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Refuge in Friendship
AUTHOR
Joan  »

These are words to remember during these challenging times.  When I keep my friends in my mind and heart (and maybe in the little image box on my computer screen) I find the time of social distancing and staying at home are much easier.  I find myself complaining less, if at all, because I know I have friends who I can reach out to and find common ground with – if only in our sharing of creative ways to manage this new normal.  So Eeyore, the perfect mascot for the less than content and optimistic among us, finds the bottom line is friendship.  His friends in the Thousand Acre Woods keep him moving along.  Similarly, my friends keep me from feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I do my best to keep them from feeling discouraged and isolated.  As with the inhabitants of the Woods, we all share this common space called Earth and are called to find in friendship a refuge and salve.  

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Patient Practice
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Traffic, long lines, end of a work day it’s these little things I miss most of all (just kidding). The daily practice of patience is not for the faint of heart. Actually patience takes much heart; in 1 Corinthians 13:4 we learn love is patient. In the past the watching of a clock or the jitter of a limb gave our angst a “free pass” to steer us emotionally onto the road of intolerance. Learning to take a deep breath and trust in God when you feel you have lost all control; exercises an even more substantial virtue…LOVE.

 Practice does not always make perfect, but the practice of patience during these enduring times will steady our focus on the journey ahead of us.  So easily we may forget, and become short tempered or anxious; but it only fuels ignorance and fear. We must remember we are all in this together, so keep practicing!

How are you exercising patience in the world around you?


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No Out Doors
AUTHOR
Jill  »

In this time of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, let us be mindful that our obedience is better than our sacrifices.

 Like most children I frequently spent my summer afternoons under the rays of the beautiful sun. Skipping rope, riding bikes and mapping out grand adventures with my closest pals. Round 6 o’clock each eve I could hear my mother call for me, cause dinner time had arrived. Off I went, each evening tracing my shadow against the endless palette of the pebbled cement. In for meal time and if it was a nice night I could join my mother and other neighbors on our front porch taking in the full body of the sweet summers night air.

 Now there was one unparticular day while letting the afternoon pass with my brother out front, a new face appeared on our block, a lightly freckled face girl with braces. Her lanky limbs shot out from her cutoff jeans and overly decorated puff paint shirt like fresh bamboo. As she grew nearer she shouted “Hey, yall live here?”, her accent gave me pause, was it Georgia or maybe Florida, “how cool” I thought. “Uh, yeah” my brother spoke before I could finish my thought. Cinching in every inch of my beaming excitement, “a new friend…YES” internally I exclaimed. As I gained my composure, responding with a faint “yea”, and a follow up “where you from?”. So poised I was (not, eye roll), well as you can imagine we became fast friends. I introduced her to the neighborhood crew, and later learned she was visiting from Virginia, and her aunt lived at the end of my street.

 And so now with each cascading afternoon I lunged myself down my front steps breeching the threshold of our daily escapades. This one day stood out among the rest, time seemed to stretch and glide by like a good piece of 25 cents sticky bubblegum. As the warmth of the sunset rolled over our backs like a snug tide, our laughter drowned out my mother’s distant call.  I knew I had to go, my shadow grew bigger with each additional 5 minutes I tacked on to my now sunless fulfilled afternoon. “Jillllllllll…..” I could hear my mother from the front porch, I was in deep to say the least. “See you tomorrow” I yelled while reaching for all my lil’ knick-knacks. Scurrying toward my house I began to rehearse my apology, as I reached home my face puddled in remorse, quietly climbing the stairs towards my mother, “Mom I’m sorry”. “No TV, no outdoors and no front porch  til the end of the week” she exclaimed as I shrunk passed her. Up to my room I went, fell upon my bed of fluff filled baby animals. I lingered for while clacking my sneakers together, trying to rewind each tid bit of the afternoon. “Three whole days…it wasn’t even that late…I should have just come home…” on and on I debated my actions internally. My mother peaked her head in “Your plate is on the table”, before she closed the door I yielded another “sorry” passed my lips and buried my face in my pillow.

