Where I’m From

I am from orange groves
and old Florida,
from a house my parents built
in a field my grandfather gave them.
Black-eyed Susans grew there in the spring,
so thick we played hide and seek
simply by kneeling among them.

I am from a town
with more cows than people,
from Judy and from Joe,
from generations that have grown up
in one place.

I am from peanut butter and
honey sandwiches every morning,
from my grandmothers’ kitchens,
from Thanksgiving feasts in the
community park,
from Christmas Eves in the
white painted church
among the pine trees.

I am from the dictionary we kept
by the dinner table
where we ate words like food,
from hours and days in libraries,
from miles of books.

I am from the path they have made.
I am from solitude and silence,
from the monks and mystics who lived
between the choir and the cell,
from the scribes bent over their books,
from parchment and paint,
from ancient ink and from gold
that turned pages into lamps,
into light.

I am from women less quiet,
women of the shout and the stomp,
testifying wherever they could make
their voices heard.

I am from Miriam and Mary and Magdalena
and from women unknown and unnamed,
women who carried their prayers
not in books
but in their blood
and in their bones,
women who passed down the sacred stories
from body to body.

I am from them,
listening for their voices,
aching to hear,
to tell, to cry out,
to make a way for those
yet to come.
– George Ella Lyon, Appalachian poet

Different Destinations

We travel the streets heading to our different destinations too many times unaware of the many conveniences and blessings that help us make the trip. Like blinking and breathing, we never take a second thought to it, we just blindly go on our busy way. But we should be taking a second thought, and a third, fourth, and fifth, for there are many that do not have the same means that we do to get where they are going. They may not have a car,a home, or even a pair of shoes to protect their feet.

Recently, my church had a shoe drive for the homeless. We gathered together many shoes from different members of the congregation to provide for the homeless of Houston. I could not help but think about the saying “walk 10 miles in someone else’s shoes”. My grandmother had a plaque that hung from her living room wall that had that saying, and it always stuck with me. We are always so quick to judge others without truly understanding their circumstance or background. We would be giving our shoes and they would be walking 10 miles in our shoes, literally, yet we needed to be spiritually walking in theirs. I just could not get that out of my heart and mind after that. All I can really do is appreciate the many blessings that I do have in my life, and hope that when there is someone in need, I will be able to fill the shoes for what is needed in their life.

– Carrie Burtt

A Thanksgiving Blessing

May an abundance of gratitude burst forth
as you reflect upon what you have received.

May thanksgiving overflow in your heart,
and often be proclaimed in your prayer.

May you gather around the table of your heart
the ardent faithfulness, kindness, and goodness
of each person who is true to you.

May the harvest of your good actions
bring forth plentiful fruit each day.

May you discover a cache of hidden wisdom
among the people and events
that have brought you distress and sorrow.

May your basket of blessings surprise you
with its rich diversity of gifts
and its opportunities for growth.

May all that nourishes and resources your life
bring you daily satisfaction and renewed hope.

May you slow your hurried pace of life
so you can be aware of, and enjoy,
what you too easily take for granted.

May you always be open, willing,
and ready to share your blessings with others.

May you never forget the Generous One
who loves you lavishly and unconditionally.

– Joyce Rupp

Gratefulness

“Gratefulness and simple living go hand in hand. When we are grateful, we appreciate life’s free gifts: friendship and solitude; movement and rest; Nature’s bounty and her spare winter introversion; our own alternating sonata movements of joy, sorrow, and joy’s resurgence. Through this appreciation, we find contentment.”
gratefulness.org

A prayer

O God,
who has set us in a world of soaring beauty,
and profound mystery. . .
who has enclosed our years within the eternal context
of fragrant spring mornings,
and sparkling winter nights. . .
who has granted us, over the years,
the lilt of lively companionship,
the provocation of ideas and personalities,
the sheer, clear point of joy
in creating a thing of loveliness,
or of excellence,
the steady, solid support of friendships tried, and tested. . .
we thank you.

