Monthly Archives: October 2018

flawless grace

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The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

~Wendell Berry, “Grace”

I am drawn to the picture above. It reminds me of the woods near my house where I often walk. It is not a deep woods; the trees are sort of scruffy and growing at odd angles, misshapen by wind and storm. But the slanted light filtering through the leaves can be glorious and the trees offer sweet companionship along the way, whispering their leafy wisdom as the wind passes through their branches. I may not understand their language but my spirit and body recognize their sacred presence.

Trees seem never in a hurry: leafing and un-leafing in perfect timing with the world around them. There is no rushing, forcing, grasping, or “confusion.” Familiar rhythms of letting go and renewal are repeated again and again, year after year.

Trees teach us about identity and belonging. In his book “New Seeds of Contemplation” Thomas Merton writes: “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be, it is obeying (God). It “consents,” so to speak, to (God’s) creative love.” Each stage of the tree’s life and death (from seedling to decaying log) blesses the whole.

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In the poem above, Wendell Berry reminds us that the way of experiencing this “flawless grace” is the same: “Be still. Be still.” As we come to the end of October and our theme of “Peregrinatio” — how are you being invited to “be still” even as you follow the divine current? Where are the places in your life, where you are being invited to trust in the “flawless grace” that holds and carries you, season by season?




A voice is heard in Ramah,    
mourning and great weeping, 
Rachel weeping for her children     
and refusing to be comforted,     
because they are no more.
~Jeremiah 31:15


I want to respond to a comment made by John in the previous blog (“To Drink from the River“). John shared:

“My heart is so heavy after the shooting at Temple Life synagogue yesterday. I weep for the lives lost and the place that our country is in. I am so so sad. How can we treat other human beings like this? Donna, the song you shared here is holding me up today. I still know in my gut that God is with us. Dear God break through our blindness so that we can see that you are also the God Jewish people, of Muslims, and of migrants. Be with us all now and transform our hearts.”

All day yesterday and today, tears come readily to my eyes; sobs seem just below the surface, ready to tumble out of my throat at any moment. I am shocked, sad, and frightened by the darkness, violence and hatred in the world – and also in this one person (and in many “one persons”) who can single-handedly wreak such terror and loss.

In yesterday’s news coverage, I noticed many public officials and newscasters deeply shaken, tears in their eyes, shocked by the horror. And we all cry — like Rachel — for the world’s children who have been slain and will be no more… and for those seriously injured in body, mind, and spirit. I pray for the families and loved ones of all those touched by yesterday’s violence. I pray for our world.

I think there is a time to refuse to be comforted too easily — and instead, allow our grief and anguish to have their place in our hearts, and express our outrage and distress.

And then to hope…

that somewhere, under the seemingly constant falling of our world, “Someone who’s hands/are infinitely calm” holds up all this falling. (see poem below)

I pray that I will be more aware of the places and ways I give harbor to feelings of fear, hatred, and judgement. And I pray that I will make a larger space for understanding, acceptance, and love.

May we gather together in our grief —  and in our hope and prayer for transformed hearts.



The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling. 

~Rainer Maria Rilke

to drink from the river

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This is as far as the light

of my understanding

has carried me:

an October morning

a canoe built by hand

a quiet current


above me the trees arc

green and golden

against a cloudy sky


below me the river responds

with perfect reflection

a hundred feet deep

a hundred feet high.


To take a cup of this river

to drink its purple and gray

its golden and green


to see

a bend in the river up ahead

and still



~Julie Cadwallader-Staub

As we have journeyed together this month on our peregrinatios — following the Divine Current, and wandering to places of resurrection — I am more aware of my desire to trust the flow of what is in front of me: to release a need to control and fix, so that I can be very present to each moment. When I feel anxious and fearful of what seems to be unfolding, and feel I must change the situation – or the person  — I am less able to see, hear, and taste the gifts of resurrection that are offered in the moment.

In Richard Rohr’s daily online reflections this week, James Finley writes about fear:

We are afraid of fear because we believe that it has the power to name who we are, and it fills us with shame. We feel ashamed that we’re going around as a fearful person, and so we pretend that we’re not afraid. We try our best to find our own way out of feeling afraid, but this is our dilemma, our stuck place, that Jesus wants us to be liberated from. But we cannot do it on our own.

Finley encourages us to find safety in scary places, when possible, for ourselves and others, but in the fear that remains beyond our control, he reminds us that:

Jesus invites us to discover that our fear is woven into God’s own life, whose life is mysteriously woven into all the scary things that can and do happen to us as human beings together on this earth. This is liberation from fear in the midst of a fearful situation.

The image of my fear woven into God’s own life — a flowing “cosmic” tapestry of Love and Life, that powerfully holds everything that might happen to me and others — helps me touch into the promise of liberation.

Looking to the example set by Jesus, Finley writes, “(Jesus) discovered directly through his presence that inexhaustible compassion and love flow through human frailty. Our practice is to become present to that infinite flow of compassion and love and bring it to bear in a tender-hearted and sincere manner in our very presence to the painful situation. We do this knowing that God is sustaining and guiding us all in unexplainable ways that are not dependent on how the painful situation might turn out.”

