Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lent: a Spiritual Snow Day


In the last issue of U.S. Catholic Annemarie Scobey writes, in an article titled "Closed for Lent,"that the analogy of Lent as a desert has never worked for her since she lives in Milwaukee where the weather this time of year is far from desert-like. For those of us who live in similar climates she suggests that Lent might more helpfully be compared to a snow storm that shuts down the area. No school. Only essential personnel report to work.
She writes, "Lent, when done right should begin by shutting everything down. Last year's blizzard turned what would have been a typically complicated day into a very simple one. All six of us home together, shoveling and eating vegetable soup. It can be hard to determine what in our lives is essential if we never take time to step away. Lent provides the opportunity to take a spiritual snow day. It is a time of closing some of the non-essentials in our lives."
She suggests that we pencil in time for nothing during Lent.
(This wren house has been in my yard for several years and no bird has tried it out. Maybe they have all lost their religion?)
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Holier by Easter


I was away early this week and when I woke the morning of Mardi Gras the dawn was making this tree look like lace. Then the rising sun nestled in the tree. It made me think of springtime. The tree looks like it has buds on it. The word Lent is from an old English word meaning springtime.
So I got thinking about new life. By Easter, God wants me to be holier than I am today. When we say that God is holy we mean that God is totally other. When we say that we are holy we mean that we are made to belong to God. Making us belong to Godself is God's work. We simply need to get out of the way, recognize our total dependence on God and let God get on with the job.
(I lost my blog for a few days. This was to be my entry for Ash Wednesday.)
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Power of Love


Dorothy Day in her diary talks of her newly-married daughter's happiness with her husband's love. "She said with a warm note of joy--'He does just what I ask him to do,'--so happy in her power over him, the power of love. And I was thinking God often shows His love for us that way, giving us what we ask for....Then in relation to some zinnia seeds her husband had bought for her she said proudly, confidently,--'He always gets just the right things'.... I thought that this is the joyful, confident way we should regard our dear Lord, our spouse."
God loves us perfectly and always gives us just the right things.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Carpe Diem - Seize the Day


Morning sunrise from my balcony in Costa Rica.
This morning when I went for my walk there were about 2 inches of snow and plenty still coming down and a mighty wind.
Two different experiences of morning but both of them inviting me to seize the day, to be with the God-of-the-present-moment.
I bought a box of TAZO's Awake tea the other morning. I have always found the writing on the boxes amusing since I first discovered the tea in Portland, Orgegon, a number of years ago. I notice this is a newly designed box and here's what they have to say: When there is a diem in front of you that absolutely must be carped, reach for a cup of TAZO AWAKE. This finely balanced blend contains bold, malty teas from India and bright, flavorful teas from Sri Lanka. One sip and you'll find it to be more flavorful than your typical breakfast tea. It may also help you find your car keys, but no promises.
And in another place is written: DID YOU KNOW? In ancient China, gongs functioned as alarm clocks. To hit the snooze button, you told the gonger to come back in five minutes with a freshly brewed cup of Tazo Awake.
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Try again


This is the picture that was intended to accompany the Mighty Waves blog.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009



This big guy showed up in our garbage in Costa Rica. Is that a death's head on him?
While I was walking this morning in the inch of snow that fell during the night, I saw a tiny spider, smaller than a dime, making his way across the snow-covered road. I never saw a spider outside in the winter. I don't even see many in my home where I make them welcome. Don't they hibernate?
It was crawling, of course, on top of the snow, not sinking in as my boots were. I briefly considered scooping it up and bringing it into my warm home. As it neared the edge of the road and headed off into a field I wondered what its destination was and would it make it. What would it eat in the snow?
Yesterday's picture, by the way was deer tracks. The deer were making the sign of the cross in the snow.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No News Is Good News


