Monthly Archives: November 2018

A closing blessing from me to you…

Before we move into December and Advent~

I wanted to close November with a song of blessing for you.

Set aside a few quiet moments to be still, rest, and receive this blessing.

Find the place where peace dwells deep within you ~

now memorize that place 🙂

Especially as the holiday preparations begin and it’s so easy to be distracted from our truest source of peace ~

May you know yourself as blessed!!

with love and gratitude for each of you~

Donna

 

sign of blessing

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As we end the month of November and the theme of “blessing each moment,” I have been thinking of God’s promises to bless us. One of the most spectacular signs of God’s blessing is the rainbow. In the story of Noah and the flood, God tells Noah: “This rainbow is a sign of the covenant I make between me and you and every living creature, for all future generations: I have set my rainbow in the clouds over the earth, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth… Whenever the rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)

I recently received the stunning photograph above from one of our Sacred Rhythms’ companions, Linda Graham. She shares her response below:

These rainbows are truly blessings from our God.  I was so excited to share this with my son in law and granddaughter, Norah.  I had the chance to tell them of God’s love and promises to us.  Rainbows hold such a special place in my heart.  I decorated my children’s room with them and even had a rainbow crib that each child and grandchild enjoyed.  I constantly reminded them of God’s love and blessings when they woke from their naps.  


One of my own memorable rainbow encounters happened almost 20 years ago, as I traveled home to Pennsylvania after being in Michigan with my beloved brother as he received news of his untreatable brain cancer. Our entire family was crushed. I did not think I could bear the reality of this impending loss.

After spending a week with my brother, we were driving home: three young children in the back, and my husband beside me. As we entered the hilly terrain near Pittsburgh, huge storm clouds gathered in front of our car. It matched the storm of feelings within me; certainly the future seemed a menacing storm ahead.

Holding my brother in my heart, I repeated the prayer of Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I told God that I could not see — at all — how all things could be well. This beautiful, young man, my “baby brother,” would likely die in a few months. Unbelievable. How could all things be well??

Please God, help me to know it will be well,” I prayed. Immediately my daughter called out from behind me, “LOOK AT THAT RAINBOW!” I looked to the left and there in the sky was the most magnificent rainbow I had ever seen! A huge, full-arching rainbow filled the sky. We pulled over to savor the amazing sight.

Somehow… I told myself… somehow… all will be well. I took a photograph of the rainbow and sent it to my brother the next day — “Dearest Burt, here is your rainbow!” I could do nothing to change his illness, but I could bring him rainbow blessings from God.


Beginning next week, we will explore the “Sacred Rhythms” of the season of Advent. Instead of one entry per week, I will include an additional reflection each week featuring some of my favorite Advent poetry, music, videos, prayer and creative suggestions.

 

We will follow the four weeks of the Advent, using the following focus for each week :

Week One: Hope

Week Two: Peace

Week Three: Joy

Week Four: Love

Two suggestions for your Advent prayer:

1) Advent Wreath

Consider buying or creating your own Advent wreath – if you don’t already have one. Our family lights the appropriate candle(s) for our Sunday dinner (reading the scripture passages for that day and playing some Advent music). I also light it during the week during my prayer time.

You can check out Pinterest for ideas for creating your own wreath. There are many fun options from very simple to more advanced. It can be as simple as placing four candles on a plate or tray, or inside a pre-made grapevine wreath (available at many stores). You can use tea-lights, votives, tapers or pillars.

Below is an Advent Wreath available on Amazon for 11.95. The candles are not included but you can buy them on Amazon as well. Our family often uses a similar wreath. I like the simplicity and flexibility. We usually wrap the base with artificial greens (or use real, but are careful as it becomes dry). You can add pine cones, ribbon, or other decorations. We also add a white pillar candle in the center for the Christ candle which we light on Christmas Eve.

 

2) Advent Calendar

I have enjoyed creating Advent Calendars with templates furnished on Sybil Macbeth’s  website “Praying with Color.” It is very easy to download the calendars (there are several different shapes to choose from). You add one image or word or verse for each day.

This year Macbeth is also including suggested “words” for each day from #AdventWord, a global online Advent Calendar, a ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary, which offers daily meditations and images.

Here is a link to Sybil Macbeth’s invitation for 2018:

#AdventWord and Advent Calendars

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving dear friends,

I am so very grateful for each of you! It has been such a joy to journey with you this year – and for many of you it’s been many years… 🙂

I wanted to share this video (one of my favorites) to remember the blessings of this beautiful earth home we have been given.

 


While some of the images on the video are truly awesome — the following poem is a reminder of the small, ordinary things we so often take for granted. As a Thanksgiving prayer practice, you might like to pause and notice the ordinary gifts which quietly bless your life each day…

and say “thanks God!”

in gratitude and love for each of you

~Donna

The Patience of Ordinary Things (Pat Schneider)

It is a kind of love, is it not?