Above all we thank you,
for the first flowing of conscience.
We look back,
and we recognize, in ourselves,
the dawning of a conviction that life is not simply
a random series of opportunities and disappointments.
We look back,
and we acknowledge that our life has been a gift,
a gift to be accepted – savoured,
a gift to be lived out,
fully lived out between the twin poles of freedom
and responsibility.

And now we step forward in this freedom and this responsibility.,
Free in the knowledge of how little is really essential.
Responsible in the conviction of how much is desperately needed.
Help us, living God,
to maintain this tension,
this heart-rending,
heart-healing tension.
And in all this grant us grace:
that elusive tenderness
that blesses all it touches,
that lightens every load,
that sings in every song
and dances in every step;
that grace which is the flame of love,
leaping up in our hearts,
and setting our lives afire.
Amen

–Barrie Shepherd – from: Alive Now

A Spirituality of Hospitality

by Arlene Scott, OP

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt 25:35).

I was raised in a home where there was always room for one more. When I was young, my brothers, my sister and I thought that our mother must be a magnet for lonely, elderly people. Our mother would invite people who were alone to come to holiday meals. She would run errands for them and take them to the doctor. She’d see to it that they were cared for and remember them with gifts at Christmas and birthdays. She even invited some of them to stay at our home during hurricanes. She was drawn into their lives in ways she probably never imagined. Helping someone in need is, for our mother, the most natural thing in the world. Our mother has a spirituality of hospitality.

To serve God by serving others, to love God by loving others, that is the heart of a spirituality of hospitality. Joan Chittister, in Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, asserts that, “The biblical value of hospitality has been domesticated and is now seen more as one of the social graces than as a spiritual act and a holy event.” For much of our society today hospitality has become something reserved for those we want to impress. Hospitality is a business endeavor for those who want to please their customers so to increase their revenue. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if hospitality was, rather, a way of showing respect and care for all God’s people with no return required or expected. A spirituality of hospitality is lived out of an attitude of care and respect for all creation and a belief in the dignity of the human person. It is why we do something that is often more important than what we do.

In order to offer hospitality in a spiritual context we have to take a look around. Who is in need and what do they need? Who isn’t included and how can they be welcomed? Who doesn’t seem to have a voice and what will help them to be heard? Most of us prefer to live in our comfort zones. We don’t notice the student always eating alone, the homeless man selling newspapers, the woman counting her pennies to buy groceries. Some people seem so different from us that we don’t recognize them as our brother or sister.

A spirituality of hospitality calls us to generosity and service. Hospitality requires that we consider how our words and actions affect others and our environment. It requires that we reflect on how our spending or use of materials affect people on the other side of our world. A spirituality of hospitality invites us to reflect on how life might be made better for those who are in need. It calls us to take that reflection to discussion and then to action.

A preferential option for guests in our home means that they have clean sheets and towels, that coffee will be ready in the morning. They are kind acts that help people to feel comfortable when they are away from home. Hospitality, in its broader meaning, is a way of living that goes beyond a thoughtful gesture. How does a preferential option for the poor invite us to be hospitable? We can give some of our time and resources to soup kitchens, food pantries or homeless shelters. We can insist with our voices and votes that policies do not punish people for being poor. Those, too, are acts of hospitality. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt 25:-35).

To be hospitable is to be open and receptive to the ideas of another. Do we allow people their opinions? Are we always on the look out for ulterior motives, suspicious that there is a hidden agenda? Do we believe that we have been truly heard only if our own ideas prevail? Are we open to the possibility that others have a piece of the truth? Hospitality is about listening with an open heart to the perspective of another.

Hospitality is about promoting right relationships. Often, hospitality is a reflection of forgiveness. It isn’t easy to extend ourselves when there is a tension between us and the other person. The smallest inclusion or generous action can create space for reconciliation. The openness and invitation to reconciliation can be a most hospitable act.

