Jesus
-1
archive,tag,tag-jesus,tag-815,stockholm-core-1.1,select-theme-ver-5.1.7,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.0.3,vc_responsive

@Home Retreat, January 2021

Triangle @Home Monthly Morning Retreat
January 16th, 2021
9:00-10:00am

 

*Prepare your space: Find an area where hopefully you will not be disturbed for your quiet time. Perhaps you want a blanket for yourself. 
*Gather your supplies: Timer, note paper and/or journal, pen. You may want to bring in one or two inspirational books.
*Create an “altar”: Put a few meaningful items out, include a candle.
*Opening Song –  Refresh My Heart or song of your choice.
(You Tube Link) Refresh My Heart
*Opening Prayers: The Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary or your choice.
*Intention: This is a reflective, healing time and we ask that it be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, the care of Mother Mary and the guidance of all our guardian angels. We are here to learn from one another and to support each other on our journey towards a closer, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.
*Write out a prayer request or a few and add them to your “altar.”
*Reflection – It’s a new year and the COVID vaccine has appeared on the scene.  When will you receive it?  Do you want to receive it? What then?  Will it protect us from the virus so we can finally see our family and friends? How much longer will we need to wear masks and maintain “social distancing?” There are so many questions? How are you doing? How have you continued to stay connected to God, the Divine, Our Lord? What has come into your heart and your life during this time, peace, hope, fear, compassion, gratitude?
Using your journal write about any insights. (10-15 min.)

 

*The Gospel reading is: Mark 2:13-17

13 He went out again to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them.

14 As he was walking along he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

15 When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers.

16 When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

17 When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners.’

 

 

*Journaling Time – What did you hear God sharing with you? What do you want to share with God? (10-15 minutes)
*Centering Prayer – 10 to 20 (recommended) minutes of silent time (you decide.)
Guidelines:
  1. Sit comfortably.
  2. Choose a sacred word on which to focus.
  3. Set a timer.
  4. Don’t judge, just observe.
  5. The phrase that often precedes Centering Prayer is: I let go of security, affection & control and fully accept this moment exactly as it is. (Optional)
  6. Take a few breaths at the end to return to the present moment and to reflect
    on the experience.
  7. *Make it Your Own:
    Perhaps you have an inspirational book you have been meaning to investigate but you just haven’t had the opportunity. Now is the time. If you have some time left before the end of the hour open it and see what other messages the Holy is sending to you.
  8. You could also use this time to say the Rosary. Saturday in the Catholic Church is set aside as “Mary’s Day” and the reflection is on the Joyful Mysteries.
*Closing Prayer –
Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings and the loud my fears keep pulling me away from you,
inner noises of
help me to trust that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you. Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying: “Come to me, you who
are overburdened, and I will give you rest…
for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen
Excerpt from With Open Hands by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ave maria press, 2006
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
*Sharing a Word Exercise – choose a word from your reading or your quiet time (your sacred word?) and share it on an email to me. Feel free to share any other thoughts or insights you have gained from this sacred time. I will send out an email with everyone’s response some time today.
Thank you.
Jean Costa, MSW, RYT
Certified Spiritual Director, JeanAnneCosta@gmail.com

@Home Retreat, December 2020

Triangle@Home Monthly Morning Retreat
December 19th, 2020 9:00-10:00 am

  (or day and time of your choice).

*Prepare your space: Find an area where hopefully you will not be disturbed for your quiet time. Perhaps you want a blanket for yourself (or a teddy bear?). 
*Gatheram your supplies: Timer, note paper and/or journal, pen. You may want to bring in one or two inspirational books. 
*Create an “altar”: Put a few meaningful items out, include a candle. 
*Opening Song – Here I am Lord

