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Off the Island
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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Pursuit of Peace
Jill  »

The dawn of a new day, a new year, a new beginning approaches with every drifting second. The collection of thoughts and plans scattered on the frontier of the imagination yields possibilities. Those annual fragmented promises we reflect on and recite like rituals keep the mind in a constant pursuit of personal peace. Peace that sets the scales for all future prospects and promises that will expand spirit and body into something greater.  Allowing ourselves the opportunity to reset and realign our anatomy and intention of ever prayer going forward. Peace we seek in every ambitious endeavor and habitual action we strive to make or break. So here’s a proposal for the year end reset/resolutions; remain in pursuit of peace in every personal practice old and new, and most of all become the peace you seek.

James 3:18 “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace…”


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What is Peace?
Mark  »

December, draped in Advent, invites us to define the word, “peace.”

And so, what is peace to you?

But wait, before you answer that, or to best answer that, perhaps meditate on a few other questions that might lead you to a good definition of peace.

Who are the peaceful people in your life? Is peace accompanied by silence or can it be found among sounds, be they cacophonous or melodic?  When you recall instances you yearned for peace, what were you looking for -- perhaps understanding, calm, love, or togetherness? Lastly, is peace only external; is peace only a gift received or generated outside of yourself or might you be able to find peace inside, receive peace from yourself?

Advent covers most of the month of December and Advent is a time of anticipation leading up to the joy of Christmas, leading up to ‘peace on earth’?  What is peace to you and how do you plan to birth it this season?  

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Inner Hospitality
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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Heart Transformation

Whether you were watching television, listening to the radio or reading the newspaper, the question of immigration was at the forefront of our conversations for some weeks over the summer months. Since then other topics have engaged our attention and the main focus has changed but unfortunately life on our southern borders continues unchanged.

 When we reflect on it we realize that immigration has become a catalyst for surfacing the bias and/or racism that colors our attitude towards others and is present in all of us to a lesser or greater degree. It is not easy to stop ourselves from judging, putting people in boxes, attributing all kinds of motivations to them, and thinking of ourselves as far superior to anyone else.

 My fear is that now that immigration isn't the headline of the day we will have lost a golden opportunity...that of asking for the grace to move beyond our own prejudices, allowing God to give us new hearts and remove our hearts of stone. God and God alone can transform. The question is do I want to be transformed? Do I have the courage to be open to a new awareness of my own shortcomings (ouch!) and trusting enough to acknowledge that God will be at my side when I deal with my pettiness and smallness and reach out to others with a new attitude?

 I am sure that you have all experienced moments of being singled out, or witnessing injustice done either to yourself or others. I recall living in Rome and traveling with the Generalate team to visit our sisters throughout the world. Inevitably, two of our sisters, one from Madagascar and one from the Philippines, were stopped at passport control and delayed. They were always under suspicion; their passports were unduly scrutinized and they were subject to many questions before being allowed through. It was painful and it was embarrassing.

But speaking of passports let me end on a lighter note. Passport pictures are not known to be very flattering and when I myself was going through customs the agent looked at my photo and then looked at me. I returned his look and said: "Pathetic isn't it." He stared at the photo again and smilingly nodded yes. As I took my leave of him I thought he could have at least disagreed with me but then I smiled and hoped I had given him his laugh for the day.

It is never too late in life, your golden opportunity has not passed, do you want to be transformed? 

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The Triple Truth
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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Same God, New Me
Jill  »

It seems to creep in the night, seeping in every waking thought with such precision. Lingering, taunting me in the grocery, at the movies and worst of all in my prayers (so I thought).  I hid from the sheer idea of it, saying to myself “no, I’m just hurt”. I swaddled myself in deceptive invisible layers that seemed to guard me but really kept me tightly wrapped in my own misery. I was in a negative emotional free fall of brokenness.

Spring 2003, my baby brother went to be with the Lord. I lived my entire childhood with the growing understanding all life’s first were just a faded dream for my brother.  So, you would think I would be ready. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak, pain and brokenness. I wasn’t ready for the anger. I was so very angry. It was a stench, that greeted my loved ones and every person I encountered. Anger showed up in every aspect of my life.  One day, I gathered up the courage to finally truly pray about it. I was done trying to slay this anger beast on my own.  Through prayer God has renewed my spirit, and where there use to be a gaping hole of brokenness; He has planted love and peace.

In what area in your life do you need God to renew you?

Psalm 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

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 A friend of mine entered the new year in spectacular fashion.  After waiting months for a donor, he received a heart transplant at Cleveland Clinic a couple days before Christmas.  When I talked with him on the phone less than two weeks later, his voice was so full of vitality and enthusiasm, it brought tears to my eyes.  It seemed miraculous.

I once saw a documentary in which a middle aged woman received an aural implant that allowed her to hear for the first time since she became deaf due to an illness when she was a teenager.  I’ll never forget her ecstatic flood of tears when she perceived the first sound through her earphones. 

Every morning we open our eyes to a new day.  We hear the sounds of people and things we love.  We breath in and breath out.  Our lives, at once mundane and miraculous, are renewed day by day.  Yet, even someone like me, who had open heart surgery two decades ago, can often forget what a gift each heartbeat is, what pleasure our senses give us.  That’s just the way it is. 

Today, though, I’m relishing the thought of my friend with a new heart, of that woman with her restored gift of hearing and of myself with twenty added years of life (and counting). It might have been otherwise.

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