Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 78 which calls on the community to remember God’s constant gifts to us. Those gifts are symbolized in bread, manna from Heaven.


Thinking about the symbol of bread, this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver captured my prayer today. I leave it with you without additional comment to find your own place within it.


As I prayed with the poem, I began drawing a mandala … but it turned into an icon! (Who knew!😀) Each segment holds a memory or awareness of a particular gift God has given me.

Icons, like poems, allow the receiver a certain amount of interpretation. For example, is the figure here God, an Angel, me – or someone else? It’s up to you … enjoy the sacred play.


I hope this poem will offer you a doorway to your prayer as well.

Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper
Oh let me, for a while longer, enter the two
Beautiful bodies of your lungs…

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for your eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of a single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life–just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
still another…

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
change.
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some
fabulous reason?
And, if you have not been enchanted by this adventure–
your life–
what would do for you?

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
though with difficulty.
I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out; I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.


Music: Break Thou the Bread of Life by Mary A. Lathbury (1877), and sung beautifully here by Acapeldridge

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, a lilting song of praise, remembrance, hope, trust, gratitude, and joy.

Praying with this inclusive translation, I let my life story unfold in the Presence of the Beloved, turning each petal over and over in the Light of God’s incomprehensible grace and mercy. No words … just the grateful turning. And I listened…listened to the silence.

Psalm 146

Alleluia
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.

Happy are they who look to God for their help! 
For their hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps promises for ever;

who gives justice when we are oppressed,
food when we hunger
freedom when we are entrapped.

The Lord breaks through our blindness
The Lord lifts us up wthe we have been bowed.
and loves our desire for good.

I remember how the Lord cares for us
when we are brokenhearted,
but frustrates the way of the faithless. 
I know the Lord shall reign for ever.
Alleluia!

Poetry: “I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t pursuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

Music: Praise You – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Lord I come to you today,
With a simple prayer to pray.
In everything I do,
Let my life O Lord praise you.

Praise you, praise you, praise you
Let my life, praise you
Praise you, praise you, praise you
Let my life, O lord praise you

Lord you formed me out of clay,
And for your glory I was made.
Use this vessel as you choose.
Let my life O Lord praise you

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 148, one of the “Laudate Psalms”.


The Laudate Psalms are the psalms numbered 148, 149, and 150, traditionally sung all together as one psalm in the canonical hours, most particularly the hour of Lauds, also called “Morning Prayer”, which derives its name from these psalms.

from Wikipedia

I’ve always loved the morning with its radiant possibility spilling over the horizon. Morning comes like a rainbow pantone, speaking not only to the weather outside but within our own spirits.

Praise the name of the LORD,
    for this name alone is exalted;
The Lord’s majesty is above earth and heaven.

Psalm 148: 13

Waking each morning, I wait for the day to speak to me. It finds itself in the sun or clouds, the warmth or cold. And then it finds me in whatever weather my heart might rest.

Prayer begins after that discovery, inviting the transforming and comforting power of God into whatever the day offers. Essentially, it is always a prayer of thanksgiving that I am alive and given another day to, by the power of God’s grace, know and be Love in the world:

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
    praise God in the heights.
Praise God, all you angels;
    praise God, all you hosts.

Psalm 138: 1-2

As we wait for the Holy Spirit on the great feast of Pentecost, let us trust Jesus’s Gospel words in today’s Gospel. Let us find each morning, and each day, full of promise!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when the Spirit comes, the Spirit of truth,
you will be guided to all truth.

John 16:12-13

Poetry: Morning Poem – Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches–
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead–
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging–

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted–

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Music- Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 57, a prayer of fervent praise to our awesome God.

Photo credit: Neil Rosenstech @neilrst

The act of prayerful praise can be hard to understand . The concept of human praise can get in our way. 

Prayerful praise in not flattery, or compliments, or the giving of deserved admiration to a distant God. Rather, as Psalm 57 shows us, it is an outpouring of reverent gratitude before Unimaginable Love.

Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
    above all the earth be your glory!

Psalm 57:12

Such a prayer rises
from our heart’s awestruck silence
not only to be in the Presence of,
but to be loved by
such Divine Wonder.


We may not be able to stand before a majestic mountain today to image God’s magnificence as we pray. But we can bow our hearts before the abundant evidence of God’s love for us. God created us and holds us in love with every breath we take.

Today, we may simply want to breathe our praise.


Poetry:Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Music: Be Exalted – John Michael Talbot

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 25, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 118.

 “This psalm is centered on God, in a movement that expresses gratitude, admiration, joy and praise. In the King James Version, the Lord is mentioned in almost every verse.” (Wikipedia)

Give thanks to the LORD who is good,
    whose mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118: 1, 8-9

Following our first reading today, the psalm focuses me on God’s Name – often “Lord”, as in the psalm – but also so many other Names of God from the riches of scripture and tradition.

