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Loving Mother Earth

Affirmation: I treasure Mother Earth.


The Light shines within each of us for we are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit….it is not enough to know the Light is within.  We have come to earth as servers.  Our calling is to stand aside, let Spirit shine through our lives, and thereby to reach out and trigger the illuminating of the light in the lives of others.  And so we join together with kindred souls to let the light of peace, joy, love and truth flood over and transform the quality of life that is manifest on Planet Earth.


Paul Brecht Fenske from Spiritual Insights for Daily Living

The retreat day topic presented by Sisters Mary Margaret and Judy from A Place for Women to Gather was “Oh Earth I Cannot Hold You Close Enough.”  It revolved around a lovely painted image taken from The Cosmic Dance by Joyce Rupp.  The morning was devoted to quiet time and reflection time for us to attune to the beauty and bounty that the earth offers us with the final intention of finding ways we as individuals will support and care for our planet.

The Sixty Minute segment presented on Sunday November, 16th of this year, 2014 was about our water consumption throughout the world.  I live in Cary, North Carolina and we have had water restrictions for years, way before there was much of a visible issue and way before we even had any major problems with our water supply.  Right now I believe we are at a healthy water level for our area but we haven’t always been “safe” and our community does an excellent job of encouraging people to be conservative with their water usage.  They offer rebates for low flow toilettes, inexpensive rain barrels are for sale and watering for lawns and shrubs are on restricted days.  The Sixty Minute segment showed that small steps like ours are more important than I ever imagined but they are not enough to keep our planet green and healthy.  We are drilling for water like we do for oil and we are sucking the earth dry.

The folks who monitor our water levels have for years used the primitive method of simply measuring the water table with a long tape measurer lowered into holes throughout the world and they have seen a huge decrease in the water table, more so over the last decade than ever before.  Now, there is a satellite that takes photos of the whole world and whose sensitivity to moisture allows it to color the computer image based on how much water is present in the area.  Green is healthy, red is sick, black is death.  Over the last several years, the computer images show that many of our world’s major water tables have died.  I know this is a simplistic explanation of a very complex and serious issue.  It did however, cause me to be even more aware of a very serious issue of which our beautiful planet is suffering.
Once again I am faced with the question, “What can I do to affect a change in this world, me one tiny woman living in Cary, North Carolina?”  My first thought is to pray.  I’m praying for many world wide issues, especially for those who are suffering the most.  I know God knows who they are.  I am trusting She will hear my prayer and along with those of others, someone or even many will be comforted.  On NPR this week the head of the UN’s humanitarian services stated that there are now 59,000,000 displaced people in the Middle East.  Our world is in dire shape and I must say the media brings that news right into our homes and I am sure, into many of our hearts.  What more can I do to help the world?

As I write this, we are approaching Thanksgiving.  I am sitting comfortably in a warm home with all the comforts one can need, even enough water to bathe and to have a cup of tea.  I am grateful.  I do count my blessings.  My daughter, Ellen, has just arrived from England and my granddaughter, Isabelle, is spending the night.  My whole family will be here this week and especially on Thursday.  The turkey is in the fridge and I can’t wait to begin cooking.  I love to make the pies.  My husband loves to grill the turkey.  It fills my heart and soul to sit here and recognize my bounty.  I do not take for granted all I am blessed with and from that bounty I have taken measures to help others, besides my prayers, although I do fervently believe that my prayers are the first and most important step.  It’s been shown that when many pray together for the same outcome, things do change for the better, including the prayer.  

My church, St. Michael the Archangel is in the throws of putting together boxes and boxes of food to give away this week, thousands of them. We are but one of thousands of organizations who are doing the same thing.  We have a “Jesse Tree” in the foyer with paper ornaments with children’s names who need a present, usually clothing.  There are adopt-a-family notices in our bulletin.  We are a country with an abundance of resources and from what I can see here in my community, we want to share those with whomever needs help.  As a family, we aren’t ever generous enough.  It seems no matter how much we donate, or step up to assist others, we could always do more, more and more.  We aren’t called to be missionaries working in the really needy part of the world.  We are called, however, to be compassionate and that means not just thinking sad thoughts but actually stepping up and making a difference.  It means donating to the Thanksgiving Basket drive, taking at least one ornament off the Jesse tree, spending time in service.  It means recognizing our bounty and our blessings and making a difference.  We want to donate our time, treasure and talent to improve the condition of our world, even if it’s just our small part of the world.  

