Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happier and Holier New Year

Some of my friends don't see how they can have a happy new year with all the bad news about our country and our world.  Three of them told me that even before they get out of bed in the morning they listen to the news.  Well, stop doing that!  For a happier and holier new year, try less news, more prayer.

Friday, December 30, 2016

6 Snowy Days on this 6th Day of Christmas

I left to green grass and a frozen lake.  I returned to snow and a melted lake.
I've been away for a large family party and a 50th wedding anniversary.  Many warm memories and present joys.  Added to the wonderful Christmas Day celebration with my own immediate family, these Days of Christmas are overflowing with Gracious Love whom the season celebrates.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Green Christmas

When I walked this Christmas morning I was struck by how much of the lawns were still green.  The Lake is mostly frozen, but down in our cove (to the right of the picture) it has melted.  Sun came out bright and clear this afternoon.
Snow and Christmas so often go together in our part of the world, that it takes some deliberate effort this year to "think Christmas."  Outward signs have a huge impact on our interior life.  But as I walked I made myself think about Bethlehem and how Jesus was probably born in warm weather, if  shepherds had their sheep out in the fields.  A real place.  A real event.  Meaning takes over.
Love became flesh to wake the Divine within us.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ancient Christmas Card

At the time of sunrise
a ray grazes the notch on the left side
on Christmas Day.
A Feast-day of the Church,
the first season of the year.
The season of the Blessed Advent
of the Savior, Lord Christ.
Behold, he is born of Mary, a woman.

The writing in the picture is on a rock wall in  southwestern West Virginia.  Archeologist Robert Pyle has identified it as Celtic Ogam from 500-800 A.D.  The translation is by Barry Fell.  There are similar petroglyphs in the same area.  That Celts (Irish monks?) were here that early is astonishing. Even more astonishing is that they took the trouble to carve this Christmas message on rock, to share with the ages their faith in the Incarnation.
(The picture and the translation are from the cover of the March, 1983, issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tilting Planet

What a great treat for the winter solstice!  Just before the sun came up we had a gorgeous display.  As I walked, the sun came up.  It is so very far from where it comes up in the summer.  I got to thinking as I walked that the earth has tilted now as far from the sun as it will for a year.  Now it begins to tilt back towards the sun.  I felt my body tilting with the earth. 
I thought of an old saying, "If you're not as close to God as you used to be, guess who moved!"  Sometimes we think that God is distancing Godself from us, when it is really we who have tilted away from Love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Love Takes the Initiative

Love consists in this:
it is not we who loved God
but God loved us and sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away....
No one has ever seen God,
but as long as we love each other
God remains in us
and his love comes to its perfection in us.

I spent some time this morning in this chair in the wonderful sunshine reflecting on the First Letter of John, 4:7-12.  God always makes the first move.  When we let Gracious Love warm our hearts, we can be that Love for others.

Monday, December 19, 2016


I have never before been able to save impatience inside in the winter.  This plant was blooming profusely when I brought in the plants that I regularly keep inside, so I brought it in also.  It continues to be impatient.
Like children, as Christmas draws near, we become impatient for the Day to arrive.  Advent has been a time of waiting and hoping.  We are eager for the celebrations of Christmas to make us more aware of Love's continuing presence within us.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Roman Summary

All this is frozen now after the frigid temperatures yesterday and last night's 0 degrees.
The very beginning of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans (1:1-7) rewards meditation as we approach Christmas.  In one very long sentence Paul summarizes all that he intends to say to the church in Rome (whom he has never met) about his personal call to be one of the apostles and about the Good News that he preaches about Jesus "who was descended from David according to the flesh, who was designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Disorderly Inn

Early yesterday morning I was able to catch that great moon.
In her diary entry for December 26, 1976, Dorothy Day wrote:
"A snow storm is upon us, the house is crowded like the inn where Christ was born.  Besides our community of 40 there is a Italian mother and family of 6, not to speak of some unidentified ones who suddenly appeared....
We are not a community, a Christian or a religious community that is.  We are an inn by the side of the road.  We have no common sense."
Dorothy quotes St. Teresa of Avila, "Life is a night spent in a disorderly inn."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tempting God?