… in the Name of Jesus, this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
    which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.

Acts 4: 10-12

The fact that we have so many names for God reminds me of how accommodating God is to my need as I pray. 

One day I need “My Rock”.

Another day I delight in “My Dayspring”.

As I wake up each morning and allow the day to embrace me, I often greet God with a special name, depending on the mood and circumstances of my heart:

  • Good morning, Beautiful Light. Take any darkness from our world this day.
  • I greet You, Sweet Lord. Thank you for the delicious gift of life.
  • Cloudy God, you have been hiding from me. Bring me into your Sunshine today.
  • God, my Strong Shoulder, stand by me today.
  • Chilly God, seeming to ignore my prayer, unfreeze my spirit to hear your answer.

Jesus invites us to pray with images that speak to our hearts. In our Gospel, He names himself a Shepherd, an image so accessible to his agrarian listeners, and which said it all without the need for theology!

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

As we pray today, within what image is God coming to us? May we let the Holy One speak a sanctifying and special Name over us in our prayer. May it free us just as it freed the man healed in today’s passage from Acts.


Poetry: Six Recognitions of the Lord – Mary Oliver

1.

I know a lot of fancy words.

I tear them from my heart and my tongue.

Then I pray…..

3
I lounge on the grass, that’s all. So
simple. Then I lie back until I am
inside the cloud that is just above me
but very high, and shaped like a fish.
Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place
of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud, or, perhaps, the lily floating
on the water. Then I go back to town
to my own house, my own life, which has
now become brighter and simpler, some-where I have never been before….

4.

Of course I have always known you

Are present in the clouds, and the

Black oak I especially adore, and the

Wings of birds. But you are present

Too in the body, listening to the body,

Teaching it to live, instead of all

That touching, with disembodied joy.

We do not do this easily….



6.

Every summer the lilies rise
and open their white hands until they almost
cover the black waters of the pond. And I give
thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks,
it doesn’t seem
festive enough or constant enough, nor does the
name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come
into it often enough Everywhere I go I am
treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and
am given water. My eyes thirst and I am given
the white lilies on the black water. My heart
sings but the apparatus of singing doesn’t convey
half what it feels and means. In spring there’s hope,
in fall the exquisite, necessary diminishing, in
winter I am as sleepy as any beast in its
leafy cave, but in summer there is
everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,
the hospitality of the Lord and my
inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body
through this water-lily world.


Music: Two Songs for today

Kyrie – Michael Hoppé

Kyrie Eleison
Lord, have Mercy


For those who might want to take it up a notch:
Kyrie – Mr. Mister

Psalm 130: The Depths

Friday of the First Week of Lent

February 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 130, the De Profundis. This is a transformative prayer whose power we may not fully realize.

Have you ever been disappointed with God? Have you ever let God know it in your prayer? 

Psalm 130 is the psalmist’s complaint to God that things are as bad as they can get and God doesn’t appear to care. It is a plea – even a demand- for God to pay attention and do something. (See my poem, sent a little later, called “These Things”.)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
    LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to my voice in supplication.


But Psalm 130 is not just a private complaint. As well as being a penitential psalm, 130 is marked as a “Psalm of Ascent”. This means that it was sung by the community as they went to the Temple to worship.

Psalm 130 carries the tone of a national or global lament. It has the feeling of a deeply bruised people bearing a desperate hope mixed with some bewilderment. It is a feeling we all recognize.

Remembrance of Lives Lost to Covid 19

Yesterday in my neighborhood, we had our first hint of spring weather. On a short walk, I met a few people whose winter-weary eyes, above their masks, held a spark of resurrection hope.

With distribution of COVID vaccines, hope for deliverance from the pandemic surfaces like a tentative bud. We are starting the slow ascent from the depths we have all shared. We are on our way to the temple of thanksgiving and praise.


But Psalm 130 reminds that, on that ascent, fully voicing our lament is imperative for true healing. In reference to the pandemic, and to any other devastation we face in life, we must be honest with God about our fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness, and shaken faith … about our disappointment in God, our splintered expectations which need healing.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
    LORD, who can stand?

It is only by asking God how these things – whatever they might be – could be allowed to happen to us, or to any of God’s beloved, that we will open ourselves to the Divine answer – a mystery too deep for words.

I trust you, LORD;
    my soul trusts in your word.
My soul waits for you
    more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
    Let me wait for the LORD.

Such prayer heals, leading us to a deeper, truer relationship with God.

For with the LORD is kindness
    and plenteous redemption;
And the Lord will redeem Israel
    from all their suffering and sin.

Poetry: Spring – Mary Oliver

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her 
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against 
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming 
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness, 
her perfect love.

