Do you read signs?
Sometimes it’s a difficult task to read directional signs when we are driving by at 35, or 65 miles per hour, in heavy traffic and our minds are filled with with so many other important things. We have to be able to read that sign in a split second, make a decision, and act – all within a moment, or traffic will tell us we have missed the opportunity. When that happens and we’ve missed the turn, our little “Gypsy” in our phone (or, GPS navigator, if you will) will mechanically tell us “Make the next available U turn.”
But what if we have missed the signs in life? What if we have missed the gentle and caring touch of someone who cares? Or, the quick but sincere smile of a stranger meant to give us a boost? Or, the soft words spoken by a co-worker meant to give us encouragement? If we have missed these signs, there are no U turns available. We can only resolve to be more attentive the next time.
So, let’s slow down a bit and make sure we are attentive to the signs around us. Perhaps, along with noticing the signs intended for us, we should also resolve to offer some of those signs of God’s presence to others. It doesn’t take much . . . a quiet moment to listen to someone else; a compliment on a job well done; a caring question about an elderly parent; or a little interest in someone’s joy or sorrow.
U turns are difficult to make. So let’s read the signs attentively, make a decision and take action. Each will be a moment of grace.
Saint Katharine Drexel is known to have said: “You have no time to occupy your thoughts with complacency or consideration of what others will think. Your business is simply ‘What will my Father in heaven think?'”
St. Katharine is right on one count, but I think it can be argued that there is someone else whose opinion we have to concern ourselves with. We must ask ourselves in our reflection: “What do I think?”
God’s thoughts and desires for us are expressed in our daily experiences and the thoughts and moments of reflection we have — so, what do you think?
If we have prayed and reflected and consciously thought deeply about something, it is safe to say God has probably weighed in on the matter. Yes, we must concern ourselves with what our Father in heaven thinks, but we also must be attentive to what we think. When what God thinks and what we think become consonant, then we can be sure that St. Katharine is right and we need not occupy our time with what others will think.
Think about it. Let God speak to you and listen for the grace.
I was recently reading about bridges and they are fascinating structures. More than just a means of getting from one place to another, they have had many functions throughout time. Bridges were places where lovers met, where one could go for reflection or to view the sights from an alternate view. They were also used as public meeting places for gossip or for business. The village bridge as a meeting place was common because it was easily seen, recognized and usually could not be missed.
What bridges are we in need of in our lives today? Do we need a place of pause so we might take a moment in reflection? Or, perhaps we need to see life from an alternate view. Perhaps from the bridge things will not look so harried or chaotic and the pieces of our lives will neatly fit together like the jagged pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, or look like a Monet painting – so much more beautiful viewed from a distance. Do we need to meet someone? Perhaps the bridge we need is a place where we can meet our lover and open our hearts to another so that we might come to love another more than ourselves.
Or, perhaps the bridge we need is merely the means to travel from one side of the trail to the other . . . in our quest for growth and new spiritual awareness this Lent.
Look for bridges today. They are necessary and they provide moments of grace. Take the bridge. Reflect. See. Meet. Love. Be born anew.
A friend recently shared that she had stood up for herself, said “No” to someone and then felt guilty. How well I know that feeling! Especially as women, we have been nurtured almost from birth to be sensitive to the needs and wants of others, with little regard for our own. Perhaps it’s time for us – all of us – women and men, to spend a little more time with ourselves so that we might be attentive to our inner desires and needs. Then, let us pray for the courage to stand up for ourselves and voice what it is we need without feeling guilty.
Please don’t misunderstand. This is not to negate the needs and wants of others, or our responsibility to respond to them. It is a call for us to give ourselves permission to have time alone so we can discern our own needs and wants, and then have the courage to articulate them without feeling guilt. The moments we spend discovering our true selves will be graced moments.
As I walked the town yesterday evening and this morning I was struck by the huge banner hanging in front of Printing and Engraving that proclaims: Celebrating the gift of trees.
Yes, that’s what this town is doing – celebrating the gift of cherry trees. It’s been 100 years since the gift was received and this season has seen an unusually early bloom and a very short bloom because of the heat. Still it is exquisitely beautiful and not hard at all to celebrate. I’ve been trying to capture the beauty with my camera so that it will be a constant reminder of a gift given once that keeps on giving – for 100 years.
What other things in our lives must we celebrate? Certainly there are other gifts as well that merit our celebrating. We can start with the gift of trees and go from there. Each one is a grace to be remembered and honored with grateful celebration.
