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this little light of mine…

Yesterday, as I write this, was the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. It is a very radical idea for us to exalt the most horrible instrument of torture of Jesus’s time, but this is exactly what we do as Christians. We take the very thing that was used to kill our Savior as our most visible symbol. We wear it with pride, so to speak. It’s almost a taunt, if you will, that says to others, you think this scares me? No. this brings me life! Without this Cross, I would not have the promise of eternal life. This life came to us through Jesus, who God sent into the world as Light. In direct light all our flaws are evident. We cannot hide from our sinfulness when we shine light into our deepest recesses. But that very light can make us want to shrink back into the shadows to avoid having to face our fears, our sins, our flaws. If we don’t want to see what’s wrong with us, we will avoid the light. In other words, we won’t be able to see as well; we are somewhat blinded and only see narrowly which leads to confusion.
I don’t know about you, but as I get older I need more and more light to see clearly. When my husband and I visit our adult children in their homes, we’re always looking for brighter lights to be able to see, especially at night. The kids think it’s humorous, but they will see, with time.
Using the metaphor, it’s as if, when we become more and more accustomed to the light we can come to need it more and more. We invite it further and further into the darkest corners of our lives. As more and more things about ourselves are brought into the light, they can be healed by His love. Isn’t that what I’m trying to learn to do in my studies in Spiritual Direction? We are there to help others, to walk with them, as they shine His light into the fears and insecurities and reticence in their hearts and bring them out into the light of day. It’s painful, dirty work, and as we’ve already seen, it gets messy, but, Wow, what a gift!
I think, as I become more and more aware of my sinful nature, I see just how completely dependent I am on God. Trying to see life through His eyes, I see Him everywhere – in the needy He is the opportunity to help; in the frustrations and challenges of life, He is the One who walks with me so that I can face those struggles; in the joys of life, I see His gifts. Do I do this perfectly? Not by a long shot! But the more I try to look through the lens of God’s camera I see His handprint all over the place.
It’s kind of like when I go through my days I am pretty oblivious to what kinds of cars people drive. Friends think it’s funny that I don’t always recognize their cars when I’m driving through our tiny town. Cars just aren’t my thing until I need to purchase a new one. Then I start to notice the makes and models of other cars on the road. I ask others about what they like and don’t like about the vehicles they drive. I am looking at cars through a different lens because it’s a focus in my life. But once I’ve purchased the car and get used to it, I go back to my not noticing the various modes of transportation people use.
Likewise when I started trying to see God in all things my focus naturally began to notice things more. It’s as if a light shines on them and lets me see the things that have been there all along. I hope I never go back to taking that for granted. I pray that I never stop being “blinded by the light.”

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travels with goofy…

Yesterday my husband and I left Orlando to come home. We had gone down to visit our son and his wife and to make a pilgrimage to see our 2 ½ year-old grandson’s hero – Mickey Mouse. It was a crazy, wet and wonderful day in the Magic Kingdom.
Seeing Disney World through the fresh eyes of a two-year-old is an incredible experience. The look of awe was interspersed with a wide-eyed star-struck gaze on his little face. He saw singing bears and crooning tropical birds. He rode on a magic carpet and he played in an arcade while Mama, DaDa and PopPop went on Space Mountain. He had no idea as he jumped from game to game that he was actually playing none of the video games. The screen would change and he would gleefully shout, “Me did it!” content that he had won a race or flown a plane or danced his way to a new level. He couldn’t have had more fun if we had put tokens into the game consoles. During one particularly bad thunderstorm we ducked into what we thought was a show to discover that Minnie Mouse, Daisy and Donald Duck and Goofy were all inside – in the flesh! His amazement at meeting the real-life characters was like one of us having a photo op with the President of the United States.
He is young enough to not realize that it was a day of terrible weather and rides that broke down just as we were about to go on them and a drive back home in a torrential down-pour with almost zero-visibility. He happily played with the plastic cards Disney uses as “tickets” emblazoned with Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Mickey the whole car-ride back to their house. It couldn’t have been a better day.
So, yesterday, we went out to breakfast with Katie and Nate, and headed home. My logical, practical and level-headed husband announced that he would rather not drive south to go north – or was it to go east in order to head west? – whatever it was – he figured there must be another way to get home than to go on the 408 to get to the Florida Turnpike, so another way we went.
We ended up on the 436 in a westerly direction and went through traffic light after traffic light as we inched our way through the westerly suburbs of Orlando. We drove through Apopka and Altamonte Springs; we drove through Tavares and meandered through Mount Dora. We saw Leesburg and went past their International airport. What other country can one possibly get a direct flight to from the Leesburg Airport? Finally, we got on Florida 44, not to be confused with County Road 44, which is conveniently located very close to the same numbered highway, and, in short order, we were on our way to Interstate 75 north. Our little foray through Central Florida took about two hours.
Luckily, we both had a sense of humor about the detour which aptly taught us the lesson that quite often it’s much quicker to go back just a little before proceeding in the direction you’re ultimately headed. It also made it quite clear just how difficult it is to decide once you’ve gotten on the wrong path, whether or not it’s too late to cut your losses and go back, or if it’s better to go ahead and slog through until you discover an alternate route. Either way, we end up at our final destination and, hopefully, we discern some valuable insights about life and about ourselves along the journey.