*Opening Prayers: The Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary or your choice. 
*Intention: This is a reflective, healing time and we ask that it be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, the care of Mother Mary and the guidance of all our guardian angels. We are here to learn from one another and to support each other on our journey towards a closer, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. 
*Write out a prayer request or a few and add them to your “altar.” 
*Reflection – There appears to be a “light at the end of the tunnel.” The news is focused on the recently discovered vaccine for Covid 19.  For most of us, this probably won’t be available until sometime in 2021.  We are still faced with decisions about the holidays that are causing sadness and separation. We are still trying to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe but for most of us, we ache to see them and hold them. It’s one of the most bizarre holidays most of us have ever experienced.  
How are you doing? How have you continued to stay connected to God, the Divine, Our Lord? What has come into your heart and your life during this time of chaos and uncertainty, peace, hope, fear, compassion, gratitude? 
Using your journal write about any insights. (10-15 min.) 
Saturday in the Catholic Church is always Mother Mary’s Day
One prayer to Mary is the Memoire: (This is one of my favorite and the one I always say as I am going to sleep.)
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of thy Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me.
Amen.
Gospel reading suggestion: read slowly three times.
*The Gospel reading is:
Gospel, Luke 1:5-25
5 In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron.
6 Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.
7 But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.
8 Now it happened that it was the turn of his section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God
9 when it fell to him by lot, as the priestly custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there.
10 And at the hour of incense all the people were outside, praying.
11 Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense.
12 The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear.
13 But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you shall name him John.
14 He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth,
15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
16 and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God.
17 With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’
18 Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I know this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’
19 The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.
20 Look! Since you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long.
22 When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them and remained dumb.
23 When his time of service came to an end he returned home.
24 Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept to herself, saying,
25 ‘The Lord has done this for me, now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered in public.’
*Centering Prayer – 10 to 20 (recommended) minutes of silent time (you decide.)
Guidelines: 
  1. Sit comfortably. 
  2. Choose a sacred word on which to focus. 
  3. Set a timer. 
  4. Don’t judge, just observe. 
  5. The phrase that often precedes Centering Prayer is: I let go of security, affection & control and fully accept this moment exactly as it is. (Optional) 
  6. Take a few breaths at the end to return to the present moment and to reflect
    on the experience. 
  7. *Make it Your Own:
    Perhaps you have an inspirational book you have been meaning to investigate but you just haven’t had the opportunity. Now is the time. If you have some time left before the end of the hour open it and see what other messages the Holy is sending to you.
  8. You could also use this time to say the Rosary. Saturday in the Catholic Church is set aside as “Mary’s Day” and the reflection is on the Joyful Mysteries.
*Journaling Time – What did you hear God sharing with you? What do you want to share with God? (10-15 minutes) 
*Closing Prayer – 
Merciful Father, in the name of our Lovable Jesus, His Holy Mother, all the angels and saints, I ask you to set me on fire with Your love and to give me the grace to deeply love You.
Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence. 
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings and the loud inner noises of my fears keep pulling me away from you, help me to trust that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you. Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying: “Come to me, you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest… for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen 
Excerpt from With Open Hands by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ave maria press, 2006 
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2 
*Sharing a Word Exercise – choose a word or phrase from your reading or your quiet time (your sacred word?) and share it on an email to me. Feel free to share any other thoughts or insights you have gained from this sacred time. I will send out an email with everyone’s response some time today. 
Thank you. 
Jean Costa, MSW, RYT 
Certified Spiritual Director, JeanAnneCosta@gmail.com 

Being Your Better Self

Affirmation: Every day I strive to be a “better” version of myself

“God loves me just as I am but He /She loves me too much to leave me there.”
 – Quote from a fellow Spiritual Director

 

Covid 19 has taken its toll on 2020.  It’s like God has sent us to our knees.  I know He/She has sent me to mine.  My prayer list at the end of this year is longer than it has ever been before and several of those prayers revolve around people I know and love who are dealing with this scourge that has infected our whole earth.  I am, probably like many of you, trying to listen closely to the messages from the Divine that seem to be coming in even more clearly than previously.  This month’s message has been about being the best, or at least the better me possible.

 

Richard Rohr in his book, The Divine Dance, tells the story of sharing with his spiritual director that he would like to be more like Thomas Merton, the great spiritual guru of the 70’s. His wise director told him he should simply be Richard Rohr. He is an American author with over 50 books to this date, spiritual writer, and Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. PBS has called him “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.” (Wikipedia) It seems like the advice was well received.

 

Then in a conversation with my dear friends, we found ourselves looking at our past and  comparing our accomplishments to people we admire. Matthew Kelly, the founder of the Dynamic Catholic Institute shares in his book, Perfectly Yourself, that his favorite painter is Pablo Picasso.  He shares that when Pablo was younger his mother told him, “Pablo if you become a soldier, you will be a general.  If you become a priest, you will be the Pope.” Pablo then shares, “I became a painter and I became Pablo Picasso.”   Matthew also reminds us that no matter what society tells us about becoming whatever we desire, each of us has been called by God for a very specific reason.  We are here for a purpose.  We aren’t here to be all things to all people.  We are here to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be or at least the better version of ourselves.

 

I must confess to believing that if I persevere in some endeavor I will eventually accomplish whatever it is I’m trying to master and that I now know that is not true.  I am not someone who regrets not trying to learn or do something of interest and over these many years, I have watched myself become the master of mediocrity at many many different skills.  I won’t bother to list them all here but trust me, there are many.  It’s not like I don’t try and it’s not like I have not invested a lot of time and energy truly believing that if I just hang in there, someday something magical will happen and I will be proficient at my desired talent.  That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the learning process or the amazing people and perhaps places I have met and visited along the way.  I have had many wonderful adventures in the pursuit of my different interests but I must confess, I simply did not have the God given talent to become a “good” fiddler, golfer, foreign linguistic, etc.  I think Matthew is right.  Some of us are simply suited to some things, designed for specific gifts, than for other.  The challenge is discovering those gifts, those gifts that God has bestowed on us to benefit this world.  Have you discovered yours?  What a wonder to be young and find that “something” and hone that talent.  I envy those people but “better late than never.”

 

The book I am presently reading is Julia Cameron’s, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.  Her first book, The Artist’s Way, changed my life as I know it did many others.  I discovered with the help of some of my dearest friends the gift of creating positive affirmations and of looking for and recognizing synchronicities or as she sometimes calls them, “ah ha moments.”  When I began writing morning pages 30 years ago, I discovered something that fed my soul.That quiet time of sitting and writing has helped me develop the discipline to begin every day with prayer, meditation, Bible study and journaling.  Within the journaling, I have left my petty concerns and discovered my passions and the joy of this blessed life.