After my day retreat, I also realized I need to be more caring of our planet.  My first step was to realize I wasn’t taking enough time to “smell the roses.”  So much of my day is spent running around doing, that I’ve forgotten to embrace the beauty and appreciate the bounty of my planet.  Growing up amid the highways, sidewalks and brick buildings of a city was not the place to get in touch with nature.  I did spend my summers on Jones Beach and fell I love with the ocean.  I love the salt water and the waves and the sound but it took a move to North Carolina before I was stopped in my tracks by nature.  Perhaps too, it’s more about being older and getting closer to being reunited with the earth that has me paying more attention to its grandeur and miracles.  My first step, therefore, is to slow down and to daily savor the miracles that surround me.  Ah, another opportunity to meditate!  My second step is to find more ways to sustain our resources, even if it’s just me taking one small step: walk when I can, use less water less often, recycle even more fervently, don’t print something I can save on the computer, plan my errands all at once rather than heading out randomly.  

I am always looking for ways to be of more service to the world.  In this case, our day retreat has given me a greater awareness of the responsibility to literally give back to Mother Earth, that planet which so tenderly holds us here. I use to have the affirmation, “I treat Mother Earth gently” but now, with awareness I claim with more fervor, “I treasure Mother Earth.”  Therefore, on this Thanksgiving, 2014, I give thanks for ALL things but especially for the treasures of our miraculous world.  

The Holy Plan

Affirmation: I trust and rest in God’s Holy Plan.

What if we believed, truly believed with every fiber of our being, that we were here for a purpose, that we had a role to play in the creation of life? What if we knew that we were here on earth, living this life because a greater power needs us to serve His or Her mission for the betterment of mankind? How would that change what we do, what we think and what we say?

I would imagine that sounds like a sci-fi story. If not, it might sound crazy or irrational. If not that, perhaps it simply sounds like too much work and responsibility. I, however, have reached a stage in my life when I am ready to believe I am here for a purpose and I am ready to release myself to that purpose and let God take me where She wants me to go or perhaps, to stay.

My intention this year, as you may recall, has been to be “connected to the Divine.” Once again, I didn’t know what that meant but I loved the sound of it; I loved the feeling of it. It’s been at the top of my journal page everyday now since January 1st. I know it’s a mediation. I might feel connected or simply be aware of my intention for a short time or even just a moment, and then I leave. I head out into the “world” or even more often, simply into my world.

Recently, I read the phrase “Holy Plan.” As soon as I saw the words, I knew that was my next intention. For some reason those two worlds brought me great peace. I felt my whole body relax, I was breathing deeper and easier. I began to carry the phrase with me all day long. It’s there as I sit quietly wondering what and whom the day will invite and it’s been there as I roam around participating in the many activities of my life. I fully recognize this does not mean nothing difficult will enter into my life or the lives of my loved ones but I still feel peaceful. I have this sense that all will work to my good, even the “bad.” It’s so comforting to me. Joel Osteen says, “With faith, what man has meant for our bad, God will make good.” Maybe yes, maybe no but I sure feel better when I trust that Joel is right.

Other than a sense of calm and peace and even excitement, what results have I discovered from this new affirmation? I have been watching life more closely for opportunities to rest in the Lord and also to be His tool. I know that sounds a little weird and perhaps even obnoxious, believing that I can connect to The Divine and She will use me, me little Jean Anne Costa, to do some sort of life giving work for the world. Yes, there have been others who believed this and they were crazy! I don’t think, however, that I’ve “lost it.” Somehow, I feel I’ve found that for which I’ve been searching. I don’t have visions of grandeur. I simply want to walk though the day and my life, bringing hope, peace, love, joy, and compassion wherever I can and not add to the fear and pain that is so prevalent in our world today. Does that sound unreasonable? When I carry that hope with me into every day, won’t that make a positive difference?

I’ve been reading Mathew Kelly’s, Rediscovering Catholicism and finding it to be very supportive of my faith and my general spirituality. I had two copies at my home and as I left the house the other morning I decided to take the extra copy with me. I had the thought that maybe someone would like to have it. I couldn’t imagine who but I grabbed it and threw it in the back of the car. I had an appointment for a pedicure (Yea!) and before I headed into the shop I went to the trunk of the car to put on my flip-flops and there was the book. I already had the newspaper in my hand but I grabbed the book too. I didn’t get to it. I fell asleep but I had laid it on the table next to me. Another patron looked at it and began to ask me about it. She too was a Catholic and really struggling with her faith and asked me about it. I told her I knew this sounded weird but I had it with me because I felt I was supposed to give it away. Would she like it? Yes, she would love to read it. I was awed. I felt like I had closely listened. I felt well “used.” I felt Divinely used. I felt quite right. I knew that this was how I always wanted to feel and believed my 2014 intention had definitely clicked in. Wow, I thought, “I might actually be in the midst of the Holy Plan. How cool!”