For me, this is what the poem above also suggests. In the midst of the exquisite beauty and diminishment of this season, in the presence of frightening and unknown places ahead, we are invited to not only follow the divine current in our little coracle boat, but also directly drink from the waters of life that sustain our journey. Drinking from our cups, we are able to enter fully into the flow of our lives, with Christ-like compassion and love. We take Life into our very bodies, and say yes. This is resurrection.

In closing I would like to share one of my favorite songs, featured as a prayer video on Joan Chittister’s website, Monasteries of the Heart. The song is titled “God is with us” sung by the Sharon Singers and has some very touching images of Orthodox nuns around the world. It reminds me of what Finley writes — that our lives are woven into God’s own life, which sustains us on our journeys.

blessings to each of you this beautiful autumn day~


sacred luminosity of grace


Dear friends,

I am writing from Cape May Point, where we are spending a few days with my daughter and her family. She has six children (ages 1-14) so as you can imagine there are few quiet moments — but many precious ones. Being with my grandchildren, moving through each moment with them, open to the new and surprising, while also holding the practical needs for meals, baths and rest has become a living prayer, and is close to what Mark Nepo describes in his “Book of Awakening” — “The mystery is that taking the risk to be so immersed in our moment of living in itself joins us with everything larger than us. And what is compassion but entering the stream of another without losing yourself.” 

I’d like to share some excerpts from Nepo’s reflection from October 1st:

Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned. ~Paul Tillich

How do we live fully? How do we live in such a way that the wonder of feeling outfuels the pain of breaking.

…Faith seems crucial; the ability to inhabit the breadth and depth of our compassion, to know, even in the dark center of our pain, that somewhere out of view there is joy and wonder; that even when we tumble we are part of a current larger than our own design.

…In actuality, the infinite coherence of all things and events continues like a great bottomless stream, and we like fish have but one choice: to find and ride the flow. That stream is God… and the strength that lifts us when our tiny wills merge with that stream of being is the sacred luminosity we experience as grace.

Once in the stream, the life of preparation ends, the life of defense ends, the measuring of individual traits ends. Fear somehow gives way to Trust. Control somehow evaporates into Surrender. The fish and stream are for the moment one. The sacred moment and God are always the same. There is nothing else to live for — even the declaration changes, for it is no longer a living for, but a living out. Always the inner out and once out and kept open, the Whole flows in.

So faith is no more than the willingness and bravery to enter and ride the stream. The mystery is that taking the risk to be so immersed in our moment of living in itself joins us with everything larger than us. And what is compassion but entering the stream of another without losing yourself.

A suggested prayer practice:


  • Visit a stream, if you can, and drop leaf after leaf in its flow.
  • Watch each leaf be carried downstream. Note its dips and turns.
  • Note how effortless it is for each leaf to be carried along.
  • Note how the leaves have no sense of where they are going.
  • Close your eyes, listen to the water, and meditate on how your life is such a leaf in the stream of God’s time.
  • Feel the days like water around you. Enjoy the ride!


(If you can’t visit a stream, you might take some time to sit and quietly watch leaves gently falling from tree branches, carried by currents in the air.)

May we have faith and courage to enter the stream of the ordinary days of our lives, with an awareness that we also join with something much larger and infinite — something sacred and luminous!

peace and grace to you this day~



a Lectio Divina prayer invitation

1531979022_25613d12be_oNow I am revealing new things to you, things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment. Of these things you have heard nothing until now so that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this. (Isaiah 48:6-7)

“In the Christian contemplative tradition, we are invited to rest more deeply in the Great Mystery, to lay aside our images and symbols, and let the divine current carry us deeper, without knowing where, only to trust the impulse within to follow a longing.

As autumn tilts us toward the season of growing darkness, consider this an invitation to yield to the mystery of your own heart’s desires. You do not need a map or agenda, simply a willingness to swim in the waters carrying you back home again.

The monks knew the wisdom of embracing a season of unknowing, to wrest from their grip the idols of certainty and security. As mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade says, “a false sense of security is the only kind there is.” Of the new things happening you have known nothing until this moment.” (Christine Valters Paintner)

I am so attracted to this way of traveling: accepting my unknowing (as I am able), and leaning in towards the “new things” being revealed each moment, surrendering to the Divine currents of Love unfolding before me. As Bobbi shared a few days ago in her reply to an earlier blog: “I revel in the Joy of the Moment upon realizing that I eased into the water without thinking about it ahead of time. It just happened.”

In this scripture passage from Isaiah, we are invited to surrender our need to figure things out… our striving to know ahead of time, what can only be experienced in this moment now. I am drawn to Sandy Horst’s words in her comments yesterday: “I am also trying to give myself freedom to see, feel, experience, etc. and not need to explain it, or express it in words.” There are times when words are not sufficient or helpful, and we are led – moment by moment – by a loving God to “swim in the waters, carrying (us) back home again.” We only need to be willing.