 

There are times when I wonder if I’m being selfish by taking that sacred time in the morning but then, Elizabeth Fenske presented in her December writings her concept of Unity and Oneness in her daily meditation book, Spiritual Insights for Daily Living and everything fell into place, at least for 2020.  She writes, “We forget that what we do about the inner self we also do about the world.  No thing is separate from any other thing in the universe.  The auric fields, often invisible to our eyes, are all woven together. With everything which happens, we can “feel” ourselves moving toward a deeper sense of the awareness.  Often in the stillness we intuitively feel and know the interconnectedness and oneness we share related back to a common ancestry.  We are the essence of life, cousin to the star and tigress.”  This for me was an “ah ha moment.”  My dear departed guide, Valerie Kelly, often reminded me that everything we do, everything we say and think, affects every other person in the world.  What a responsibly!!!  If I can maintain an attitude of kindness, compassion and generosity within me and for me, I can send those qualities out into this weary exhausted world and to everyone within it.  My prayer time is not simply time for me, it’s time for you.  The waves of grace and ease, gratitude and compassion, joy and dignity, hope and trust flow out of me and my connection to my Divine family, to my Lord and Savior and blanket all those who have tuned into the same frequency as I and perhaps to those who are simply turning the dial looking for the best station to the guidance about becoming the best version they can be.

Legions of Angels

Affirmation: I believe I am surrounded and supported by Christ and His legions of Angels and spiritual guides. I am empowered and feel nurtured when I stop and recognize their presence.

 

belleruth-1When I first listened to Belleruth Naparstek’s CD, Guided Mediation to Help with Chemotherapy I was greatly comforted by her description of spiritual beings who came to assist me with my
healing, “some of which look familiar.” As I listened I clearly envisioned the presence of several ethereal beings and yes, one looked very familiar. He was my father, Francis Grolimund, long
deceased but whose memory and presence always seems to be lingering about me. I’ve listened to and played that recording dozens of times. I love to end a yoga session with it. It’s full of
hope and tools to encourage healing.

I’ve been dealing with a chronic ache the last year and a half and found myself feeling weak and discouraged. I’d done all within my power to help my body heal, much of which revolved around alternative healing. I did go the western medicine route also but that too did not present an answer.

journal-1When I journal I’m usually writing a stream of consciousness. I do always try to focus on three joys from the day before and list one for the day to come but otherwise it’s just my form of rambling and dumping. It’s a gift I give myself. I love the practice. One day, however, I remembered my friend’s approach to her morning ritual. Joan Junginger often talks about her “coffee with Jesus.” Periodically I’ve tried writing to God or the Angels. It never seemed to resolve anything but I was becoming quite desperate and decided this one morning to give it another try and to write that letter to Jesus and see if anything new appeared.

When Joan, cofounder of The Heart’s Journey, leads retreats which she recently did for a large group of women at St. Michael the Archangel and which I had attended, she normally encourages the participants to write such a letter and then she instructs them to write a letter to themselves from Jesus. I heard some remarkable stories from a few of the women who had been doing this exercise for a several years. I’m sure that’s why the journaling on this one morning was taking on a new twist.

ScreenShot2015-10-28at8.32.03PMAs I wrote out my concerns to the Lord I found a name appearing on the page that I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. This woman, Suzanne Egan, is a massage therapist and a health and wellness coach. She’s lived and worked in my area for many years and is very knowledgeable about the different physicians and practices. I had struggled with a hip issue for many
years when I first showed up at her practice and with her guidance I was led to Sangini Rane of Apex PT, who specializes in Postural Restoration Therapy and who guided me to a pain free hip. After my journaling was done I immediately contacted Suzanne. Luckily she was still at the same number. She responded right away and had several suggestions for my latest challenge that I had not fully investigated. Even better was the fact that she had a couple of clients who had dealt successfully with the same issue. She contacted them and got their referrals and then made a few more recommendations of her own. I know you’ve had this experience too. I was being given the gift of hope.

creatingpositiveThen too as I wrote I began to value all the years and hours I had put into my prayer life. I don’t always take credit for the fact that I’ve been practicing my faith for my whole
life and I’ve been especially fervent for the last 40 plus years. Each morning I invite all my Angels and especially my guardian Angel, Saranna, and my guides to join me. It’s the prayer I say when I wake and as I begin my journaling. It’s on the last page of my book, Creating Positive Affirmations,Living an Intentional Life.

Lord, be united with me
this day and always. I invite You and
all those who nurture and guide me,
seen and unseen to aid me in bringing glory and honor and praise to this gift
of life You have so generously given me.

This particular morning I found myself picturing those spiritual beings manifesting themselves around me but it felt different. For the first time I felt the presence of a legion of beings, not just the few I’d always called upon. I felt like a curtain had been raised. I hadn’t been able to see everyone who answered my call until that day. I had been limiting God’s response. I was shocked to realize my small mindedness. I’ve always known we get to choose whether to go to God in prayer with a thimble, a bucket or a pipeline but I hadn’t let the knowledge go from my head into my heart and this day, for the first time, it weaved it’s way right down into the center of my being.

