Monday, January 22, 2018

Love what we don't understand...

"The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, 'He is possessed by Beelzebul,' and 'By the prince of demons he drives out demons.'"
Mark 3: 22

When people don't understand something they usually go straight to fear. The scribes were perplexed by Jesus, he was so out of the box. So they slapped a label on him and soothed themselves into thinking that he was the one out of line. We do this all the time, don't we? We don't understand the culture of another, it makes us uncomfortable, we condemn it. We don't understand an individual's actions, they make us uncomfortable, we slap on a label that may give us some kind of comfort. We tell ourselves we have it all figured out. We place ourselves back in control of what we don't understand. But what if we cannot control what we don't understand? And what if we refrain from labeling and soothing ourselves into some illusion of comfort? What if we accept discomfort? What if we just allow ourselves to not understand the ways of God? We cannot, for the life of us, understand the immensity of God's love for us. We can't figure that out so we find ways to justify ourselves or we find actions we can do to earn God's love. We would be further ahead just to take fifteen minutes, unplug, light a candle, and sit with God, basking in this vast love we cannot comprehend. God loves us because God does. And nothing we do can change that. We'll never understand it, but we can relish it and soak ourselves in it. And try to love each other better, whether we understand each other or not. Love, heidi

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The path to life...

"Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices, my body also dwells secure...
You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever."
Psalm 16:9,11

And so it is.  During my New Year's retreat, I was going through some files in my desk. I came upon the file of application materials for the Spiritual Direction training program I attended, four years ago. As part of the process, I had to write a spiritual autobiography, where I put into words and on paper, my journey with God lo these many years.  I remember I enjoyed writing it, but the real gift of the autobiography was in reading it out loud (to the dog), sitting on the floor on New Year's day. In it, I recounted my journey, as a little girl, as a high school kid on a Search retreat, as a college student, and a young adult, trying to find the best way to serve God with my life. Because, see, I knew that much--that I wanted to serve God with my life. As I read, I could see the unfolding of each life choice--how it began as a desire, deep in my heart. I could see how God opened my eyes to the desire, and I could see how God guided me to fulfill the desire. Seeing it all open up to me in print, I just sat there and marveled at how God has worked in my life.  And I needed to see this now, at this stage of new beginning, a new unfolding.  So, therefore, my heart is very glad, and my soul greatly rejoices, and even my body, a wee bit sore from last night's yoga class, dwells secure.  God is so good...all the time!  Love, heidi

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A law of love...

"At this the Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?'"
Mark 2:24

In the book, "Abba's Child," by Brennan Manning, he explains why Jesus wasn't as concerned about the laws of the sabbath in this and other scriptures.  Manning explains that originally, the sabbath was set aside in the Jewish culture for two reasons. First, as "a worship of adoration and thanksgiving for all God's goodness." And second, the sabbath was a reminder of the covenant of love between God and the Jewish people. Only after the Babylonian exile did the Pharisees shift the emphasis to not working on the sabbath and imposed strict rules against most forms of activity.  According to Manning, "The Pharisees falsified the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper whose favor could be won only by the scrupulous observance of laws and regulations." ("Abba's Child") Wow. So Jesus, knowing the true meaning of the sabbath, saw nothing amiss in the disciples picking and eating the heads of grain while they are hungry.  If one wonders why Jesus performed so many of his healing miracles on the sabbath, this is an explanation, isn't it? Jesus knew that the Pharisees had twisted the sabbath around for their own gain and to lengthen their own tassels, and Jesus would have none of that! Jesus came with the law of love and the spirit of that love is that no one go hungry or unhealed or uncared for.  Isn't that just as true in our world today? Love, heidi

Friday, January 12, 2018

A new way of seeing...

"To begin to see with new eyes, we must observe--and usually be humiliated by--the habitual way we encounter each and every moment."
Fr. Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, 1/12/2018

Humiliated is right! When I read this today, I didn't have to think too far back to find an example of this in myself. I only had to think back to last night! I found out the neighbors (the other side of my twin townhouse) were moving.  This was completely sudden and unexpected, apparently they had really struggled there. My first thought--several thoughts--were only about how this would affect me. He's been taking care of the snow, etc. Only after working myself up into a real stew, did I snuggle into bed and begin to think of them and their difficulties. It's as though, when I finally settle in to say my prayers, God just cradles my heart and says, "Heidi-dear, how do you think they feel?" It's all very loving and compassionate, but God draws me face-to-face with my own short-sightedness. With a gentle arm around my shoulder, God opens my eyes to another way of seeing...a more other-focused way.  I'm afraid this new way of seeing doesn't come naturally and takes a great deal of practice and doing-it-wrong, before our vision improves.  It is surely something to pray about and be aware of this winter weekend.  Love heidi

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Unplug and listen...