No, the book episode has not been the only serendipitous event this year. There have been many and each one has left me feeling the same way, peaceful and awed. In an effort to increase my faith and strengthen my understanding and relationship with Jesus Christ, I developed an affirmation many years ago that is close to the top of my affirmation list. I know by meditating on Jesus throughout my day, I am in union with the Divine, miracles are created and without struggle my life is transformed in ways beyond my imagination. That’s how I feel about life today. I’m 68 years old and there’s a peace and a sense of excitement I can never before recall experiencing.

I share these affirmations and this revelation I’m in the midst of with you with the hope that a few of these sentences or words will resonate with you and you too, if you’re searching, will find this same sense of peace and exhilaration, at least for right now and perhaps

Being Catholic

Affirmation:  I love being a Catholic
During this month, October 2014, the Catholic Church has been front-page news.  It’s not unusual for the Church to be in the headlines.  It seems to me it’s an easy target for criticism, especially in this day and time.  This time the initial news being reported was more positive.  Pope Francis called a synod, a group of bishops from around the world, and the discussion that came from that meeting was highly publicized.  It’s unclear if everything that was written about the meeting was true but that’s nothing new for the media.  The initial bent of the stories would lead most people to believe that the Catholic Church has decided to become more liberal. 
At St. Benedict’s Church in Linville, NC Father Christopher Gober’s homily revolved around the procedures that are required before the Church, or what I would prefer to refer to as the hierarchy, makes any changes in Church doctrine.  “It will take years.”  Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.  The two thousand year old church has never been quick to make any changes.  It took them several hundred years to forgive Galileo who they excommunicated because he claimed the earth revolved around the sun.  With a history like that those of us, which includes me, who are ever hopeful that our church will become more open and accepting are not holding our breath.  But, there are some signs that our Church, the people who make up the foundation of our parishes may see a greater shift towards compassion and inclusion that hasn’t appeared to be the main focus until lately.
Before the synod ever began I was listening to a Tapestry podcast with Mary Hines called, Liars, Cheats and Sinners and the writer she was interviewing, described as a Roman Catholic thinker, Mary Gordon, said she didn’t expect anything would be discussed that would make a difference for the laity.  She, however, I am pleased to say, was wrong.  Even if the doctrines are the same and it takes years, if ever, to make changes, Pope Francis seems to bring a whole different flavor to the meaning of our faith.  When the leader of an institution calls for compassion and inclusion, when a leader in an institution is humble and deferential and when a leader of an institution leads by example and not simply with words, the institution will reflect those qualities and that, it seems to me is Pope Francis.
I may be grasping at straws here, hoping that he will bring our church to a place where many times people feel as if they simply can’t ever get it right, where many people just find it too difficult to be part of such a restrictive environment.  I know in many ways the Catholic Church is a liberal institution if you compare it to many other fundamental faiths of the world but in my opinion some of the stands it takes on issues which affect so many of it’s faithful are just wrong.  My hope is Pope Francis will lead these men to a place of compassion and openness so that the fastest growing religion in the United States today is not “former Catholics.”
Our Church has so much to offer and because of all the bad publicity some of which is very justified, we aren’t recognized for all our Church has done and continues to do to make this world a better place.  For example, the Catholic Church feeds, educates and tends to the health of tens of thousands of people a day.  The people they serve aren’t asked about their belief system or about their religion, they are simply helped.  Why isn’t that ever written about in the news? 
I once had someone tell me she was an Protestant because unlike Catholics she didn’t have to leave her brain at the church door.  I can’t even imagine why someone would think it was all right to say that to anyone but trust me that’s not true. I have carefully considered whether or not I want to continue to be a Catholic.  I’ve headed out many times; I’ve studied many faiths; I’ve read many different theologies.  I finally had to recognize that I was always called back to Catholicism. That’s my home.  Maybe, just by being who I am I can make a difference in the way the church responds to some of these controversial issuers.  Certainly, I have a better chance than if I walked away, if I simply quit. 
I had one very powerful experience of asking God in prayer what path I should follow.  I didn’t’ know how the answer would come but I believe in answered prayer and I did expect an answer.  The answer came in a dream.  Jesus floated down, He wasn’t very clear but I was pretty sure a white floating being was divine and He said, “Jean, I am the answer for you.”  I believed it then and I still believe it now.  I have a dear friend who has told me for years, “I don’t let the Church interfere with my relationship with God.”  That’s not good enough for me.  My Church needs practices and rituals that enhance and strengthen my relationship with God and with that, my relationships with my family, friends and even my enemies and it does provide those practices.  Unfortunately, the emphasis on Jesus’ message of love and compassion gets clouded and our beautiful faith gets tied up in the rules and regulations.  
I love the Catholic Church.  I love being a Catholic.  Yes, I know it has zits and dysfunction.  What family doesn’t?  I have chosen to stay in this family, this place where the people I interact with are more often than not, kind, generous, compassionate and loving. I’m still a Catholic because of my belief in the sanctity of the Eucharist and the rituals of the Mass and our seven sacraments and because it has led me to this relationship with Christ that sustains me in all things.