 Well if you are reading this, I survived. The following Monday I got home from day camp, tossed my backpack by the front door and swoosh toward my friend’s house I went. Buzz…Buzz, I could feel the electricity of the door ring from the first floor of her Aunts apartment. “Hellooo” I hear a woman from the back porch yell out. “Hi, my name is Jill and I ammm uhhh…”, and before I could stammer another word the woman said “oh yes, Jill I’m sorry you just missed her she left for home this morning. “School goes back in session for Chany soon, but she left you this note.” The side gate creaked as I passed through to grab the glittery sticker covered letter. The woman could see the sheer sadness that had come over me and tried to assure me should be back to visit by the holidays. It made it no better, but I thanked her anyway. As if I was walking in damp sand my legs felt cumbersome, approaching the bottom stair of the porch I plummeted my eyes mystified, with unease I opened my pleated note and read:

“Dear Jill, sorry for getting you in trouble. I had lots of fun this summer. Here is my phone number so K.I.T. 703-555-1993, stay cool, Chantel”

 

 

 

 

 

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Life In Focus
AUTHOR
Mark  »

What’s in focus is what we see in front of us. Equally as important to our sight is our peripheral vision, which is not in focus but rather blurry and off to the side. Pope Francis speaks often on focusing on the peripheries. To do this we must turn our heads, our attention, to bring the periphery into focus. When we make this movement to look at, observe, or otherwise pay attention – which is focusing – that which was previously out of focus and off to the side is transformed into our center of interest and clarity. As such, we first have to choose what we want to focus on, and then we must move in the direction of that object to make it clear, make it our focus.

As an example, if we want to focus on a person or focus on the conversation we are having with a person we must make sure we move our sight unto that person and away from things such as the cell phone in our hand. To focus is to provide definition through attention, and people – not things – should be our focus.

What helps you focus? For me, I prefer quiet and order. Noise, even music I like tends to distract me more than it enables me to focus on a person or a task.

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Let's Grow!
AUTHOR
Jill  »

This year I challenge you to participate in the communities that serve you. Whether it is your church or neighborhood, take time to consciously be a blessing to the people and environments that have blessed you. Community is not just the groups that occupy a space, but is also the relationships that we build there. Life without intentional engagement leaves us mentally and spiritually fragmented by a lack of understanding, patience and compassion for those we share our communities with. There is growth in our humanity when we choose to grow together.

Who is taking on this Community Grow challenge with me this year? Share your thoughts in the comments and grow with the Chicago Cenacle in 2020!

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Off the Island
AUTHOR
Joan  »

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up their fellow. But woe to the one who is alone when they fall and has not another to lift them up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV

Ah...our need for others.  Our physical, emotional and spiritual desire for other people, a bond which reminds us we are human, reminds us we are communal animals.  But why is this so?  What is to be gained by having other people in our daily lives?

I would surmise God has graced us with this need in order to give us numerous opportunities throughout of day to grow in our love for all creation and transcend our limited egotistical selves – in essence so we can spiritually grow.  As Ecclesiastes states “if they fall, one will lift up their fellow…How can one keep warm alone?”  I can’t “wing it” totally on my own.  I am not, and can never be, an island unto myself.  And for this I am grateful to my creator.

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

As Jean Vanier wrote in Living Gently in a Violent World:

The Word became flesh to bring people together, to break down the walls of fear and hatred that separate people. That's the vision of the incarnation — to bring people together. ...

Maybe the most important thing is to learn how to build communities of celebration. Maybe the world will be transformed when we learn to have fun together. I don't mean to suggest that we don't talk about serious things. But maybe what our world needs more than anything is communities where we celebrate life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we need signs that it is possible to love each other.

 

Some years ago I read that excerpt of the late great Jean Vanier on a retreat. It resonates with me, especially as we progress from holiday gatherings to the newness of time in this New Year. We’ve gathered. We’ve celebrated. But, alas, have we built communities of celebration?