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lessons of a disc golf widow…

The Tournament is over. THE tournament, the weekend I have been dreading for months, the one that has challenged me to places I didn’t think I had the strength to go, the one that pushed me past my comfort zone over and over. Allow me to explain.
My husband is into Disc Golf. Disc Golf is a sport where players throw specially designed Frisbees into metal baskets that are scattered across a course which is set up like a regular golf course with fairways and roughs and outs-of-bound. They use putters and drivers and discs that are designed to veer to the left or the right. They spend hours practicing and playing and discussing their practicing and playing. They have groups that play together once a week. They have favorite courses. And they have stories to tell.
They talk about the aces – the “holes in one” if you will. They speak in tones of awe and wonder about the shots that went in in one throw from the tee pad with an almost mystical quality. Divine intervention has been mentioned when relating the stories of aces quite often. Usually when an ace occurs there is the clink of the chains in the basket and then a roar of admiration and excitement from the group. It reminds me somewhat of the howl of the coyotes I often hear at night when one of their number catches its prey.
The “Prey” in disc golf is the aforementioned basket. It’s a circle of chains which extend downward into another circle. Below them is the basket portion that “catches” the disc. The chains stop the disc which usually causes it to fall into the basket. I say usually, because sometimes it falls to the ground. Just like in golf when the ball sometimes goes into the hole and rolls around the rim and right out. It’s no less frustrating in either sport. This basket is fitted onto a metal pole which sits into the center of a stand – most of the time. There are the occasional hanging basket where the metal apparatus is suspended from a tree branch and the buried basket where the parts, minus the stand and the pole, sit into a hole in the ground.
So why did I dread this particular tournament? Because the course where this tournament was played is in our “yard.” We live on nine acres of land in rural north Florida. To the right of our house is another eight acres that has not had a house built on it. To our left are the kindest, most generous neighbors anyone could ever have the right to ask for, and towards the front of our property, which is situated on a cul-de-sac, there are another set of above-and-beyond neighbors who don’t object to the craziness that often ensues when multiple disc golfers descend upon the course for a day or a weekend of flinging plastic. But this weekend was the first PDGA (that’s Professional Disc Golf Association) sanctioned event. The tournament was open to 65 players and required several volunteers, both before, during, and after the tournament to bring the whole thing to fruition. This tournament has been in the planning stages since last November. My husband, the Tournament Director, was required to take an exam testing his knowledge of the many and varied rules of the game. He submitted diagrams of the course for approval and had to take care of all the hundreds, no thousands, of details most players would be amazed at that are necessary for putting on a tournament. He has made many improvements to the course. He has mowed and mowed and mowed. He has picked up sticks and branches the piled these bits of nature’s litter into several piles higher than him that were burned over the last several months. He has matcheted the wooded portions of the course into submission, and he has put signage all over the place, leading players in the correct direction to the next tee pad.
As if actually living on a disc golf course isn’t already bordering on eccentric, putting on a tournament of this size and scope is downright insanity. This event has become my husband’s obsession. And, truth be told, I didn’t always appreciate that. I’m not always the gracious hostess to having a few dozen of my husband’s friends walking all over our property, causing the dogs to bark and howl all day long, or in the case of night golf, into the wee hours of the morning. But this was a whole other level of commitment. There were all the players and volunteers to feed, there were the out of town guests who stayed with us during the event, and there was the players’ party beside our pool on Saturday evening – complete with a Jazz band and more food.
I’ve been cooking for days. I’ve been talking about this whole thing for months and stressing out over it for the past several weeks. But it all worked out. It worked because my husband and I are blessed with incredible friends who came without being asked and cooked and served and listened and planned and setup tents and baskets and built tee pads and mowed and cleaned up and allowed us to use parts of their properties and showed us that they love us. I am overwhelmed that our son drove up from Orlando to help his Dad and spent his first night in more than 6 years away from his wife, and that he brought his two-year-old son who helped distract us and entertain us and remind us of what is really important in life. And I am in awe of the God who helped me through the loneliness of the last several months when my husband and his mind were so often elsewhere, and I felt the isolation of feeling that I was too often less important than a game.
But I was wrong. Although I haven’t always been the most willing participant, I have been the witness to the amazing power of love. I have watched the friendships that my husband has developed through this sport blossom. I have learned the value of men helping men and bonding with each other in ways that are so foreign to my gender. And I have been a witness to my husband’s love of God and his somewhat odd way of living out the gospel to feed the hungry and house the homeless and share the blessings of God with others. My husband lives his faith better than I do. Sometimes I just want to be home. As an introvert, I need my down-time when I don’t have to be “on.” I need peace and quiet and my own space to think and pray. I had none of that this weekend, and I survived.
No. I amend that – I actually enjoyed it.
I’m glad it’s over, and I don’t know if I ever want to do it again, but I handled it better than I could have ever hoped, and, that in and of itself, is a small miracle.