JesusandAngelsI created a new affirmation to cement the concept and have been saying it and writing it every day since then.

I believe I
am surrounded and supported by Christ and His legions of Angels and spiritual
guides. I am empowered and feel nurtured when I stop and recognize their
presence.

I’ve even had visions of those animated armies you see in some of the sci-fi films. The ones where the beings cover the entire landscape and keep coming over the hills and ridges. I know it sounds extreme, maybe a little (?) crazy but just like all my affirmations, it brings me a sense of calm and even power, which I had misplaced while dealing with this issue.

I’ve followed Suzanne’s recommendations and I’m saying my affirmation daily to tap into the Divine army available to my loved ones and me. I can’t tell you at this time if I’m cured but something very deep within me has shifted and I am not carrying around that initial sense of weakness and powerlessness any longer. I’ve been here before with other physical challenges especially with my hip and many years ago with breast cancer and I must say this is a good place. My heart and my head are finally united and I’m in a place of hope and positive expectation.

guides-1I share this with you in case you too have been going to God with just a small container, not attaching the pipeline that is right there in front of you. Perhaps, you too will begin to
envision a legion of spiritual beings surrounding you and protecting you and giving you the support with whatever you’re dealing so that you too will experience hope and peace and feel strong and powerful.

“May the power of angels come to greet you may they lead you to paradise,” both here and in the hereafter.

Have Courage and Be Kind

Affirmation: I live a Christ centered life of love, hope, peace, gratitude and compassion.

LouisePenny26BookLouise Penny, the author of the crime novels about Three Pines, Canada and Inspector Gamache came to Meredith College in September of this year, 2015 to promote her newest book, The Nature of the Beast. It’s her twelfth book in this series. The auditorium was full. I guessed there to be about 300 people there. I became a fan a few years back when one of the women in my book group, Anne Brill, recommended Mrs. Penny’s work. My husband, Sandy and I like to listen to a good book if we have an extended drive and I purchased The Beautiful Mystery for us several years ago. We were immediately hooked. We can’t wait for our next long trip to delve into the newest novel and to be reunited with the inspector and the rest of our new “friends.”

ScreenShot2015-09-16at11.59.32AMLouise didn’t really speak about her books because she said she might give away some of the story line which she felt would interfere with her reader’s enjoyment. Instead she spoke about her
journey to becoming a successful writer. It wasn’t an unusual story. It took her a long time and required quite a bit of stamina and also a few serendipitous events. One event revolved around a fundraiser in a foreign country where she met her publisher, the only person with whom she had an encounter during the whole night. Her whole story was interesting but the message with which I came away was about “kindness.”

She said she modeled the inspector after her husband. If you’ve read any of her work you will know the inspector is a wonderful man. He is a family man, he cares deeply about his coworkers and he rises above the call of duty to a place of kindness and compassion. What a gift to have someone in your life like that, and especially the person with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life. I know it’s a gift because I too have a husband like that. When she spoke about the qualities these men exemplify she focused on kindness. It was a short sentence but it emphasized to
me the power of words. “It is easier to be mean than it is to be kind.” Well, I thought, isn’t that the truth!

Don’t you love it when the same message repeats itself in your life? Why, I wonder am I hearing this concept on a regular basis. What is God or simply the Universe trying to tell me? What more am I to learn? Over the last two weeks the phrase, “have courage and be kind” has appeared two more times. I bet you didn’t know that those were Cinderella’s mother’s last words to Ella. Disney’s latest adaptation of the famous fairytale added that phrase. In this edition, Cinderella wasn’t simply saved by the handsome prince, they chose to empower her with qualities that enabled her to change her life and still be compassionate. Thank heavens!

It seems to me it’s so much easier for people to be spiteful, to be right, to be “all about me and not about you.” We all recognize when we are being treating kindly. Are we called to be kind to everyone? It seems we are. We are even called to be kind to our enemies. What does that look like? Does it take more energy to be kind than mean or indifferent? Maybe it just takes a
different kind of energy. I believe it certainly takes a more conscientious effort to rise to the higher good than to sink to the lowest common denominator.

Kindness is a close relative of compassion. Many of the messages I’ve received lately in several of my readings have revolved around my responsibility to show compassion for the marginalized and suffering of the world. Compassion is kindness put into action. I believe as I age that responsibility becomes even greater. This is a time in my life when I have the luxury of having more time and how I use that time is very important. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. I must confess there are many days when I look around and can’t even imagine what steps I can take
to help the world. It helps for me to recognize that I support several projects that reach out beyond my normal sphere of influence to the benefit of those who need exceptional help. I really can’t help the whole world but I can do some things that makes a difference or can I?

Starfish-1Do you know the story about the boy who is throwing starfish into the ocean? A man comes along and asks him what he’s doing and he explains he’s saving lives. The man laughs and tells him he’s wasting his time; he can’t possible save all the starfish. It’s not making a difference. The boy picks up another starfish and throws it into the ocean and says, “Well, I made a difference to that one.” My sister, Gloria Hafner, was a specialized reading teacher in NY. She took one or two students at a time and helped them learn to read at or above age level. She always told anyone who would listen about her work and that she had, “made a difference to that one.”

