Everything I get to do, is truly a privilege

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-nc3sg-cdd490

This year, instead of resolutions, I began the year with practices. In today’s conversation with Jeannette, I share a practice I recently began: doing everything as if it were potentially the final time I would have the privilege of doing it. In our conversation we talk about what I learned after just a few days of doing this and why I think it is more effective than New Year’s resolutions.

Christmas Lights

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ncusm-cb4791

It was just a small photo my dad texted me the other day. Around the tiny pine cone tree that stood proudly on their kitchen table he and mom had strung an equally tiny string of white lights. For what is a Christmas tree without lights?

What is Christmas without the star blazing in the night, announcing the glory of the news of the Messiah’s birth?

As we drove home after dark Sunday with strains of music from the Christmas concert performed by our choir still in my heart, I felt an almost child-like wonder at the lights that stood as solitary sentinels in the darkened windows of the homes in our neighborhood. House after house was trimmed in light. In just a few days we will decorate our own convent with nativity scenes and a tree, with symbols of the Christmas story…and with light.

I still remember near our convent in Metairie Al Copeland’s house on Folse Drive that attracted carloads of visitors from near and far in December to see the thousands of lights that filled every inch of their yard. The owners moved out in October while their property was prepared by a professional Christmas decorator with a unique theme for this December extravaganza of light which brings out the wonder in both kids and adults alike.

Light.

We turn on the lights after dark. Lights are more visible in the night. It dispels the night. Stars are only visible in the night sky. So even as Christmas is celebrated with lights, on a deeper level it is so because there is darkness.

St Augustine wrote:

Wake up, O human being! For it was for you that God was made man. Rise up and realize it was all for you. Eternal death would have awaited you had He not been born in time. Never would you be freed from your sinful flesh had He not taken to Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Everlasting would be your misery had He not performed this act of mercy. You would not have come to life again had He not come to die your death. You would have perished had He not come….

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When it is hard to be joyful at Christmas

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-mmznb-c7e31f

Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. When tidings of great joy were told to the shepherds about the birth of the Son of God, the Prince of Peace. But what if we can’t hear those tidings of great joy this year, in this world, in our world? What if we are carrying around a sorrow that makes us wonder if it is possible to even believe that Jesus’ birth made any difference? Do we live in a future that is mystery or enigma? In this podcast I reflect upon how to see the mystery of Christmas when one’s heart is sad.

Be the Christmas You Celebrate

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-4j3iz-c7c098

I think about the Christmas season’s tug of war over the rights of the public visibility of Christmas language and display, as well as people who feel their rights to express their faith openly are being taken away. I wonder if we Christians are missing the point altogether.

As Christians who reverence the Other who accepted and forgave us, experiencing the other as a good and not a threat should be the hallmark of our common living. It is true we now live in a society where we cannot assume that others share the same foundational beliefs about the good of humanity as we.

Nevertheless, it has always been the human experience that many different voices need to converge in a dialogue in which we consider the “Other” one with ourselves, a dialogue in which we are all together trying to come closer to truth. Christmas teaches us that truth, more than each group vying for power in an argument, is more correctly seen as a relationship.

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…
God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.
– Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.
– Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
– Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.
– Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

5 Learning for Midlife: 5 – Leave the door open into the unknown

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-yktye-c7ac0a

In our conversation today we explore the new energy that allows us to step back, reflect and create a vision of the rest of our life. Using St Teresa’s Four Ways of Watering a Garden we explore how prayer deepens during our middle years helping us to see our life with new eyes.

5 Learnings for Midlife: 4 – Expect grace and generosity of spirit…in yourself and others.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-mtpq5-c7a980

There is so much about our faith that centers on generosity, especially the abundance of love we receive from God unconditionally. We know fundamentally we are blessed. But even so, it takes some effort to cultivate our attention to finding—and keeping—a continued awareness of the presence of God in daily life. This awareness makes us more open to seeking God’s hope and his guidance for us in all things, from great and small wonders to the realities of the poor and vulnerable.

Using James Fowler’s stages of faith, we explore in our conversation practical ways to grow in generosity of spirit in our middle years.

Belief, hope, and the spirit of generosity come together to make people more effective. It’s not hard to figure out that the more people believe in what they’re doing, the more they have hope for the future. The more hope they have that tomorrow will be better than today, the more likely they are to be generous of spirit in all they do. The more generous they are, the more everyone around them is likely to believe in the greatness of the community. The more they believe, the better their lives will be.

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER… God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey.

You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com. Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST. Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise.

I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way. Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

5 Learnings for Midlife: 3 – To go forward we must stop looking back.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-dc7rc-c6ded3

Today is our third conversation about midlife learnings. In our conversation today Jeannette and I explore how the Holy Spirit knows that dream God had when he created us, that God still has for us, and that God will faithfully bring about in us. The Spirit knows how to pray best for this because the Spirit is always in harmony with God’s desires and ultimate will. We talk about how we can embrace these middle years so that we can stop looking back and keep walking forward into God’s beautiful dream for our lives.

