, in some way, tangible and savorous to me; and as it came to dominate all the forms which it assumed, being itself began to draw me and to intoxicate me."
When I read this book in my early twenties I doubt that it meant that much to me, but maybe it was one of the many seeds which has now got me thinking of God coming to us through dimensions that we cannot imagine. I'm sure that books like the recent "Skippy Dies" and movies like "The Matrix" added to my thinking this way. And now what little I know about string theory and alternate worlds. I think of a friend trying to tell me 15 years ago about quantum physics. God has used things that I barely grasped to bring me to a new metaphor for relating to the Divine.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just Say No


This is the monastery marking the traditional site of Jesus' 40 day fast and temptation by the devil. Oddly enough I was relieved to arrive here. I am not a city person. After five days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem I was happy to drop 1200 feet below sea level to the Jordan River Valley. This was the first New Testament site that we visited that looked like it might have in the time of Jesus.
It made me feel close to Jesus and take seriously his humanity. I know that I have always sort of thought that Jesus handled temptations so effectively because he was God. But I realize that such thoughts deny the humanity of Jesus. Being in the countryside where he walked helped me to believe that he was completely human.
That same Jesus lives in me now and can share with me his human ability to say "No" to sin.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011



Every year I remind myself that the word "Lent" comes from an old English word for "springtime." I think it's related to the days' "lengthening." A time of more light and new life.
This is a new blossom on the bougainvillea that I brought inside for the winter. It was about ten inches tall when I bought it at the beginning of last summer. After re-potting, some of its branches grew during the summer to about four feet. The branches have thorns and are stretching in all directions. That made it hard to move inside. With difficulty I brought it upstairs so I could give it a south facing window. It took over the room that it's in. I'm not sure how I'm going to get it back outside. Most of the summer blossoms dropped off and some new ones have popped out. The trouble that I have gone to to give it extra sunlight has paid off with more growth and new blooming.
Maybe Lent will be like that for me. I pray that whatever trouble God goes to to bring me into more Light will produce in me new life. Springtime!
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

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75 years old doesn't feel real. What I see in the mirror doesn't change from day to day, yet I am so different in appearance from my graduation picture on the wall that visitors often ask me who that boy is. Occasionally I'll see my profile in a reflection or in a candid photo that looks like an old man. But the image I carry around in my head is younger and it's there that 75 doesn't seem real.
There are times when my body reminds me that I am 75. When I get up after sitting for a good while, it takes several steps before I cease to look like a cripple. But I am still walking two miles in the morning, fast and comfortably.
I forget a common word in the middle of a sentence and confuse directions. But I can still write here.
I have no desire to be younger. I am happier and more peaceful now than I have ever been. And, I hope, wiser. My relationship with God is deeper. I am more and more aware that that is not my doing.
I looked back through my pictures for one that captures some of what I value. This is my favorite view in my favorite time of the year. It includes a bit of my home and my deck and yard and my single red fuschia. I can see the top of a tea pot and the top of a maple syrup bottle on the table where I am eating my breakfast. There is even a tiny humming bird right below the fuschia. All of these things that help to make my life here complete. I am blessed.