Pope-and-Ecuadorian-woman-2015-1At the time of this entry Pope Francis is about to come to the United States. There has been a lot of publicity revolving around his visit. His approach to the world is causing quite a stir. He seems to me to be filled with love and compassion. He wants us all to fill ourselves with these intentions and then to put them into action. He doesn’t want to hear excuses and he doesn’t want or be our judge or jury. He is encouraging everyone to hear the message of Jesus and to go forward to make the world a better place. I personally find his message and his example to be refreshing, inspirational and challenging.

One of my efforts revolves around my belief in the power of prayer. I pray the Rosary daily for those “who most need God’s mercy.” I am trusting that my prayers seep out into the universe and relieve someone’s pain and suffering. It seems to me there is so much anguish. Perhaps the world is always like it is now and we simply see it more clearly because of the media but what is taking place especially at this time with the refugees from Syria and Africa is beyond tragic.

Miracles-1One of the conversations I’ve had recently revolved around energy and our ability to influence it. The scientist I spoke with didn’t believe there was such a thing and that the only reason there was any sort of change was due to a placebo effect. I didn’t feel qualified to argue with him but I left feeling very sad. He didn’t believe in mystery. He only believed in “mastery.” He only seemed to believe in what he could see and touch and prove. I am sure he is not alone but I need “mystery.” I need to believe that there is more to this life than what I perceive.

I don’t believe there will ever be any definite proof that our thoughts and prayers change the world but I truly believe they do. I actually embrace the mystery and imagine one day when I am no longer physically part of this world, being shown how the time and effort I made to send help to others through prayer manifested itself. It’ll be my judgment day. I’ll see where I failed to rise to the level of a higher plane and where I truly made a difference because I cared and was willing to take the time and make an effort to pray.

Maybe that’s why lately the words, “courage” and “kind” are appearing together. It may be harder to be kind than mean and kindness is a very important quality to practice but it takes courage to be compassionate. It takes the ability to “suffer with” another and that is very hard. It’s so much easier to turn off the TV or to turn away from the homeless and hungry. Pope Francis and now even
Disney are calling all of us to step outside of our comfort zone and find a way to help those in need. Perhaps it will be with prayer. Perhaps it will be only to reach out to one person, someone for whom we can claim, “it made a difference to that one.”

ScreenShot2015-09-16at12.25.49PM

Transforming Suffering

Affirmation: I choose to find the blessings that arise from my suffering.

 

2015-Predictions-World-War-3-Fears-Tick-The-Doomsday-Clock-Close-To-The-End-Of-The-World-665x385-2The newspaper article explained that the Doomsday Clock has been moved forward to two minutes before midnight. It is closer now to the bewitching hour than it has ever been since the end of World War II and the creation of the atomic bomb. The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging biotechnologies, and cyber technology that could inflict irrevocable harm, whether by intention, miscalculation, or by accident, to our way of life and to the planet. (http://thebulletin.org/overview#sthash.KlhM9quB.dpuf.)

I wasn’t surprised. The world as we know it will end. I’ve seen all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator movies and the ones about the meteors and the aliens. How about a worldwide virus or the bird flu? Hollywood and fiction writers have been predicting our demise since its inception. How about the Walking Dead or the movies about the Rapture? Yes, the destruction of our lives as we know them can happen in many different ways and any day now. If the world doesn’t blow up, it’s also true that our own personal world may implode or explode.

BePrepared-2Recently the magazine Cincinnati had an article about being prepared for the challenges of life, especially as we age or as our loved ones age. It was about being aware and taking steps to bolster our resources. As you probably know if you read this blog I am the ultimate Girl Scout. “Be prepared” is their motto. I am the queen of preparation and while it’s true I see the changes taking place in my life and the lives of my family and friends, I don’t want to walk around always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” It is so very easy to await the next mishap or disaster. It’s so easy to allow my mind and imagination to go to the difficulties that might arise, to enter into “the cave of phantoms.” So, I’m working on finding a balance between being overly prepared and letting go of the probability of pain and suffering.

The word “transform” keeps showing up as I search for an answer to this question. The first time it appeared was in Richard Rohr’s, The Art of Letting Go. He talked about developing the ability to transform our suffering because everyone does suffer and the longer one lives the more suffering one will experience. Oh my! Therefore, you need to find a way to transform it or it will transform you into a sad, mean, worn out human. The second time the word appeared was in Father Ryan’s sermon at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. He used it to describe what happens to someone who finds themselves connected to the Divine, either through prayer or when they receive the Sacraments.

TheArtofLettingGoThe secular approach to pain and suffering is to simply be the obverse of whatever is, not to judge it, not to get caught up in the dualistic mind of good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. It’s one of life’s simple concepts that is without a doubt one of life’s most difficult to practice, impossible to master. The Christian faith, however, takes the simply observing concept to a whole other level. That which we judge as pain and suffering, if laid at the foot of the Cross or placed in the arms of The Christ is transformed into blessings beyond our wildest imaginings. The naked, tortured body of God, nailed to wooden beams over two thousand years ago was the ultimate gift. His message was not clear as he was going thorough His persecution. Once He had given up His spirit, however, this poor, itinerant, misunderstood preacher turned our civilization inside out and upside down.