The last headline I saw about the synod before I wrote this said, “Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of new things.'”  Yes, I believe we are presently in the hands and heart of a loving, compassionate person who will bring our church to a place of more acceptance and kindness; who will help our parishes become places of refuge and hope; who will guide the hierarchy towards being less rule oriented and more people oriented.  I’m not too hopeful about changes with the perception of women’s roles but that’s a whole other blog.  I do believe, however, that our Pope Francis hasn’t left his brain or his heart at the door and I don’t believe he expects us to live our faith and our lives without deep thought and commitment. 

Affirmation:  I fully recognize and appreciate the gift of living in a free country and having the right to make my choices known.

“Our passions are the winds that propel our vessel. Our reason is the pilot that steers her. Without winds the vessel would not move and without a pilot she would be lost.“  Proverbs

Have you ever watched a political convention?   Politics is not my favorite subject, to say the least.  I am a moderate, a middle of the road citizen.  I can usually see both sides of an issue and that can leave me very confused about for whom I should vote.  I don’t have a very successful record either.  If a friend or family members favors someone for office they would be wise to encourage me to vote for the opponent.  I can’t ever remember voting for the winner in a major election.  But, I always vote.  I may not always be as well informed as I’d like to be, but I always go and cast my vote.  I try, I really do try to gather as much information as possible.  I read about the different people, sometimes I go to meet them but I’ve never been so impressed or enamored by a candidate that I was sure I was making the best decision.  The best decision for whom; for me, for my country, for the world?

When I vote I feel like that in itself is the best decision, the decision to exercise my right to vote.  When I read about and listen to the sacrifices our ancestors have made and the oppression that exists in so many countries today, I fully recognize the gift I have been given with the opportunity to choose those I want to represent me, my city, state and country.

I pray daily for wisdom for our world leaders.  There seems to be so many politicians whose only concern is their power and their prestige.  Perhaps, that’s why I’m not very passionate about politics.  I don’t have much faith in the people who chose to be politicians.  I can’t imagine what drives so many of them to put themselves so far out into the public’s eye.  I wonder, so often, if it’s not simply a grand ego trip.  I want to believe that a person who is running for office is more concerned about me, his or her constituent, than he or she is about themselves. 

When I watch the conventions, the men and women who present themselves with passion about their concerns and about their desires to uplift and empower us, their represented, I am almost relieved, relieved that someone comes across with what I think is a genuine spirit.  But, it’s the people, the audience with whom I am so fascinated.  I am sure there is a selection process for those attendees.  I’m sure some have been going for years; maybe it’s a family tradition.  I know in many ways it’s a fun experience.  I’ve been to several business conventions.  The energy generated by a group of people with a common goal is always palpable. 

In 2010 my husband, Sandy, was a keynote speaker for Toastmasters International in Las Vegas.  It’s an amazing organization and we were very excited to be there.  There were over 2000 people there from all over the world.  We met people from Africa, Asia, Australia and places that began with many other letters besides “A.”  It was 3 days of high energy, lots of stories and shared visions.  I would imagine being at a political convention would be similar.

Passion is the world that comes to mind when I watch the people in attendance.  Passion!  They must truly love and care about the process we have here in the United States to decide our own destiny and they must believe completely in that process.  They have devoted time, energy and talent to participate in the process.  I find it inspiring.  I believe we all need passion in our lives.

Passion is that quality of life that keeps our hearts beating and our spirits soaring.  I believe being passionate about our country, even with its zits, is a worthy pursuit, a just passion.  I am proud to be an American.  I am grateful to live in a land of peace and freedom.  I believe the United States is a place where dreams can come true.  I am grateful to be a woman living here in the United States rather than in some oppressive regime.  I believe in our compassion as a people and a nation.  I value the sacrifices so many Americans have made and continue to make to help others both here and throughout the world.

Vote?  For whom will I vote?  That’s not as important as if I will vote.  That choice, no that obligation, is one thing about which I am passionate.  There once was an article in USA Today stating that thousands of Americans don’t vote. They simply don’t care or they don’t believe it can make a difference.  Men and women have died, are dying, punished and even imprisoned because they want, they demand, the right to have a voice in their destiny.  Yes, I will not let this gift, this opportunity go unused, unappreciated, The United States of America is the greatest country in the world.  And, I for one, will exercise my privilege and hope and pray that I am casting a vote for someone with passion who will work and lead my country and perhaps our world towards the highest and best we can possibly be.  I hope you will join me.