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…
God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.
Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.
Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.
Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

Do not fear! No matter what happens, Christ reigns as King

In my pastoral struggles and weakness, the messy wandering and wonderings that are part of every life, I have found great power for perseverance by keeping before me the face of a man who said “no” to God when he learned of God’s plan for his middle years. When he found the bush burning in the desert, Moses learned that he was supposed to lead his chosen people to the Promised Land. But Moses didn’t see his life that way. His vision for his life was small as he stood before the burning bush. He herded sheep in the desert. That was enough. But God saw Moses in the larger story of salvation. He had a kingdom-plan for him.

In moments of struggle I remember Moses. In moments of crisis in church and world and community, I remember that I also am not living my life in safe isolation, but am a part of God’s Kingdom…called and loved and sent that God’s Kingdom may come…. I remember that despite his initial no to God’s plan, Moses became the person about whom God said, “I speak with Moses face to face as with a friend.” And I want that too!

I look to Moses because I’m able to survey his whole life, from the miraculous way he was set apart at his birth to the sad moment he stood on Mount Nebo looking into the Promised Land. Moses knew then he would never set foot there, despite his years of wandering the desert with a disgruntled people, people he’d defended and taught and cared for at great personal cost. I look to Moses because he discovered the ultimate plan for his life in the messy wanderings of his middle years.

Because of his rescue by Pharoah’s daughter, Moses spent his early years in the privilege of the Pharaoh’s household. He’d been saved from the death decreed for all male babies born to Hebrew women; his fate lay in the hands of God as he was set adrift in a humble basket watched over lovingly by his sister.

As a young man, he got himself in trouble by murdering an Egyptian who had struck one of the Hebrew slaves. He escaped to the desert and for forty years wandered there, serving his father-in-law as herdsman, until he encountered the burning bush that would set his life in a new direction.

When we’re young, we seek to find our vocation in life—the state to which we’re called and in which we will live out our destiny: married, ordained, religious, single. But the burning bush sets our life in a new direction, the ultimate direction for which we were created; and it often turns up only in our middle years, many times after disappointments and sorrows. As it did for Moses, it comes upon us, it chooses us, it calls us. Sometimes it calls through a sudden witness or moment; sometimes the call comes gradually over years of life. It comes as a surprise and is not of our making, although in hindsight it makes perfect sense and we feel that we could have seen it coming.

God’s dreams are greater than ours.

By this time, Moses may have been resigned to just being the shepherd in his father-in-law’s service. He certainly wasn’t eager to sign on to God’s great plan to send him back to Pharoah and demand the liberation of God’s people from slavery! Yet this was why he was born. This was his true vocation, to which every life-decision had mysteriously led. This was the goal from the very beginning, in the light of which every failure was still mysteriously a preparation. This was the larger meaning of his life into which his human spirit grew. God’s dream was greater than his for his own life.

Our plans and dreams and agendas for our own lives may be similarly small. We hunker down. We turn away from the challenge of greatness. We resign ourselves to our regrets. We plan carefully what is possible to us and draw the boundaries clearly so we will not be forced to walk beyond them. The past determined our possibilities.

God doesn’t see us in isolation. God knows us within his Kingdom, within his people, with his plan for the salvation of all creation. Our authentic vocation is ultimately known only in God, and it is always in reference to others who need us. The “others” may not be an entire people such as the Israelites who needed to escape slavery from Egypt. It may be one other person, a community, a family, a classroom, a hospital, the streets of a city. We may not even know who that other person is.

We are always called in view of the Kingdom.

“Thy Kingdom come!” we pray in the Our Father. “Maranatha!” we pray in Advent. “The Lord is King. He is robed in majesty!” we pray this Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King.

Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925 in the encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to response to growing secularism. He recognized that attempting to “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law” out of public life would result in continuing discord among people and nations. That while governments crumble, we have the assurance that Christ the King shall reign forever. Today we do not face only the challenges of a secular society. The body of Christ must also tend to the wounds inflicted on the Church by priests and bishops, men who either committed acts of sexual abuse themselves or failed to respond to abuse with justice when they had the opportunity.

The Feast of Christ the King strengthens our hearts to believe that as governments come and go, as we struggle with the wounds we bear in the Church, Christ reigns as King of the entire world forever. And friends, you and I are important parts of the mosaic of that Kingdom that Christ is bringing about on this earth! Like Moses, we may have messed things up. Like Moses, we may wonder for years what our true place in the Kingdom is. Like Moses, we may be weighed down with the burden of our divinely assigned task. As it was for Moses, there will be ups and downs, joys and sorrows, ecstasies and depressions and disappointing moments. And like Moses, we might have even told God we didn’t think his plan was such a good idea, or we didn’t really want to be a part of it….

It doesn’t matter. That is all part of it. We need only pray, “Lord, show me where I fit into this plan of yours… that thy Kingdom come. Maranatha! Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!” 

As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then at his coming, those who belong to him.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power (1 Cor 15:22-24).