Station-12-Jesus-Dies-Upon-the-Cross-2Many can’t and don’t fully appreciate how he changed the value of human life and dignity. If we lived in some of the third world, repressed regimes today we might better appreciate the impact of Christ’s teachings. He came to teach us that no matter what happens to us it is all redeemable and we get to choose how we perceive our lives. We can see ourselves as victims or as victors. His message was that we are all children of the Divine and we are loved. Our afflictions are not punishments.

I once heard someone say, “Suffering is one of our common denominators.” We all suffer. Some suffer more than others, of that I have no doubt. It doesn’t take too much awareness to know of the horrors that have taken place or are taking place in our world today. Once we head out into the world figuratively or in reality and listen to the ailments with which so many of our fellow humans are dealing, we are faced with story after story of sadness and challenge. If one has not developed the ability to simply be an observer of one’s suffering, how is it to be transformed?

1-Finding-the-Answers1

I don’t know. I want to place an answer here for everyone who is suffering and I know there are the wise, learned people out there who might be able to do that but I’ve decided I am not one of them. In bringing this topic to several of my friends and guides the only “answer” that has presented itself is for me to look at how I personally can and do transform my pain and suffering. What has worked for me in the past? How will that work for me in the future?

My personality lends itself to looking at the bright side of most situations. It can be quite obnoxious for others but it sure has helped me get through some really tough experiences. I’ve studied what is recommended to help one deal with life altering challenges and have taken note of those skills, which I believe will strengthen me when I am again faced with those issues. Simply writing that last sentence out gives me a sense of strength and hope. Hope. I carry hope in my heart. I believe, truly believe that every event I label “daunting or miserable” I will eventually see as a blessing. I believe each challenge no matter how sad it makes me is an opportunity for something amazing. I know on my own, I may not be able to transform all the difficult happenings in my life into something wonderful. There will be many times I need the support of my family and friends. Let them come! I accept. And I know I will also need my faith.

What has worked for me has been to trust God, not that nothing difficult or unpleasant will happen to me but that I will be able to transform what happens to me into something that will give glory to God, or at least peace to myself. Even if I’m faced with the end of the world, I am hopeful that with my trust in Christ, His Blessed Mother and all my Angels and guides that whatever comes my way, I will be that person who sees the good, who rises to the high ground and if I can’t, I am trusting that someone will come along who will help me overcome my grief or my despair.

How have you dealt with your pain and suffering? Have you developed a philosophy that will support you in the future? What can you do today to “be prepared” for the adversities that life will surely present to you? Be a light for others. Share your coping mechanisms. Perhaps one of your pearls of wisdom will be exactly what someone needs to help them turn their suffering into a blessing.

God-always-has-something-for-you-a-key-for-every-problem-a-light-for-every-shadow-a-relief-for-every-sorrow-2

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. 

Claiming Courage

Affirmations:  I am
courageous.


“I learned that courage is not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it.  The brave man
is not the one who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela
It seems lately the topic of conversation has often turned to the
concept of courage.  Partly because my
Women of Faith study group is reading The Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To
by Anthony DeStephano. One of the prayers is, “God grant me
courage.”  I loved the chapter of
this topic.  I thought his presentation
was clear and comprehensive and for me, just what I needed to “hear”
at this time.
I know I have at least two positive affirmations that have
bolstered my confidence over the years. 
They are, I am a bold adventuress and I am audacious.  I say, “yes I can.”  They have worked quite well for
me.  Many times I’ve jumped into
situations, well OK maybe I simply walked into them, which I was not sure
about.  I’d usually come out the other
side excited about what had taken place and exhilarated that I’d overcome my
fear and anxiety.  It was always a very
empowering experience. 
While those affirmations have been good, most of my days are
fairly uneventful or at least not adventurous and yet I can carry with me a
sense of concern; concern about my finances, my health or that of my loved
ones, my relationships and especially about the future. 
Part of Anthony’s premise was that we need to practice being
courageous.  We need to pick up the
quality, the gift every day.  At first we
should start with small things and as our strength grows and our courage muscle
becomes stronger, we will be able to be courageous at more challenging
times.  They are a coming!  Or, perhaps they are already here.  The words were for me, filling a need.  His advice was exactly what I seemed to need
at this particular time in my life.
I believe I am still grieving the death of my mother and her
blessed but very difficult last several years of her life.  I know I will heal but for now the memory
lingers and weighs on me and leaves me wondering about my future, my old age
and my death. 
Think about the brave people you know?  Think about the brave people you have read
about?  The first group that always comes
to my mind are our service people.  I
know for some they discovered courage in situations they never imagined they
could endure.  Our veterans are some of
our most remarkable heroes.  Then, our
fire fighters come to mind.  My dad,
Frank Grolimund, was a captain with the New York City volunteer fire
fighters.  I vividly remember being with
him as he ran into a burning building to help with whatever was necessary.  I believe he was very brave, if not a little
crazy.  I think too of all the fire
fighters who ran towards the dangers of the World Trade Center on 911. The
memory still brings tears to my eyes. Then, there are all those people fighting
cancer or some other life threatening illness. 
I am here to tell you it takes an enormous amount of courage to continue
that fight and sometimes even more, to allow yourself or a loved one, to let
go.
The greatest example of courage for me, however, is that of Jesus
Christ.  When I mediate on his time in
the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) I cannot imagine the courage it
must have taken for him to give himself completely over to His Father and get
up and walk out to what he knew, he knew in every excruciating detail what he
was to experience!  He must have asked
His Father for courage that evening and it was obviously granted. 
Now, I have learned that God will also grant me courage if I only
ask.  It will be one more answered prayer
and I don’t have to wait, I can claim it now. 
I can claim it daily in all things, small and with practice, large.  “God grant me courage.”  I am asking and I believe in answered prayer
and with that comes a new affirmation, I am courageous.
How about you? Want to overcome fear and become brave?  Want more courage?  Join me. 
Ask!