40 sea gulls huddled together in a patch of water surrounded by thin ice in front of my shore this morning.  They were striking in flight brightened by the sun against the blue sky, but I wasn't fast enough to get a picture of that.
I meditated on Isaiah 7:10-14 where Matthew got his quote about Emmanuel.  The king's enemies are closing in on him and he is thinking about allying himself with the Assyrians for protection.  Isaiah is trying to talk him out of that plan and suggests he ask God for a sign.  The king says he doesn't want to bother God with the matter, but what he's really saying is that his mind is made up. 
How often we do that!  We want to do something so much that we don't really want any advice or sign to the contrary, even God's opinion.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


This kind of startling beauty pulls us out of the ordinary and assures us that God is with us.  God is with Joseph in a dream to assure him that Mary's child is of the Holy Spirit.  His name will be Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Lady of the Roses

This is another name I have heard for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The Lady told Juan Diego to take roses to the bishop to prove that the vision was real.  In a barren, rocky place he found roses fresh and lovely growing in a place where roses could not grow and blooming in a frosty month when roses do not bloom.  Our Lady arranged the roses in his cloak.  When he got to the bishop and released his cloak, the roses uncrushed and unwilted fell to the floor.  The bishop got to his knees.  On the rough cloak of the Indian Juan Diego was the image of the Mother of God.
By appearing like the Indians of Mexico Our Lady showed her concern and care for all Mexicans.  We honor her best by doing the same.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

St. Juan Diego

Returning Wednesday from a luncheon, as I drove up a short hill I was greeted by this glorious silver freeze with the afternoon sun blazing through the ice.
At the hill of Tepayac in Mexico on this date in 1531, Our Lady began a series of four apparitions to a native-Mexican Juan Diego. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Any Room in Your Heart?

This is the very old iron furnace in my hometown.  It goes back to the beginnings of the town when some iron ore was found in the area.  Several years ago someone got the bright idea of putting life size nativity figures in it.
When we were in Bethlehem we were shown the cave where tradition says Jesus was born.  Luke tells us that the child was laid in a feeding trough for animals because there was no room in the place where people stayed.  Luke emphasizes the poverty and homelessness of Jesus' beginnings.  In the rest of his Gospel he will stress how Jesus loves and cares for those pushed to the edges of society.  Jesus lives in us and wants to use us to reach out to the poor and the marginal of our own time. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Rejoice and Bloom

"It ain't much, but what there is is choice."  Those of a certain age might recognize that quote from a movie.  It is appropriate for my very small Christmas cactus, which maybe we could call an Advent cactus.  I like his color better than his two big brothers. 
Isaiah in a glorious expression of new life sings that the desert will rejoice and bloom with abundant flowers (35:1-10.)  I was lucky to be in a southwestern desert when the spring rains transformed the parched land with a carpet of lovely flowers.  No matter how parched we feel or our world seems, abundant new life is Christ's Advent promise.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Grateful Heart

I will make you a new heart,
breathe new spirit into you.
I will remove your heart of stone,
give you back a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Two years ago tonight I had my heart attack.  Thanks to God acting in many, many people, I survived.  My good neighbor who drove me to the hospital.  The doctors and nurses at the nearby hospital who worked hard to get me stable enough to send me to another hospital.  The excellent cardiologists and nurses at that hospital where I had triple bypass surgery.  The fine staff at the nearby sub-acute unit where I learned to walk.  The above view which played a large part in gentling me into full health.  Finally, my large family whose generous love and care had as much to do with my recovery as all of the above. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bare Beauty

Sometimes God doesn't seem to be around.  In the Bible we see that sometimes God seems to have abandoned Israel but always God's love and care win out.  This encourages us in our increasingly dark days of Advent to persevere in the hope that God is always lurking around, looking out for us.  St. Paul sort of sums up his difficult Letter to the Romans with this blessing:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith,
  so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in faith."