St. Teresa of Avila, one of my favorite saints, once wrote: “O my Lord, what a true friend you are, and how powerful. O that a voice might go forth over the earth, proclaiming how faithful you are to your friends!”
Today, let’s take some extra time to tell our true friend how faithful we desire to be. The quiet moments spent with true friends can be exquisite graced moments.
Recently I had two very pleasant surprises. I received in the mail two pieces of correspondence that caused great memories to return to me. One letter was from a mentor of mine in the 80’s who wanted to recommend some new book titles to me. We don’t keep in very good contact these days, so this was a very nice surprise. The other letter was from a cousin with whom I was quite close throughout our high school years. Again, we don’t keep in good contact these days, but both letters gave me a wonderful store of memories and I couldn’t help but smile as I recalled the many conversations we had and the things we did and shared together. Each letter was a graced gift!
Who has influenced your life? Who has been important in shaping the individual you are today? Someone once said that we are all amalgamations of every person we have ever met. Obviously, some folks have had more influence on us than others. Perhaps we need to take the opportunity to let them know that. Maybe this Lent can be a time where we take a few minutes to write to someone who means something important to us and let them know how they have affected our lives.
We may not know where they are, or if they are alive or dead, but we can write that letter anyway. Each person we encounter graces us. It’s up to us to be aware and recognize that fact. Let your memories guide your writing. It will be filled with grace.
And, if you can mail that letter, I guarantee, it will fill the other person’s life with grace.
One of our favorite phrases since moving to this part of the country is “Are we having fun yet?”
Here we are in the middle of Lent and I have to ask: Are we having fun yet?
Lent is not meant to be some joyless grind where we just have to withstand it to make it to the end at Easter. This season is supposed to be a joyful season of re-examining, re-conditioning, and re-learning how to be more and more like Christ. It is meant to be a season of re-birth and new life to be celebrated with culminating joy at Easter.
How are we doing? While our Lenten practices may not make us ecstatic, we should at least be filled with joy while doing them. The re-shaping, re-learning, and re-conditioning of our lives through our Lenten practices help us to be able to be made new into a more perfect follower of Christ, a more perfect image of Christ in our world.
Are we having fun yet? Our faith and our practice, our Lent and our re-shaping should be a joy. And every moment graced.
NBC has added a new show to its mid season lineup. The title? “Awake!” It caught my attention and I find it quite intriguing. The plot line has a protagonist living through two realities – one where he is dreaming and one where he is awake. Only, neither we, as the viewer, nor he as the main character, know which is the reality and which is the dream.
It got me thinking about how we are going through our reality. Are we awake? Or, are we merely sleep-walking through our days so we can get past this present time to another day and leave behind the stress and unpleasantness of this time and this place? I believe it is an important spiritual question. How much of our day do we notice and savor and reflect on? And, how much of our day do we just rush past, as if asleep, to get to the next thing?
Let’s make this day a day of total wakefulness. Let’s listen to what is being said. Acknowledge the impact people have on us. Reach out when the opportunity arises. Savor the blue of the sky or the emerging flowers of spring. Smell the flavors of life all around us. Feel the dampness and the rain on our face and wake up to the wonder of each day. God communicates with us through the ordinary events of our days, but we have to be awake in order to realize that. This is not a dream. It is the universe unfolding in our midst.
It would be a shame and a waste of Lent to sleep-walk through these days. Each moment is graced.
I was awakened this beautiful spring morning with the sound of various bird song. Being on the East coast has revealed there are many different types of birds and bird song than we are used to on the West coast. I marvel at how many different sounds and melodies are present when I stand in silence near the trees. What beautiful music!
It made me think about what kind of music we are offering the world. What do people hear when they stand in silence next to us? Is it a beautiful sound of melodious harmony or is it complaining and grousing about something we find disagreeable? How often do we let the music in our souls interact with the music of the universe so that a symphony of pleasant sound can be experienced by others?
If your experience is anything like mine, that’s not too often! It’s oh so much easier to complain about something than it is to praise or glory over something. I have heard that studies have shown that we will talk with a complete stranger to complain about something, but rarely speak to a stranger if we have something nice to say. Perhaps we might take today to practice singing a beautiful tune so others might hear something pleasant. It could take some effort, but I think the effort will be worth it. Perhaps our tune might awaken in others the beauty that is all around us but that we so often fail to see. It could be a graced moment – for others and for us.