A spirituality of hospitality is about relating to God through others. Jesus makes it clear, “Whatever you did for one of these least of mine, you did for me.” Matt 25:40

– Arlene Scott, OP, is the Assistant Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Barry University in Miami, Florida. She divides her time between mission effectiveness and campus ministry. She has taught in schools in Colorado, Illinois and Florida.

The Secret to Perfection

Come, all you simple souls, those without piety, grand talents, or lessons learned.
Come, all you who understand nothing of spiritual terms,
who are filled with amazement at the eloquence of the learned.

Come, and I will teach you the secret,
unreachable by those brilliant scholars-
The secret of perfection.

You will find this perfection within you, above you, below you,
with every step you take.
Then you will be united with God
hand in hand you will walk.

Come, not to study the map of spiritual terrain,
But to possess it for yourself;
To walk about in it without fear of going astray.

Why learn the theory of Divine Grace,
and what it has been doing throughout the ages,
when you can become and be
the very instrument of its operation?

Come, not to discuss the words of others,
But to listen…
For in the sacredness of every moment
Divine Grace is telling you alone all that is required

– Jean Pierre de Caussade

Realistic Love

“The best way to help the world is to start by loving each other, not blandly, blindly, but realistically, with understanding and forebearance and forgiveness.”

– Madeleine L’Engle

I may stumble but you won’t fall…

As the rain hides the stars, as the autumn mist hides the hills, happenings of my lot hide the shining of thy face from me.  Yet, if I may hold thy hand in the darkness, it is enough; since I know that, though I may stumble in my going, thou dost not fall.

— Alistair Maclean

The Power of Gratitude

Here are 8 great ways to experience the power of gratitude:

1. Develop a Gratitude Attitude – by linking a time to contemplate or express thanks in with something you do daily as part of your regular routine – think thankful thoughts while you brush your teeth, as you walk to the bus stop, before you eat lunch, or as you sit down to eat dinner in the evening.

2. Make a Gratitude  List – experience an instant gratitude hit by making a list of 10 things in your life that you are thankful for… if you can still think of more and want to feel an even greater buzz try writing all the letters of the alphabet from a to z and for each letter fill in the name of a person, place or thing that you are happy to have in your life.

3. Keep a Gratitude Journal – write down, draw or stick in pictures of things, people and places you are grateful for in your life. Do this daily, weekly or simply whenever you feel inspired to give thanks.

4. Let People Know – remember to say thank you to the people you are grateful for in your day to day life, when someone lets you out at a busy junction give them a little flash of your hazard lights to say ‘thanks’, when you get good service from the waitress in your café leave a tip, whenever someone does something that brightens your day let them know – even if it’s just with a sincere smile of appreciation 🙂

5. Gratitude Cheques – it’s not often the cheque book comes out in today’s age of electronic payments, but when you do pop a cheque in the post to someone write “with many thanks” on the back.

6. Have a Gratitude Gem – find a gem stone, regular rock, lucky coin or any other round small object that can sit comfortably in your pocket or purse and carry it with you each day to remind you to express gratitude. Every time you put your hand in your pocket or go into your purse, touch the stone and think for a moment of something you are thankful for.

7. Surprise Someone Special – it is easy for the weeks to lead to months, to lead to years and not think to thank people who are part of our daily lives for being there for us. Occasions like birthdays or commonly celebrated holidays like Christmas are a good opportunity to give a token of our thanks, but why not surprise someone randomly with something special to let them know they are appreciated. You could pop a card in the post, buy a gift they’ll love or even just lift the phone and give them a call.

8. Create a Gratitude Vision Board – before creating any kind of vision board it is great to start with expressing thanks for what you already have, but rather than creating a regular board with all the things you want to attract into your life, why not design a gratitude vision board filled with all the things you already have, are thankful for and would love to have even more of! Have fun getting creative!

– from The Power of Gratitude by Jayne Morris