How the cup holds the tea,

How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,

How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes

Or toes. How soles of feet know

Where they’re supposed to be.

I’ve been thinking about the patience

Of ordinary things, how clothes

Wait respectfully in closets

And soap dries quietly in the dish,

And towels drink the wet

From the skin of the back.

And the lovely repetition of stairs.

And what is more generous than a window?

 

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the courage to feel

 

Feeling sad takes courage. There's an instinct to numb it and distract ourselves from it whenever possible. My experience, though, is that allowing safe space for it to fully surface is the only real way for it to work through our system. It's the only real way for us to feel the authentic sweetness of emotions and experiences that exist on the other side. Go read @saspetherick ’s article about just this: https://www.saspetherick.com/ordinary-sadness-how-to-be-a-compassionate-witness/. Every bit is gold. (Thank you, Sas, for the gift of your words!)
What emotion is hardest for you to feel —
to make a space and let it be within you?

In my family recently, there has been a place of sadness.  As unwelcome as the situation and feelings seemed at first, I was also aware of an invitation to simply be with what I was feeling: to make a space. I did not want to react, justify, explain, or hide. I wanted to be still and notice whatever was there to notice, to feel whatever there was to feel.
After some quiet time, I became aware of a shimmering around the edges of my sadness, and I wondered, “What is that light?” I continued to sit and be… but now I was intrigued as well as sad and anxious.
While the sad situation seemed to close one door, the shimmering felt like a small open window, letting in light and fresh air.
I am not usually patient for multiple feelings to be present at the same time. I like it to be one way or the other – and hopefully the most positive feeling. If it is a negative feeling, I want to figure it out, do what needs to be done, and get on with it (my “real” life :).

But this invitation was more gentle: just be with it all. See what there is to see. Feel what there is to feel. And when it is time, be willing to release the feeling and let it flow through. Which is how Grace works… I could not do this on my own. It is all gift.


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The shimmering light at the edge of my sadness seems like the sun’s corona visible in a solar eclipse. The corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere and always present, yet it is hidden by the bright light of the Sun’s surface. But it can be seen during a total solar eclipse. When I could allow darkness of my sadness to simply be, I was able to notice the shimmering surrounding me.

Feelings are simply part of being human, and allowing them to come and go, can sometimes take patience and courage. Yet our feelings can be helpful guides as we pay attention to how God is leading and inviting us. Even in what feels like a darker experience or feeling, there is ever-present Light encircling us, holding us.

I am reminded of the following poem by Rumi, a Sufi poet, called “The Guest House.”
What would it be like for you to be grateful for these unexpected “visitors” trusting they may be your guides?
May you be blessed with courage to feel what needs to be felt, and then, with God’s abundant Grace, let it flow…
in peace and love~
Donna

*illustration at the top of post by Kristin Noelle – www.sacred-loom.com

May your soul be your guide

This seems to me to be the most important challenge and invitation on this crazy, fearsome, wondrous ride called Being Human. Under and around what fear and anger and obligation are saying to you today, what is your soul wanting you to hear?
~Kristin Noelle, www.sacred-loom.com
It seems there are so many “voices” and feelings straining for our attention. While I believe it is good to create a gracious space to acknowledge all of our feelings, we still need to choose which feeling or voice we will follow. If we were undertaking a major mountain climb or whitewater adventure, we would need an experienced and wise guide to lead us. Likewise, on our individual life’s journey, what voice will we choose to guide us?
In Kristin’s illustration above, some of the familiar (and less helpful) voices are fear, anger, and obligation (and the expectations of others). It might feel that following these voices will protect us from judgment and harm, but, in reality, these voices lead to very limited journeys.
How does each voice affect your path?:
Following “fear” can keep you on a crowded, heavily travelled path, avoiding anything new… risking nothing….
Following “anger” might keep you isolated and alone, striking out at anything or anyone coming across your path…
And following the voices of “others’ expectations” confines you to the pathways of others, weighed down by the baggage of constant obligation…
Today on the website, “Pray as You Go” the featured passage was: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?…For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Can you take a few moments to imagine your body as a temple for the Holy Spirit? It is awe-inspiring to imagine the Spirit of God dwelling within us – the source of ultimate wisdom, love and power in our very bodies.
When we let our souls be our guide, we listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit within us. 
We can ask the Spirit to guide us and be our vision.
Grace and peace be with you on your journey ~
Donna

 

 

May you choose trust…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.   (Proverbs 3:5)

Dear friends,

Today, as we vote (no matter our individual political leanings), may we choose trust instead of fear. May we be wise and recognize fear in all its many disguises. May we feel the invitation to trust in the One whose hands are always holding us — as individuals, as communities, as a nation, and as a world. May God bless us all this day.