Embracing Mystery

Affirmation:  My faith is
stronger when I allow mystery to have a place in my life.
In Rachel Remen’s book The Will to Live and Other Mysteries,
she offers up the opinion that most people are more concerned with mastery than
with mystery.  She goes onto give
examples of events she and others have experienced that cannot be explained
with science or with logic but if one is open to believing in the unbelievable,
the events not only take on meaning; they become powerful examples of spirit
alive and at work in the world and in our lives.
My Christian faith is grounded in
mystery.  At some point I had to decide
to believe the unbelievable.  Let’s admit
it the whole story of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is pure mystery.  If I were to assume that my limited
intelligence or anyone’s, even that of the brilliant, is able to understand
God, I would not only be arrogant but stupid. 
For heaven’s sake we may one day completely understand our own bodies
but we will never be able to duplicate them. 
Only Divine power could have created a human being.  We may one day be able to travel the Universe
but will we ever reach its outer limits? Sir Arthur Eddington, British
astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century said,
“The universe is not only stranger than we imagined, but stranger than we
can imagine.” and David Finkelstein, a brilliant physicist said, “We
haven’t the capacity to imagine anything crazy enough to stand a chance of
being right.”  We are human and so
we are limited in our understanding but we are also spirit, made in God’s image
and likeness and therefore we can tap into, connect to the unknown and perhaps
even rest in it. 
I have discovered that in order for me to be at peace I need to
embrace the mystery of my faith and the mystery of life.  I choose to believe in a personal God, one
who can work miracles in my life, one who is listening to my dreams, concerns
and petitions and even the whispers of my heart if I stay close, open and present. 
I am not aware of any personal acquaintances that have experienced significant miracles. I wish I
were. Certainly, I have read about others who have and when my husband and I
visited St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, I was stunned by the
hundreds and hundreds of crutches hanging on the walls that were left by people
who had come there for a miracle and found one. 
I recently googled “miracle locations” and one site, ListVerse.com,
listed the top ten recorded miracles. 
You may recognize some of the more well known, Fatima, Lourdes, Our Lady
of Guadeloupe, and more recently Padre Pio. 
All of these places and events are known for the unexplainable.  Lourdes, the site of the appearance of the
Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette, has 68 “official” miracles but
thousands of unofficial healings.  
Are the healings simply the result of the power of positive
thinking?  People really believe it will
happen and so it does? Could be, so what? 
Something miraculous occurred. 
Maybe that’s the secret to miracles; if we are open to them, if we truly
believe, “even as a grain of mustard seed” our beings are transformed
into receptors for miracles. 
Notice I have a tendency to focus on the illogical positive experiences
that happen to people, this is after all a site for creating positive
affirmations.  I avoid focusing on the
occult or unsettling things one might hear about or see in the media.  Those don’t help me in any way to feel
hopeful, peaceful or grounded.  It’s my
choice on that which I focus. I know there is evil in the world. 
The news coming into my life these last few weeks has been very
unsettling.  There have been multiple
requests for prayers for the suffering and struggles of friends and friends of
friends.  In two cases acquaintances that
did not appear to be very ill were diagnosed with cancer and given less than
three weeks to live.  I, myself, had a
scare during my annual mammogram when a lump was found and I was sent for an
ultra sound.  It turned out to be normal
tissue but it shook me to the core. 
Besides deciding to eat French fries and a cookie, “Carpet Diem!”
I needed, I need a way to find peace with the whims of the world and so I did
what I have been practicing, I rested in my faith.  I not only don’t know what the future holds
other than death and I don’t understand most of what life is about but once
again, if I connect to the Divine, to my God, I find I can simply allow life to
be and allow myself to be at peace with all as it is, at lease for this very
moment. 
When I went through my yoga teacher training we were invited to
“rest in the inquiry.”  We were
encouraged during our practice not to try to figure everything out, but to
simply let our asanas unfold. I’ve taken that practice into my faith. I’m doing
my utmost to shed Divine light on life and into other lives, perhaps even into
the world. I’m offering us an opportunity to let go of our egos, especially
mine and to allow my Loving Father, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His Holy
Spirit, our Blessed Mother, my guardian angel and all those unseen entities who
want to guide me and you to a richer, peaceful, blessed life the opportunity to
do so.  For today, for now, I am allowing
Spirit to inhabit my heart, soul and body. 
I’ve invited it in and I am choosing to simply rest with it.  I know I don’t know and that’s ok with me in
this moment. 