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tolerance…

Being called holier than thou is an insult in our society. What is now considered virtuous is being more tolerant than thou. Tolerance is the watchword of moral relativism which declares that I have no right to tell anyone what is right or wrong.
How many times have I heard fellow Americans say that they think abortion is wrong, but that they have no right to tell anyone that it’s wrong to have an abortion? They think suicide is wrong, but they do not have the right to tell another person that he is wrong to end his own life. They believe that rape and murder and genocide are abhorrent, but that our country’s government has no right to tell leaders in other nations that what they are perpetrating or allowing to happen to their citizens is completely unacceptable.
What happened to “I am my brother’s keeper?” What happened to there being a code for what is just plain wrong and what is right? And where is it written that none of us has a right to speak up when someone else is clearly behaving badly?
I think it comes down to responsibility. If I admonish my fellow man, I have to take some form of responsibility for his actions. If I don’t want to be responsible for anyone other than myself, I have to keep my mouth shut, or so our modern world tells us. It also tells us that we are responsible for our planet, for the animals that live upon it and for people who are unable to take care of themselves, but only as far as we do not commit the sin of telling anyone that they are wrong.
This attitude is garbage. It doesn’t pass the sniff test. And it’s taking us down the path of destruction. Once we took the step down that slippery slope of tolerance for bad behavior we began the quick descent into a world where everything is deemed okay and that self-esteem is the most important characteristic to cultivate in our children. How can we raise children to feel good about themselves if they are expected to feel remorse when they do the wrong thing? Society’s answer to that is to tell us that there is no sin, that whatever you want to do is fine, and that your right to live the way you choose is more important than anyone else’s opinion.
No wonder our world is such a mess. I don’t see it getting any better.