One of my favorite wise and creative people – Kristin Noelle (www.sacred-loom.com) – has returned to sharing her thoughtful, love-filled illustrations online, which she is calling her “Illustrated Blessings” – so perfect for our month of November! Here is one for today (I will post more of her illustrated blessings throughout this month):

 

I’m comforted and strengthened and still surprised sometimes when I remember that when the going gets tough, I can make this choice. May you remember this when you need to today, too.

 

 

May we follow where Trust leads~

Donna

the spiritual practice of blessing

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for the month of November, you are invited to participate in the following spiritual practices. (You are welcome to share your gratitudes and blessings under “Comments” or you may wish to buy a small notebook to carry with you.)

1) Name one gratitude each day. Pay attention as your day unfolds — notice what touches your heart. Gratitude is the response of our heart to the blessings we have received.

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.”

Thomas Merton

“Grateful living is a way of life which asks us to notice all that is already present and abundant – from the tiniest things of beauty to the grandest of our blessings – and in so doing, to take nothing for granted. We can learn to focus our attention on, and acknowledge, that life is a gift. Even in the most challenging times, living gratefully makes us aware of, and available to, the opportunities that are always available; opportunities to learn and grow, and to extend ourselves with care and compassion to others.”

Brother David Stendl-Rast

2) Bless one person or situation each day. Again, notice where your heart is drawn, and respond from the well of compassion within you.

“The word “blessing” evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable. Each life is clothed in raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else.”

“In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew.”

“Whenever you give a blessing, a blessing returns to enfold you.”

John O’Donohue, “To Bless the Space Between Us

You may wish to create one simple blessing to repeat every day for the person or situation you wish to bless. Spend some time in prayer and quiet, asking God to give you a blessing. Let it be an expression of your heart.

Or you may prefer to create a new blessing each day, letting it spontaneously rise up to each individual situation or person.

You can also do an online search for blessing ideas. Here is a brief and beautiful blessing excerpted from Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

 

I will begin our blessing practice, with a blessing poem for you.   ~peace and love, Donna

For Belonging

May you listen to your longing to be free.

May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.

May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.

May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.

May the sanctuary of your soul never be haunted.

May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.

May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.

May you never place walls between the light and yourself.

May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.

John O’Donohue, “To Bless the Space Between Us

 

 

 

 

Closer to the veil

 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

Today we observe the Feast of All Saints. It is  also Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico and other Hispanic populations. Many other cultures and religions also set aside days to remember and pray for loved ones who have died.

As the northern hemisphere moves toward growing darkness, the season leads us in preparation for a time of stillness and rest.  In Celtic spirituality, it is a threshold time, when the veil between the worlds feels especially thin.

 

“All Souls’ Day” (W.A. Bouguereau)

 

IMG_5195.jpgThis is a picture of the sugar maple tree we planted over 20 years ago in memory of my father-in-law, Garfield. Each fall its colors are magnificent, sometimes more orange or gold, but this year its leaves are a stunning yellow, illuminated gloriously in each morning sunrise.

Every fall my grandchildren and I collect fallen leaves from this tree, and press them into heavy encyclopedias. I tell them stories of their great-grandfather they never got to meet. For Thanksgiving dinner, we spread these leaves on our table, so “Grandpa Garfield” can be with us too. We also use Garfield and Lillian’s wedding china and include foods my husband and I had as children. So for our family, Thanksgiving is definitely a time of joining with our loved ones, on both sides of the veil :).

Even if our ancestors struggled to love in their earthly lives (as we all do), I believe their spirits are now free from human limitation. At the moment of my mother’s death 18 years ago, I remember these words, rising surprisingly from deep within me, to her: “You are free!” My mother was a loving woman, but worldly cares and burdens often kept her from experiencing the fullness of that love and she could often become bitter and angry. Now she was free to love as she had always wanted. I felt that truth deeply, and was heartened for her in the midst of my deep grieving.

Our theme for November is “The Practice of Blessing Each Moment.” Perhaps we can begin our month remembering, with gratitude, the blessing of our friends and loved ones who are no longer with us. Perhaps on this day when we are reminded the veil is thin, we can open ourselves to the gift of their lives.

I am blessed by each one of you.

In deep gratitude

~Donna

Lyrics: All around us and within us
And yet it’s only at times we notice
As real as rain, and soft as stardust
We know deep down, what nobody told us

Can’t you feel it ever closer…
We breathe it in and we then we exhale
We touch both sides and now eternal
Standing closer to the veil

Now is just a, moving image
Not a ribbon, a start and end
There is a bird, a hidden singer
That calls and listens, and calls again

Can’t you feel it ever closer…

Centered down and moving outward
Sometimes almost, too sweet to bare
There are endless ways to reach home
Just keep walking and I’ll meet you there

Can’t you feel it ever closer…

There’s a blurring of the borders
And I swear that I heard voices
But every act of, simple kindness
Calls the kingdom down and all around us

Can’t you feel it ever closer…