After breakfast I usually spend 20 minutes or so reading something that might help me with my relationship with God. Presently I am reading Duty of Delight: the Diaries of Dorothy Day. She is my favorite spiritual figure of the 20th century. She not only fished people out of the river; she went upstream to stop whoever was throwing them in. She cared for the poor and attacked the causes of poverty.
I was startled the other day to read her instructions to herself as the result of a retreat: "Turn off your radio. Put away your daily paper. Read one review of events a week and spend some time reading such books as the above." Just a few lines earlier she had mentioned "Books for Wartime: Labyrinthine Ways. To the End of the World. Kristin Lavransdatter. Master of Hestviken. Jeremiah. 1 KIngs." Novels and Scripture.
I was startled because about ten or twelve years ago I stopped listening to the news and gradually gave up newspapers. I read two reviews of events a week. Since retiring I do look at the New York Times on line, but usually just glance down the headlines. This practice has considerably reduced the stress in my life and gives me more time for novels and prayer.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

Divine View


This was the view from our "castle" in Costa Rica. That blue is the Pacific Ocean, about five minutes by car. From this distance it does look "pacific." We were on the southwestern coast of the country, a little more than 100 miles from Panama, I figure.
I think this picture gives some idea of the jungle that was here before the development of homes. As I looked at this view from my balcony it was easy to surrender to God and to the morning.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentine


On February 14, 269, a priest of Rome named Valentine was beheaded for being a Christian. A church was built in his honor about 80 years later. That's all we know for sure about him, but legends grew up around his feast.
One story is that the emperor had forbidden young men to marry because he thought that single men made better soldiers.
Valentine disobeyed and secretly married young couples. He was killed for his disobedience.
Another story has it that he was friends with many children. When he was thrown into prison for his faith in Jesus, the children missed him. They wrote notes to their "Dear Valentine" and slipped them through the bars of his cell window.
By the 15th century in England there are clear references to choosing someone as your valentine.
The feast provides a good opportunity to say, "I love you" to relatives and friends.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Mighty Waves

 This was the beach closest to where we stayed in Costa Rica. You can see it is very wide. I was told it is 40 miles long. The sand is black volcanic soil, very hot to walk on where it is dry. Unfortunately the waves were too rough to have a really relaxing time in the water. A sign near where we entered said "Danger." There were a lot of rip currents. Adds to the power of Psalm 93:
Onward roll the waves, O God,
onward like thunder,
onward like fury.
Thundering above the waters,
high above ocean breakers,
you, God, rise with might.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First Impression


This was our first real view of Costa Rica and I think the most beautiful. We had gone from the plane to a van and had started out on a two and a half hour drive to where we were to stay. About an hour out of San Jose we stopped for lunch at a little open-air restaurant that had this grand view.
When I look for a place for my winter vacation I look, not only for a beach and an ocean, but also for beautiful scenery, especially mountains. And Costa Rica has them with a vengeance. I grew up in the mountains and I live now in the mountains. I get an emotional high looking out from on high. I feel closer to the Almighty on a mountaintop.
On our way back to the plane we stopped again briefly at this same spot, so it is also my last impression.
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Monday, February 9, 2009



Of the pictures that I took on my recent trip to Costa Rica this is the one that I am most satisfied with. It is certainly not the most beautiful. It is also not very clear. My tiny digital camera cannot capture detail at that distance. But this picture is the one that captures best my experience of Costa Rica.
When we think back over places we have been usually one or two things stand out. When I am asked what a trip to Spain several years ago was like, my first word is "hot." When I look back on this recent trip to Costa Rica, the word is "parrots." We were the guests of a flock of parrots. They lived mainly in three large palm trees in front of where we stayed. My guess is that before the houses were built the jungle at our back door spilled over the whole area and was the home of the parrots. They did not leave.
We heard them before we saw them. Around sunrise their raucous chatter filled the air. Then we might catch a glimpse of them flying off for the day. As they came home before sundown their chatter seemed even louder.
With some patience and a pair of binoculars I began to distinguish them in the palms. They were red-lored parrots. One late afternoon I was lucky to see, at different times, four pairs. I was very taken with the devotion they showed to their partners. This picture, however, was the best I could do to capture them.
I was reminded again of the tension between surrendering to nature and trying to capture it in a picture, between surrendering to the Divine Mystery and trying to comprehend It.
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