15468995898_cb7f8985dd_oToday I invite you to pray with Isaiah (48:6-7) as Lectio Divina: reading it slowly 3 times, noticing what word or phrase grabs your attention, then praying with the word or phrase, letting it deepen with you . I welcome you to share the word or phrase that has spoken to you. (Detailed guidelines for this prayer form are available at the top of this page – just click on “Lectio Divina.” )

Here is the scripture passage again:

Now I am revealing new things to you, things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment. Of these things you have heard nothing until now so that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this. (Isaiah 48:6-7)

May the gifts of new revelation carry each of you deeper into your truest being in God.

grace and love be with you~


a time of migration

Dear friends,

This morning I read a reflection on the season of migration by Christine Valters Paintner which I’d like to share in part with you. I have been touched by how the migration we see all around us in nature, is so similar to the practice of peregrinatio. I like to imagine all of us following an ancient call deep within our spirits to a place of opening to new birth. The call of our soul’s migration is placed deep within us by God, and it is God’s Love that leads us on this holy journey. 

(adapted from Christine Valters Paintner, Abbey of the Arts, 10/7/18)

Autumn is the time of transition, of the earth’s turning, with the balance of light and dark in the northern hemisphere tilting toward the dark season and the invitation to release the excess we carry and rest into growing Mystery. It is a season of initiating these great movements across the globe of birds, fish, (butterflies) and mammals following an instinctual call.


I am taken with the mysteries of migration, the inner knowing that rises up in them to embark on a journey, the impulse to swim and fly across great expanses of earth and sea in search of a feeling of rightness that season.

This journey of migration is similar to the Irish monks on their journey of peregrinatio, setting off in their small boats, without destination, without oar or rudder, letting the current carry them to the place of their resurrection (where their hearts would find home). The monks yielded their own agendas and plans to the current of love, trusting in this deeper wisdom at work in water and wind, on behalf of the One who opens the way before us.

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Swans and swallows, whales and salmon make the long arduous journey to give birth to the new lives breaking forth in them. The monks wandered in search of wild places that could break apart their own expectations and judgments, to let the new life being offered to them come forth.



As autumn tilts us toward the season of growing darkness, may you allow this season to be an invitation to yield to the mystery of your own heart’s desires. You do not need a map or agenda, simply a willingness… to follow the impulse of love.


Taking flight requires courage to ascend into the unfamiliar and unknown. And it requires a community of kindred souls who affirm the journey isn’t completely crazy and there is more awaiting us beyond the borders of our narrow expectations.


May we be that community for one another… kindred souls of the journey…

(adapted from Christine Valters Paintner, 10/7/18)


peregrinatio… following a divine current

“I would love to live as a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding”

~John O’Donohue

What would it be like to let go of your own agenda and let yourself be led by the Spirit? I’m quite sure my first response would be a sigh of relief, followed quite quickly by fear of not being in control.

For Celtic monks, the letting go was quite literal. In little boats called coracles, the saints would set off — without a destination — and without oars or rudders to guide them. This practice was called “peregrinatio por Christo” meaning “to wander for the love of Christ.” The monks trusted they would be carried on “divine currents of love” to the place of their resurrection, a place where their gifts could be brought fully to life.

As Christine Valters Paintner writes: “In this profound practice God becomes destination and way, companion and guiding force. God is the call to the journey and the unfolding of the journey, and God greets us at journey’s end.” *

And LOVE is always the inspiration for the journey.

The season of autumn is a perfect time to contemplate such letting go: how we are called deeply in our spirit to become one with God’s all-embracing love, falling into the arms of the Divine Holder and Healer.

It can be scary to let go of our tightly-held agendas and apparent control. But letting go makes space for God to bring us to our own resurrection place – a place of new life, beyond our imagining.

God’s current is a gentle stream and we can bring all of ourselves (fears and hurts, desires and hopes) into our little coracle, trusting we will be held and guided within the current of Love — which has always held us.

*Christine Valters Painter, “The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred.”



A sharing from Linda Graham…


Linda Graham (one of our Sacred Rhythms companions) took a contemplative walk this weekend in the Poconos and is sharing with us a photograph and video she “received” on her walk. It is in response to our reflections on thresholds and the invitation to take a contemplative walk.

Here is the photograph and Linda’s comments:IMG_2086 (1)

“I imagine Jesus taking my hand as I cross this threshold

of rocks and holding on to his hand as I walk along my

life path that He has prepared for me. I’m trying to leave

my fears and worries at the rocky entrance.”




Take a few minutes to be with Linda’s video below. (Let me know if you have trouble viewing it.) Click on the center of the picture to begin the video. I encourage you to enter into the brief video, being as present as you can to the scene. Welcome the sounds and images… imagine the smells of water, moss, rocks, and decaying leaves… “touch” the water, grass and moss. How does this encounter with the little stream make you feel? Linda shares that she found it very calming. You are very welcome to share your response with Linda and all of us — click on “leave a reply” at the top of the entry.

(To enjoy it most, click the arrow image on the bottom right of the page “enable fullscreen mode.”)


Thanks Linda!! for sharing with all of us.