"Speak Lord, your servant is listening."
1 Samuel 3:10

This familiar line prompted me to think about how we hear God speaking in our lives. I know I often toss around lines like, "I heard God saying to me" or "God suggested I do that." What exactly is happening here?  I can honestly say that I can hear God in the silence, in pure quiet, much more than in the clanging gong.  When I think back on the times that God's voice has been so clear to me, it was in silence. How do I know it's God and not something else? Because it sounds like God. In my years of listening and learning about God, it fits and feels like God. Maybe it's reassuring and comforting; and so God is. Maybe it's a good idea and if I follow through with it, I see the God tracks later. I hear God especially on retreat, where I pray to be led and am especially tuned in. There are no distractions like the phone or even music. That's when the still, small voice of God can break through my heart. And that where God speaks to us most--in our hearts. Maybe we feel a twinge of compassion for someone going through a hard time. That, to me, is God speaking to our hearts. Maybe we have an idea that is beneficial to others. That seems like God to me.  Maybe we change our minds or surprise ourselves by saying Yes to something when we first decided no. Could that be God giving us a nudge? We often wonder why God would bother speaking to someone like us, but if we really notice--God speaks to the lowly in scripture, like Samuel in this reading today. Why wouldn't God speak to us? Maybe we just need to unplug and listen. Love, heidi

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

With authority!

"All were amazed and asked one another, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.'"
Mark 1:27

Imagining what this could have been like for those who attended the synagogue that day, I mean...it was a scene. Jesus confronts an unclean spirit, who knows he is the "holy one of God." Jesus speaks with authority and the spirit comes out of the man who convulses and cries out loudly.  And it all happened on the sabbath!  There is so much to unpack here, but the thing that touched me was the authority with which Jesus speaks. Pray-As-You-Go speaks of authority as backing up our speech with our actions, our behavior.  In other words, living authentically and walking the talk. As the new year is still fresh, it is a good time to ask ourselves how authentically are we living? Are we people who practice what we preach? Do we go to church, hear the Word of God and then leave the church, not thinking about that word until the next Sunday, when we go through the motions again? I doubt that! But where are we on the authenticity scale? Are we living and practicing our love for God or just believing in God? Our belief and our faith need to be manifested through our actions and how we live our lives. Can those with whom we live and work and move through the world tell how much we love God?  Love, heidi

Monday, January 8, 2018

Without interfering?

"Can you allow God's plan for you to unfold without letting yourself interfere?"
Pray-As-You-Go, January 6-7, 2018

When I heard this one sentence on PAYG yesterday I immediately stopped and replayed it...several times! It is exactly what I need to hear and heed.  What I wondered, though, is how I cannot interfere, when I seem to know full-well exactly what needs to happen?  I came up with a few things that could help me not interfere with the unfolding of God's plan for me--maybe they could help you, too...

--Don't just think everything to death...use a combination of thinking, praying and feeling (checking with ours hearts) before deciding.
--Be open to all possibilities and "routes" like the Magi, who traveled back home by another route in the Epiphany Gospel.
--Also like the Magi (and St. Joseph) listen to our dreams--especially our daydreams. They can be a window to God's plan for us.
--Say Yes to the moment right in front of us now--this moment may be all we really have.
--Trust how God has worked in our lives before; look back and see all the God tracks in all we have ever experienced.

So, there you go! That's my list but I'm sure you can come up with even more.  Blessings on your winter Monday. Love, heidi

Friday, January 5, 2018

Checking in...

"Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, 'Follow me.'"
John 1:43

Pray-As-You-Go had a wonderful thought to ponder regarding this Gospel today.  They explain that the time of Jesus' early ministry was exciting and filled with enthusiastic followers, so eager to share his message with others. Like Philip sharing with his brother Nathanael in today's reading.  PAYG offered the suggestion to remember a time in our lives when we were that enthused and excited about our spirituality. Maybe it was years ago, or maybe it is now? I thought back to making the Cursillo in 1998 and, afterward, the world was on fire!  Everything was different--infused with God and God's presence was unmistakable!  It was a Woo Woo time for sure!  But I also think that my life now is just as exciting.  Even though things seems quieter, God's presence is even more vivid.  In between have been times of twisting, winding roads where I wasn't sure at all if God was even around. But those times of darkness have yielded these times of quiet, more peaceful, presence. Maybe God and I are more like the old, married couple, who don't have the Woo Woo of our early romance any longer, but are just content to sit in each other's company?  I invite everyone to pray with this sometime over the winter weekend. It's wonderful to take our own pulse on this and see where we are.  Anywhere we are is absolutely OK, too.  It's just sometimes nice to check in with it.  Love, heidi

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Deep calls to deep...

"Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?'"
John 1:38

This is a great question for us to pray with at the beginning of a new year! What are we looking for in 2018? As I prayed with this a bit this morning, I realized I always go to the same space...I am always looking for a deeper relationship with God manifesting in a deeper love for others.  The old song, "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" popped into my head.  It dawns on me that however close I feel to God, which seems even closer after a retreat, there is always deeper. Deep calls to deep. Drawing closer inspires me to draw closer still. And I am always aware that I can love others more fully. The richness of my relationship with God goes hand-in-hand with how I treat others. Whatever I gather from God needs to show up in how I treat the world. Oh, and have you noticed that the days are a couple of seconds longer each day now? It's hardly noticeable as the nights still seem to come early. So during these long, dark nights, let's pray with this question from Jesus, "What are you looking for?" Jesus is asking us just as he asked the fellows following him. Love, heidi

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

God's family...

"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed."
1 John 3:2

Yesterday, a 102 year old former client called to request a 2018 large print calendar. I admired her optimism! I visited her later in the day to deliver the calendar and found her to be so sharp and enjoyable, although she is a little impatient with God. She is wondering if God is trying to figure out what to do with her, thus she is still hanging around earth. I wondered to myself later how it would be to be so close to the end of this life's journey. "What we shall be has not yet been revealed..." True, but I feel we have an inkling that it will be fabulous, at least I have that notion.  We talked a bit about her family, her life and all she has lived through--being born during the first world war--can you imagine? Her family immigrated to the US from Switzerland in 1917. We don't know what we will be after our time on this planet is over, but I knew that I experienced a lovely piece of heaven on earth yesterday as I gave a 13 month calendar to a 102 year old lady!  She gave me a gift I will treasure for a long time, a gift of optimism, but also a gift of living in the here and now. Who knows if we will wake up tomorrow? She told me she loves me as I got ready to leave. I gave her a lingering squeeze and told her I love her too. We are God's children now and, no matter what we shall be, sharing together as God's family is heavenly.  Love, heidi

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Singing in silence...

"God, You Rascal!"
~Heidi Gainan

This year, like last year, I decided to do a silent retreat, at home, over the New Year's three day weekend. It was like last year's "Clean and Glean" retreat, where I had a few household projects interspersed with prayer, spiritual reading and being unplugged and silent. It was so lovely last year I thought I'd go with a sequel.  "Clean and Glean II--The Second One."  I had a few projects again, and a couple of spiritual books to read, Advent readings to catch up and I just wanted to sit in silence...so lovely. So, I notified the kids, turned off the phone, unplugged the Roku, powered-down the iDevices and, with three gongs on my singing bowl (startling the dog), I began. I prayed that I would be led, completely, to do whatever I should do. Clean what I should clean, glean what I should glean. On Day Two, I felt led to go to Sunday night mass, since I never go to that one, I could sneak in and out and remain in silent mode. Well, the minute I walked in, Tennessee, the music group leader said, "Hey! Sing with us!" Remembering what I had just read earlier about saying "Yes" to the moment right in front of us, I heard myself say a tepid "OK!" So, there I was, on a silent retreat, singing with the music group for the first time in ages.  But it was all so fun and good. The fact was I'd asked to be led and God led me to that mass and into that kind invitation to sing. And God just giggled. I learned many wonderful things this weekend, but here is my favorite: Let's be open to the God of Surprises this new year! Love, heidi