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Joan
Joan is the Director of Development and the Manager of the Prayer Enrollment Office at the Chicago Cenacle.
With Heart
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The root of the word courage is Old French coer for Heart.  The Webster dictionary states it is the state of mind or spirit that allows us to face life without fear.  I love the idea that is is a state of spirit not just action.  I know when I face each day without fear it is because I feel God's presence in my heart directing my spirit at each moment.  Psalm 31 states Let your heart take courage; all you who hope in the Lord.  That is just one of the many biblical quotes telling us to trust in God, to "be not afraid".   When I call upon God to be grant me courage I am, in fact, asking for the ability to move through each moment of the day without fear.  And that is where the freedom to truly be present to my life resides.  May you find "the courage to change the things we can" each and every moment of your grace filled life.
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Three Things
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Joan  »

When I became a manager with staff reporting to me I pondered what skills I would need to focus on given I had never had such a job.  I thought about the things I valued in people who have managed offices I worked in.  One of the top things was kindness.  This probably came to me because I had recently read a quote attributed to Henry James.  He stated "There are three things that are important in human life.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."

I was so impressed by that statement that I printed it out on a large piece of paper and hung it over my desk.  It is still there many years later despite getting a bit ratty on the edges.  I look at it each time I enter my office and, I would like to think, it has impacted how I am both in the office and away from my work.

 

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The Triple Truth
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Joan  »

Ahhh... humanity.  There are times I edge towards despair as to how I can have any positive impact on our seemingly battered humanity. As I pray for guidance I often am inclined to search out wisdom from sages I admire - Jesus, Buddha, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Winnie-the-Pooh and others.  Recently I found this teaching called The Triple Truth.  The Buddha, ever succinct, crystallizes what I need to do to renew humanity in my little time and space.

A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

This seems so simple yet I forget I can change someone's the world with a simple smile, a kind word, a compassionate ear, a hug or a gentle hand on an arm.  By these actions I can renew someone's spirit or prevent their fall into anger, despair or sorrow.  To renew someone's view of themselves is a powerful gift.  It is a stone in a pond of someone's world that ripples out to all they encounter. 

What better way to contribute to the crucial renewal of our world and our humanity? 

 

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The Joy of Hope
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Joan  »

I have grandchildren who, at this particular time, are full of a special sort of hope. The kind of hope that keeps them in a cloud of excitement as Christmas Day approaches.  The kind of hope that leads them to be able to tell you exactly how many days are left until December 25.  I have the impression no matter what is under the tree that day they will have their hopes fulfilled because their hearts will be open to the joy of the unexpected goodness of the people who love them. 

This is the sort of hope I try to embrace myself as the days have darkened and the world seems off kilter more than usual.  The hope that enables me to feel gratitude and joy for each day because I know God loves me and gifts me with what I need to be happy and free.  The things I put on my "list" are not always what I receive but I hold tight to the hope that the God who loves me as a parent loves a child will gift me the grace I need to grow and express God's presence in this world.

May you find and share such a hope in this season of giving and in the year to come.

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Piglet's wisdom
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Joan  »

I learned a great deal about how to navigate life from the world of Winnie the Pooh and his companions.  I was always enamored by Piglet, Pooh's best friend,fellow Heffalump hunter and Woozle tracker.  

There is a wonderful realization by Piglet when he "noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."  This reminds me that we can decide for ourselves just how much gratitude we will experience each and every day.  We can feel stingy about it or we can open our hearts and stuff lots of gratitude into it.  I have found when I approach life with a default of gratefulness my life does seem to feel blessed by things to actually be grateful for!  

Try the Piglet approach and fill your heart with "a rather large amount of Gratitude." Would love to hear how that feels!

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Purpose
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"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."  Charles Dickens

This succinct thought from Mr. Dickens clarifies for me the need for community.  With the recent natural disasters both here in the US and overseas it is very clear we all need each other.  Should you ever feel unneeded or even uneccessary to the proper order of the universe just go out and lighten someone's burden -  you will quickly discover how important one person can be and how connected we are.  We need everyone who passes through our day if only to remind us what really makes us complete - and that is love, kindness and the giving of ourselves in even the seemingly smallest ways.

I wonder who might lighten your burden today should you have any?

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If today.....
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Joan  »

I woke this morning with the words from Psalm 95 later quoted in Hebrews in my head - "If today you hear God's voice harden not your heart".  I have learned to pay attention to my "first thoughts" when I wake up.  They can often give me some sense of how my day might go  or what I need to pay attention to.  Perhaps my sleeping self knew I was to write a blog post about Listening and it was reminding me that the most important voice I need to listen to is God's.

It is sometimes hard for me to settle all the other voices in my head, and outside of my head, to hear God's voice.  But fortunately God is persistent and patient.  The voice of God comes to me in the people and situations I encounter each day. How I react is up to me. I pray for the ability to respond to the day and all it brings with the heart God desires for me - a compassionatet and loving heart.

 

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Grace
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Joan  »

As I move along in life I find my perspective on many things, naturally, has evolved.  One wonderful realization has been that grace is everywhere and available at all times.  It has been rather amazing to see would had been viewed as coincidences evolve into grace and grace carry me through, over or around the daily challenges of life.  As a believer in coincidence I didn't really question the serendipitous nature of life but grace seemed too complicated and fraught with theological baggage.  Yet I find my heart and mind opening to the amazing freedom and serenity of God's gift of grace.  Often  I find it is simply of matter of asking for help, guidance, or some indication as to how I am to move through the day.  The challenge of pausing to ask is still there BUT even that realization is a grace to me  - the little voice, the seemingly random person or sign that reminds me I am not "doing life" on my own.  I have a powerful companion on the road and I need only pause and allow God's grace to enter my mind, heart and body.  Is the openess to grace something we humans are born with and then often dismiss as we rationalize our lives?  If so, how can we expand our openness to this free gift of infinite love?

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Once upon a time there was a person walking along a path in the woods.  Suddenly a bear appeared and started to run after them.  The person ran and ran until they fell off a cliff.  Fortunately there was a small tree sticking out from the side of the cliff and the person quickly grabbed it.  As they hung there they looked down and saw a deep drop below and looking up they saw no way to climb back up without a rope.  The person called out,  "Is there anyone up there?"  After a pause a voice replied - "This is God.  Let go and I'll catch you."  After a very long pause the person called out "Is there anyone else?"

This story elicits a laugh from all who hear it because we recognize ourselves so well.  I find myself recalling it at times of confusion and uncertainty about how I'll "survive" a challenging situation.  I tell myself I trust God and God's love and presence but...then I can find myself hesitating and looking about for something else.  I don't know what this person hanging off the cliff did but I do know when I am willing to push past that hesitation and let God catch me and hold me it proves to be the correct step.  The result is not always what I predicted but the hand of God is there and I am back on my feet on solid ground.

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Blessed Christmas Greetings
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Joan  »
As we enter this special time of reflection we ponder the meaning of Jesus' arrival into our world, our lives, our hearts.  The Cenacle Sisters and Staff send their wishes to you and your family and your individual world for a holy and spirit filled time.
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