 Sometimes Christmas parties may seem like “forced fun” insofar as we’re obligated to spend time with folks we may not want to. Sometimes we think the only way we can have a celebration is by having a potent beverage in our hand. But striped of liquid courage or of family obligations, immersed in total freedom how would we choose to love one another? How would we build communities of celebration? In the bleakness of winter how are we going to be a sign that life, and love, and our relational nature is both possible and hope-filled? I, for one, plan on asking a specific question: What do you need? For I believe we can only build community when we know what we’re building with.

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AUTHOR
Joan  »

As we enter the 3rd week of Advent we can be tempted to be distracted by the ever growing list of things to do, cook, purchase and decorate. We can lose sight of the miracle we are celebrating – the arrival of God in the flesh and presence of a little baby. The mystery and message of the incarnation can easily get lost in the effort we put forth to “do” Christmas. But can I pause? Can I take a step back from my lists, my time tables and easy access to technology and consumption to really consider just what the arrival of this baby centuries ago means for me? Can I consider the message the Christ child brought to the world as he grew and traveled about preaching the gospel of love, compassion, peace and charity? How am I going to slow down to embrace Christ’s presence in my life? I find the stepping back is simple if I ask God for help. Inevitably, God responds in the way that is best for me, and often with a sense of humor. It might not seem helpful to sit in traffic after a long day at the office but I have learned to turn off the radio and use this time to pray and converse with God. When I do that God helps me pause and within that pause I find the peace I know Christ came into the world to show us.

 How does God help you pause? How do you find the true peace of Christmas as you travel towards Christmas Day?


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Inner Hospitality
AUTHOR
Joan  »

There is a lovely portion of 1 Peter 4 where he states:

"....keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."

Other translations of this verse use the word complaint or grudging.  I prefer grumbling because it strikes me as such a visceral word.  It sounds like the sound I do make when I am grumbling inside my head.  I was raised with very proper manners so I rarely, if ever, externally grumble or complain when called to be hospitable.  But I must admit to times that I am glad I don't have a microphone in side my head proclaiming my grumbling about it to the world.  

This time of year there are many opportunities to welcome, feed, house and entertain family and friends.  I will pray for the grace to not only welcome all who enter my home with external joy and love but to deeply feel the presence of Christ in all who enter.  When I do that all inner "grumbling" is dispelled and replaced by "earnest love" and hospitality.  Perhaps if I embrace all opportunities for hospitality as God's gift to me to BE love, patience, joy and graciousness I'll truly grow in my relationship with all of God's creation.     

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Share A Cup of Hospitality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Being hospitable can be a most challenging trait. At the Cenacle we borrow the line from the Benedictines: when a guest comes, Christ comes. The idea being that we must be welcoming and hospitable to all. It is easy to have a very narrow gate, to allow just a few worthy souls to enter and receive your hospitality, at the appointed hour; it is quite another, to have an expansive sense of hospitality, which includes the unscheduled and unexpected.

“Do not neglect hospitality,” Sacred Scripture reminds us, “for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Again, it can be easy to prepare for the times we expect to be hospitable, when holidays approach or planned gatherings happen. This we know and thus prepare to be hospitable perhaps by cleaning up, making arrangements, by preparing gifts or food especially things our planned guests may like. It’s the unexpected, the welcoming, the hospitality at the many unexpected guests and instances where we didn’t plan to have a comfortable cup of tea ready, or our time expended in listening to another. Try as we might, being hospitable is not dependent on being proactive (though it helps to be prepared). Being hospitable is a mindset, and a choice: a choice to welcome, a choice to share, a choice to lay previous plans aside to honor, help, and welcome another whether or not they are expected. Having a hard time with hospitality? I’ve found that gratefulness is a regular companion with hospitality. Perhaps there are other ways to engender a spirit of hospitality, to encourage us to say yes, and to understand that, whether angels, persons, or Christ himself, when someone approaches us we can choose to be hospitable.

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