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i’m coming home…

I admit, it’s been tough coming back home after the intensity of my week in St Louis. On the one hand, there was the wonderful experience of being heard. Granted I spent the largest part of the week with people who either are, or are studying to be Spiritual Directors; it kind of goes with the territory that they are good listeners. On the other hand, there was the weekend with my sister. We did a lot of talking about the past – some of it was pretty awful stuff. It was good to get the perspective of someone who shared many of my past experiences. It was also interesting to see that we remembered differently.
I felt transformed by the educational and spiritual happenings of the week. I felt put back in my place by my older sibling. No matter what we do, will our birth family always see us through the lens of having grown up with us? Will I forever be the klutzy, geeky little sister who was always a bit too concerned with matters of the soul? Actually, as I write that, I’m okay if that is the case. I could do much worse.
When I got home, my husband excluded, I figured I get about a minute and a half to talk about my trip. I was kind of depressed at that prospect. In real life, I got more along the line of 30 seconds before people’s eyes glazed over. Quite a few people have been avoiding me altogether, or so it seems. It’s been isolating, to say the least. I’ve been a bit down. I’ve doubted my experience, and I’ve missed my new colleagues and friends.
I’ve spent much of my time going through a shedding of an old skin. I’ve been cleaning out closets and cabinets and decluttering. I’ve given away things that no longer seem very important but have been admired by others. I even spent an afternoon with my husband clearing away dead branches and undergrowth from beneath two large live oak trees on our property, and have immensely enjoyed just sitting under their protective boughs. They are like a duo of sylvan rooms redolent with the possibility of Divine inspiration.
I’ve been moved by introspection most of my life, and it’s not completely lonely in my solitude. Still and all, I miss my friends. I wonder if they miss me. I also wonder if that question is more existential than I originally intended.

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words of learning…

I learned this week about the power of acceptance. I’m talking about the acceptance of others, as in the sacredness of their personal stories, and also about the acceptance of ourselves and the persons God created us to be. The nine students who made up our class represented a wide spectrum of experience and personality. I came up with a word for each of them.

Rich – how well suited is his name – is blessed with a depth that came to the forefront immediately. When he spoke, his words were well thought out and articulate and spoke volumes about his ministry and beliefs. His word is Depth.

Mary Catherine was my tour guide for the week. It was evident that she is an eldest daughter in her birth family, as she kept us organized and in line. Her pride in St Louis was obvious. The gentleness of this quiet caregiving sister was so appreciated during the week. Her word is Mother.

John was one of the Chaplains in the group. His path to ministry came later in life. It took me a bit to see the gentle soul that he guarded behind his cautious exterior. His word is Seeker.

Katie was someone I immediately identified with. Many people have an impression of fear in her careful sharing of her thoughts and impressions. I was blessed with the opportunity to realize that her real self is best represented by the word Strength.

Robby is in ministry with students at SLU and his care for those he helps is clear. He is an incredible example of hope for the Church. His word is Compassion.

Dan was another person with whom I immediately bonded. This retired military Chaplain is now a Parish priest to some really lucky Catholics. I am thrilled that we will be in the same class next semester. I look forward to getting to know him even better. The expression on his face lifted all of us during the week. His word is Joy.

Karen was the other online student from my class last semester. We felt like we knew one another before we met at the airport a week ago. What an incredible faith she possesses! This beautiful extroverted Texan’s word is Light.

Lucia has a voice that exudes a rich experience of intelligence and faith. I “met” Lucia last semester and became familiar with seeing her in the class recordings. She was one of the locals who assisted Mary Catherine in acclimating the out-of-towners to the Gateway City. I was lucky to spend a good deal of in and out-of-class time with this beautiful peaceful woman who is so open to God’s call. Her word is Expectant.

These Christian leaders are an inspiration to me. I anticipate an amazing and fruitful journey with them over the next year of our Practicum and Vocational Discernment.

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hitting the wall…

I hit the wall today. I was just give out, as we say in the South. There wasn’t anything left, and I shut down. It was the hardest day of my Practicum week. I know now that I should have listened to that inner voice telling me, more like shouting at me, that I needed rest. I needed to go off and recharge, regroup, and relax. I needed to be by myself and let things process. But I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to disappoint. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I probably alienated everyone.

I’m seeing a different side of this Spiritual Direction gig. Maybe some things are just for me and God. Maybe some things don’t need to go deeper. And just maybe we don’t know what level someone else’s relationship with God is in. Maybe someone’s resistance to talking about their most personal religious moments are none of my business.

I learned something today. I learned respect for those whom I will attempt to help. I learned that it’s not just uncomfortable to have someone leading you to believe some truth that they have discovered in themselves, but that it’s presumptuous to assume that their interactions with the Divine are somehow inferior to my own experience.

Yes, I do want to help others to come to understand the love that God has for them, but it’s not my place to bully them into it. I’m not suggesting that anyone is teaching me to do that, but there were times today, when that’s exactly the way it felt.

 

 

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