- Published: Thursday, 27 November 2014 15:17
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from Deepening Friendship...
from Deepening Friendship...
From The High Calling....
Luke 1:46-55 is Mary's song of praise to God. It spills out of her heart after her relative Elizabeth, the expectant mother of John the Baptist, acknowledged her blessedness as the mother of Jesus. Mary's song is often called the "Magnificat" which means "Paise," from the first word of the Latin translation of its first line:magnificat anima mea Dominum (literally, "My sould praises the Lord").
Mary's song focuses on God's great works, especially his tendency to turn everything upside down. He "took notice of his lowly servant girl" when choosing a mother for the Messiah, rather than selecting a woman of prominence (). The Lord "scattered the proud and haughty ones," rather than honoring them ( ). "He has brought down princes from their thrones, and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands" ( -53). God's kingdom inverts human structures and values, as is seen so clearly in Mary's own experience.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
My husband took me to Hawaii for my fiftieth birthday. On the morning I turned fifty, we boarded a plane and headed toward Maui. Ocean breezes, turquoise waters, azure skies, emerald mountains, extravagant sunsets. It was paradise.
For the first three days we were there, I marveled at the beauty around me while standing on the shore, or sitting on the balcony in our hotel, or driving to find the end of the rainbow in the mountains on the island. But I couldn’t relax. I was so tightly wound, it took me days to finally settle in to the slow pace of island life.
On the fourth day of our trip, I noticed something different. My breath came easy, and my shoulders were no longer hovering around my ears. “Whew!” I said to my husband. “I think I’m finally relaxed. I can’t believe it took so long.”
Weekly Words of Wellness
December 13, 2013
"Light a Candle. Say a Prayer. Breathe."
The Rev. Gary Manning, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, WI wrote many of the daily readings for this year's Living Compass Advent booklet entitled, "Living Love." This year we gave away thirteen thousand of these booklets to many Episcopal churches across the country and I have been delighted to hear about all the creative ways in which they are being used. What pleases me most about the feed back we are getting is that it reflects a desire by so many to find space in the midst of this hectic and often stressful time of year to reflect on what matters most in their lives.
The title of this column is a quote from one of the readings that Gary Manning wrote for the Advent booklet. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Breathe. I read those words last week, and then two nights ago, on a cold, blustery evening, I had a delightful chance to live into these words. Perhaps the best part about the experience was that it was a total surprise--I had no idea it was going to happen. Please allow me to explain.
I arrived at St. Peter's Episcopal Church on Belmont Avenue in the Lakeview neighborhood in the heart of the north side of Chicago a bit early for a program that I was going to be a part of that evening. Our evening was to include a worship service at, a simple soup supper at and an hour program starting at . When I arrived early, the members of the church invited me to enter the hundred year old chapel where the worship was to take place for some time of quiet contemplation. I received the words "take some time of quiet contemplation" as if I was being offered a cold class of water for my overly busy, parched soul.
I entered the hundred and twenty year old chapel and found it to be almost, completely dark except for a handful of small lit candles. I took my place in this historic chapel that seats about twenty-five people and joined the few others were already there. During the next twenty-five minutes, one by one, another fifteen or so people arrived. As people came in from the bitterly cold night (the wind chill was well below zero) I noticed that they would each sit down, and proceed to slowly remove their layers of coats, scarves, hats, and gloves--a powerful metaphor for the emotional and spiritual layers that each of us felt comfortable removing in the midst of this warm and welcoming space.
I also learned from the good people at St. Peters in Chicago what a gift it can be when someone lights a candle for us and creates a space for us to just be. Inspired by their example, perhaps each us can think of someone in our lives for whom we can light a candle this time of year and create a space for them to be free to pray and breathe. It doesn't have to be a literal candle that we light, of course. We may be able to create a space of light for them by simply reaching out with a phone call, a note, or a visit, and then being truly present to that person when we connect. Lighting a candle might look like taking the time to truly listen to a family member who you will be with during this season or setting aside a grievance and offering a heartfelt hug of forgiveness and reconciliation. It might just make all the difference to someone who is in an especially cold or dark place this time of year--and to ourselves as well.
And if you are ever in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago on a Wednesday evening, be sure to stop in and receive the gift of their gracious hospitality
Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul is a collection of essays, prayers, meditations, and social commentary all connected to our many images of Mary. Written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, poet, scholar, Jungian psychologist and author of the best selling Women Who Run with Wolves, Untie the Strong Woman proivdes much to digest and to reflect.
“There is a promise Holy Mother makes to us,” proclaims Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, “that any soul needing comfort, vision, guidance, or strength can cry out to her, flee to her protection, and Blessed Mother will immediately arrive with veils flying. She will place us under her mantle for refuge, and give us the warmth of her most compassionate touch, and strong guidance about how to go by the soul’s lights.” Untie the Strong Woman is Dr. Estés invitation to come together under the shelter of The Mother—whether she appears to us as the Madonna, Our Lady of Guadalupe, or any one of her countless incarnations.
