a visitation of hope…

Dear friends~

Before we move into the 2nd week of Advent and it’s theme of PEACE, I wanted to share with you a photograph and reflection from Linda Graham, who is part of our “Sacred Rhythms” community. 

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I took this picture driving on our way home from Florida a few weeks ago. We had just heard from my nephew who lives in Texas with no family around, about the sudden death of his wife. My brother and sister-in-law are already dealing with so much with her cancer. I was feeling such sadness and despair and the whole sky was gray and heavy with thick clouds. Then this opening appeared and such light shown through. It was such a picture of Hope and I felt a peace and calm wash over me. God touched me with His message Hope through this beautiful sky. 

~Linda

 


Thank you so much Linda, for sharing how God broke through the darkness, and touched you with Hope. Your sharing is a tender reminder of how Hope and Peace join within us when we become aware of God’s presence within the everyday and extraordinary moments. ~with love, Donna

Buoyant hope and pomander balls :)

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As we continue to consider “Hope” in this first week in Advent, I wanted to share this picture taken in my backyard this morning, which shows one of my favorite signs of hope in these colder, darker, and more barren days.

When we see trees with budding branches, we most often think of spring. But look closely… you may find something surprising waiting among the last lingering leaves of autumn… buds for leaves that will arrive in the spring! Trees are already preparing for spring blooming.

We often think of the winter as a time of dormancy for a deciduous tree. And it is. The leaves fall so there is no photosynthesis and no fresh sugar to fuel metabolic processes. Only the tree’s stored reserves, found primarily in the roots, will provide the energy for life. Temperatures plummet. Life slows down. But it does not stop. Individual cells will continue to perform the biochemical reactions necessary for the tree’s continued living. The tree is being readied for the returning light and warmth of spring.

This image for Hope gives me great joy, and takes on a quality of lightness and buoyancy.

The Collins dictionary defines buoyancy as “the power to keep something afloat, upward pressure on a floating object. Lightness or resilience of spirit.”  What is the upward pressure that keeps you afloat this Advent season – and beyond? What gives you lightness and resilience of spirit?

Nan Merrill (Psalms for Praying) writes, “True hope is rooted in a Reality beyond ego and illusion.  Hope that rises in our hearts is like a buoyant bubble of champagne.”

In her book Mystical Hope, Cynthia Bourgeault also writes about this buoyant quality of hope she experienced after the death of a dear friend and spiritual mentor:

“Everything seemed hopeless. Rafe was gone. My life was gone… And then the most extraordinary thing happened. As I sat out there shivering with cold and lost in my misery, suddenly, from my toes up, I could feel a strange lightness and joy start to bubble up in my being — almost like an empty glass being filled with champagne. It was not a mood shift, but a distinct physical sensation. There was an effervescence inside me that simply had not been there the moment before, as if I had been recharged, filled and fueled with an energy so buoyant that I simply could not sink even if I wanted to… my being coming to me from a far deeper place.”

For me, having hope does not always lead to what my ego would consider THE perfect outcome, but it is more like an opening, a flowering of possibility (even within darker days). Sometimes it is a small opening, barely perceptible, but other times it is wide, open-armed, and open-hearted, assent, “Yes, Come — Come Emmanuel!”

Here’s one of my favorite versions of this wonderful Advent hymn: “O Come O Come Emmanuel:”


Scents of the Season:

Pomanders are wonderfully fragrant, natural room and closet fresheners. They make great gifts or festive tree and package decorations.

 

I ran across the webpage below with suggestions and guidelines for making pomanders. It is really simple — and wonderfully fragrant. Enjoy!!

How to make spiced orange pomander balls

Advent 1 – hope

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I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

from Psalm 130

In this first week of Advent as we focus on the theme of Hope, I wonder what hope means for you? Is hope like making a wish on an evening star or a wish before blowing out candles on a birthday cake? Is it being an “upbeat” person — always looking for a silver lining — believing the best will happen? Or could it be the same as grace – or faith?

In her book Mystical Hope, Cynthia Bourgeault writes that the “journey to hope… is something that will change your innermost way of seeing.” She continues, “In our usual way of looking at things, hope is tied to outcome. We normally think of hope as having an optimistic feeling.”

Instead, Bourgeault believes that “hope has something to do with presence — not a future good outcome but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.”

I am drawn to contemplate hope like Bourgeault, as “an abiding state of being… a call to become a vessel, to become a chalice into which divine energy can pour; a lamp through which it can shine.”

Our practice of waiting in Advent is very close to this “abiding state of being” as we wait for the coming light, even when days are short, dark, and cold. We might consider how Mary’s abiding hope helped her receive the promise of the Holy One within her: how she became a “vessel, a chalice, a lamp.”

How might you embrace Hope this Advent season?  How might you hold the promise of the coming Christ within you this Advent season?

As we consider becoming people of Hope, here are a few of my favorite quotes on hope:

I heard a preacher say that hope is a revolutionary practice . . . hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. . .

~ Anne Lamott

 

12988817915_a51e7d1b9e_mHope is what sits by a window and waits for one more dawn, despite the fact that there is not one ounce of proof in tonight’s black, black sky that it can possibly come.

~ by Joan Chittister

 

 

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Either we have hope within or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.

~ Vaclav Havel in “Share International” #3, Vol. 25


For me, at Advent, my hope is in God who wants to be with us — Emmanuel. Enough to become incarnate, to take on flesh, to be born in humble circumstance. To be one of us, one with us. We keep vigil – a patient waiting – for the completion of our deepest desire rooted in God’s desire. We practice hope in our every day lives, moment by moment. We share hope with others. We wait together for the light to come.

The hope is for fullness, for completion,

for being one with each other . . .

Our entire lives are a vigil, a keeping watch,

for the fulfillment of this hope.

~ Wendy Wright

“Waiting in Silence (Waiting in Hope)” by Carey Landry

video by Diocese of St. Benedict, Old Catholic Missionaries

 

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