Music: Pié Jesu – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 111: Keeping the Promise

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111, a song of reassurance and hope.

God, renowned for grace and mercy,
Who gives to those living in awe,
will forever be mindful
of the covenant once promised.

Psalm 111: 4-5

It is a wonderful thing when we can trust someone to remember a promise made to us. Psalm 111 tells us we can trust God like that.

Maybe some of you share this experience. When I was a little girl, my Dad often did the food shopping. Sometimes, he went to the new “big store” (supermarkets were the new thing in the early ‘50s). When he did, I always asked him to remember to bring me a surprise, and he never forgot. 

Usually the surprise would be a little bag of M&Ms or Hershey kisses. But once it was a carrot- remarkably like the carrots he bought for the week’s cooking!

Had Dad forgotten his promise,
or was he just in to a healthier form of surprise?😂😉


Sometimes it feels like that with God’s Promise. Its fulfillment doesn’t always come to us in the ways we expect or pray for. Instead of special, surprising sweetness, God’s signs feel like carrots … ordinary carrots that we see every day, that we mix into the soup of our daily unsurprising lives.

Our Alleluia Verse today is a good prayer when our life seems full of “carrots”:

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.

Ephesians 1: 17-18

May our eyes be enlightened to see God’s Promise fulfilled in the amazing blessings of our lives:

I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
    in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
  exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111: 1-2

My Dad loved me with all his heart and would have given me anything good that was in his power to give.

We can be assured, as in Psalm 111, that all- powerful God is like that too. It’s just that sometimes those good things look like ordinary carrots and we need enlightened eyes to recognize their exquisiteness.


Poetry: Mindful – Mary Oliver

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Music: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Chorus:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Psalm 85: Rain Down, O Lord!

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85 – a song filled with urgency and expectation!

When we pray this psalm:

We are desperately thirsty nomads who hear promise in the hint of thunder.
We are the parched leaves stretching up to catch the first rain.
We are the foundered boat lifted on the gathering flume.

Tomorrow, we begin the exclamations of our answered hopes — the great O Antiphons.

But for today, let us relax into the certainty that, indeed, the Savior is coming – just as sure as the clouds turn silver with the weight of rain.

What is it in your heart today
that reaches for the cloudburst of grace?

Poetry: Last Night, the Rain Spoke to Me – Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the wild and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Music: Spirit of God, Rain Down – Nelson Jose

Psalm 1: Trust the Light

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

December 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.

Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.

My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.


There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago: 

She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.

They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone.  Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.

During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.


Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.

Blessed the one follows not
the counsel of darkness
nor walks in it ways,
nor remains in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on its Light day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Poetry: from Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: Christ, Be Our Light – Bernadette Farrell

Psalm 117: Praise the Lord

Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle

July 3, 2020

One of my favorite past reflections on faith vs. doubt – for this Feast of Saint Thomas


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117 which is the shortest of all the Psalms. But 117, also called the Laudate Dominum, still packs a huge spiritual punch.

The psalm is called a “doxology” which simply means it is a short prayer of praise, the type we often add at the end of longer prayers. We are very familiar with the following doxology:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be
,
world without end. Amen


Psalm 117 follows the same pattern in that it has two complementary parts.

The first invites us to praise God:
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify God, all you peoples!

The second tells us why God deserves our praise:
For steadfast is God’s kindness for us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.

Notable about Psalm 117 is the fact that this Old Testament invitation to praise goes out “to ALL nations”. Scholars interpret this as pointing to the fulfillment, in Jesus, of God’s promise that Abraham would be the father in faith of many nations. Psalm 117 is a treasured and often repeated prayer throughout the Judea-Christian traditions.


Practicing this pattern of prayer can enrich our personal prayer life as well. I like to pray like this as soon as I wake each morning. Glancing out my window, I might say,

“I praise You in the sunrise, my Beautiful Creator.
Thank you for the gift of my life.”

Beginning the day with our own “doxology” gives us a head start on living joyfully and gratefully in the Presence of God for our next circuit of the sun.


Poetry: Morning Poem – Mary Oliver

Every morning 
the world 
is created. 
Under the orange
sticks of the sun 
the heaped 
ashes of the night 
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches— 
and the ponds appear 
like black cloth 
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies. 
If it is your nature 
to be happy 
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination 
alighting everywhere. 
And if your spirit 
carries within it
the thorn 
that is heavier than lead— 
if it's all you can do 
to keep on trudging—
there is still 
somewhere deep within you 
a beast shouting that the earth 
is exactly what it wanted—
each pond with its blazing lilies 
is a prayer heard and answered 
lavishly, 
every morning,
whether or not 
you have ever dared to be happy, 
whether or not 
you have ever dared to pray

Music: Laudate Dominum – Mozart, sung by Barbara Hendricks