To find out more about Pinkola Estes' work, visit her website here.
When you get out of bed in the morning, stand up straight and extend your arms out to your sides, palms open and facing upward. Say, out loud or silently, “God, I receive the gift of this day, and I open my heart to your desires for my life and this world.”
In the middle of your day, take a few moments to get quiet and gently review how the day has gone. Give thanks for the blessings, and ask for help with the challenges. Then continue into the rest of the day.
Before you retire for the night, spend a few moments in a posture that for you is one of comfort—a seated yoga position, curled up on the bed, or nestled into a favorite chair with arms embracing yourself. In prayer, acknowledge where you hurt, where you feel need, and what you long for. You are confiding in One who loves you infinitely. Embrace your identity as one who is loved.
What simple phrase or act has helped you keep praying through the years?
Here's an Advent picture book for family sharing! Walter Wangerin's retelling of the Christmas story is set in the framework of Mary telling his birth story to 6-year old Yeshi. Mary retells Christmas as four bedtime stories, ideal for sharing on four nights or for spreading out through the four weeks of Advent.
Master Storyteller Walter Wangerin weaves an unforgettable, heartwarming Christmas tale. Lie down, and I will tell you a story before you sleep. As Jesus crawls under the blanket, his mother stretches out beside him, saying, It's a true story. It's a very important story. It is the story of how you were born. Gather close and listen to a story--a wonderful bedtime story, told long ago by a special mother to her very special son. Tune in your ears and your hearts as Mary tells five-year-old Jesus the story of the first Christmas--of his own birth, and the remarkable events that surrounded it.
Mary's First Christmas unfolds in four installments, meant to be read to children each night before they go to sleep. It tells how Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem, how a baby boy was born in a stable, and how glorious angels, adoring shepherds, and reverent wise men came to worship. Award-winning author Walter Wangerin Jr. weaves the mystery and glory of that timeless birth into a first person narrative by Jesus' own mother. This magical retelling of the Christmas story will awaken the sense of wonder in children and parents alike. Featuring the rich, full-color artwork of Tim Ladwig. Mary's First Christmas is a book that families will treasure--an heirloom storybook, destined to be read year after year as part of the family Christmas tradition.
From Deepening Friendship
Sometimes we fail to see that an entire created world can lead us to prayer. We don’t need to look far for it because often it’s in our own home or yard. This week, let’s pray with creation.
When you tend a plant, you are fulfilling one of your purposes as a human being on this earth.The Book of Genesis tells the story of God creating the world; Adam and Eve represent humanity, and the garden there in paradise represents the created world. Adam and Eve are charged with care of the garden. This earth is under our care, and too often we have damaged it rather than cared for it. But when we water our potted flowers or prune foliage when it’s time or plant seedlings and harvest fruit, we are doing holy work. This can be a prayerful time.
I listened to the audiobook version of Arianna Huffington's, Thrive, on a recent vacation. There is much herein to recommend in terms of living a balanced life. I especially liked the appendices with many practical tools. I have cribbed the book's synopsis, below, from the Random House website.
Arianna Huffington's personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group -- one of the fastest growing media companies in the world -- celebrated as one of the world's most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, she was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. Yet as she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion, she wondered is this really what success feels like?
“You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.”
I want to pause one more day to reflect upon Mark 14:1-11. Yesterday I focused on the costly sacrifice of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Today, I want to draw our attention to something Jesus said in response to this generous act.
“Dear Friends: The Letters of St. Paul to Christians in America” by Christopher L. Webber (Yucca, 2014) is not simply a new translation of Paul’s letters, but rather a completely new set of letters addressed to various cities and states in America. Instead of writing to Rome, for example, Paul now writes to Washington, the new world capitol, and instead of writing to Corinth, that center of cultural change, Paul writes to Californians.
From Deepening Friendship....
This is a long prayer, and you may not resonate with every phrase of it, but there’s a lot of really good material here. I suggest you choose what is true for you and form just a sentence or two as your morning prayer for the next few days.
Lindsay Hardin Freeman’s “Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter” (Forward Movement, 2014) presents fascinating and unexpected insights into the 93 women whose words are recorded in scripture. Women of the Bible have been trapped in dry, dusty literary caskets for centuries – but no more.
Freeman, an Episcopal priest and award-winning author, identifies every woman who speaks in the Bible, providing their words, context, historical background and lessons for modern readers. Published by Forward Movement in partnership with Episcopal Church Women, the book also explores the pivotal roles of biblical women who changed the course of history, from Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Mary Magdalene, the first to see and proclaim the risen Lord.