 

I know in today’s world this is a path less chosen but my
intention for this year is to “connect to the Divine.”  My intention for my life is to strengthen my
faith.  With those intentions in place I
have chosen to focus on mystery and to release myself from trying to understand
all things.  Once I adopted that approach
even the unexplainable became meaningful and God’s presence became more real.  Along with this gift I’ve given myself, even
the great unknown, the future and the greatest unknown, life after death has
become less fearful, less anxiety producing and I find I can still breathe and
live peacefully, at least for these few moments.

A Place for Mystery

Affirmation: I let Mystery have a place in me.
Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air was interviewing Bart Ehrman, a
professor of religious studies at UNC, Chapel Hill.  He had just written another book.  This one is called How Jesus Became God.  I had a feeling I knew where this interview
was going but I love to learn about anything to do with religion, any religion
and I love talk radio, so I stayed tuned in.
NPR had this introduction on their web site, “When Bart
Ehrman was a young Evangelical Christian, he wanted to know how God became a
man, but now, as an agnostic and historian of early Christianity, he wants to
know how a man became God.
When and why did Jesus’ followers start saying “Jesus as
God” and what did they mean by that? His new book is called How Jesus
Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.
‘In this book I actually do not take a stand on either the
question of whether Jesus was God, or whether he was actually raised from the
dead,” Ehrman tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I leave open both
questions because those are theological questions based on religious beliefs
and I’m writing the book as a historian.'”
I gave up doubt for this year’s Lent this Easter Season.  For me, it’s easy to doubt.  It seems to me that our egos are so involved
in our identity that most of us believe we need to be able to understand
everything.  If we can’t understand it,
it must not be true.  But, over the years
I’ve discovered I actually understand very little.  There is so much that is simply unknown.  I could list all the questions I have about
life and the Universe but I’m sure that you have many of your own.  The simple question about what happens to us
after we die is one very prominent unknown. 
One of life’s greatest mysteries. 
I was surprised by my reaction to Professor Ehrman’s interview.  I know I have only that segment on which to
base my response to his theories but his words left me feeling very sad. 
I did listen carefully. 
Certainly his research was very factual.  There didn’t seem to be much one could
dispute.  He had gathered his facts very
carefully.  His research confirmed his
beliefs.  Like the web site stated, he
had gone from being an Evangelical Christian to an atheist. It appears the New
Testament gospel stories about what immediately took place after Jesus died is
fictitious.  Oh yes, Jesus was tortured,
humiliated and crucified but there was no way he was then taken down from the
cross after his death, placed in a tomb and rose three days later.  According to Roman tradition, that’s just not
how things were done back then.  Back
then?  As far as I know that’s not how
things are done now.  Rising from the
dead sure isn’t the norm even in today’s world. 
Father Alapati of St. Michael’s Catholic Church here in Cary
recently told a joke as part of his homily. 
It appears a gentleman rose one morning to find his obituary in the
paper.  He was shocked and immediately
called his friend and said, “Did you see my obituary in today’s
paper?” His friend responded, “Yes, but where are you calling from
heaven or hell?” 
Facts supporting the Resurrection would be lovely.  The Apostle Thomas seemed to feel the same
way.  “But he said unto them, Except
I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the
print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
(John 20: 25) I’ve always been fascinated by the Apostles.  So afraid, so timid, so uneducated hiding
away in a room somewhere, waiting for those angry crowds to come and pull them
off to the same torture and death their leader just endured.  I can feel the fear.  I can almost taste it.  We’ve seen what angry crowds do.  We’re watching it now in all parts of the
world.  I would be terrified.  What happened to change them so?  What facts can be gathered to explain why they
would leave that room and go out into the crowds and begin to preach the Good
News?  These men (and let’s hope a woman
or two) left their safe space and changed the world forever.  How does one explain that?  It’s a mystery.
My fellow yoga teacher, friend and mentor, Nancy Hannah, shared
with me a saying with which her mother, Bunny Stone, would guide her.  “Let mystery have its place In
you.”  According to Nancy, her mom
was a remarkable woman who made amazing in-roads and created life changing
programs here in North Carolina.  In
Rachel Remen’s The Will to Live and Other Mysteries she writes about the
fact that our western culture is more a culture of mastery than mystery but
life is more about mystery than mastery. Most of us, however, refuse to
recognize the mystery that permeates our lives. 
We need to understand all things because by understanding we believe we
are in control.  It’s a fallacy.  After controlling our thought process, there
is very little else of which we are in control. 
How our egos interfere in the really important values of our
lives: peace, hope, love, gratitude, compassion and yes, faith.  What facts are available to prove these
qualities exist?  Can we ask to place our
hands into them, our fingers?  Here is
where faith must triumph over facts. 
Faith, trust on steroids, is believing in something so completely
irrational because one has let go of their ego. 
The test here is to decide to believe and to let God work within and
through us.  This is when we are called
upon to let mystery have its place in us. 
I find comfort in my faith.  I
find peace.  I like resting in the
mystery and not trying to figure it all out. 
We might not be able to hold the proof in our hands but if we choose, we
can hold it in our hearts.