Thursday, October 27, 2016

when that feeling inside you just doesn’t want to be named

O Lord, open the eyes of my heart,
the eyes of my hands, 
the eyes of my mouth,
the eyes of my feet.
I love to live all eye.

~Ann Voskamp, 

 +   +   +

Everything around me gives the impression that autumn has arrived, but it certainly doesn’t feel like fall, not when it's 81 degrees!

Like a child waiting for her birthday, I search for signs in nature that will point me towards the next season.  And today I find myself wondering why.

With teachers in my life for as long as I’ve been alive, my internal and external clocks have both always run on “school year” mode.  And we are, indeed, about one quarter into the school year—or over halfway done with the semester.

But that’s not all of it.

I’m trying to find words for that feeling inside me, but it seems it doesn’t want to be named. It’s not anxiety. And it’s not apprehension. It’s not even anticipation, although that does come close to naming it.

It’s time for a shift. It’s time for a change. It’s time to look up and discover what’s new in the path opening up before me.  But more than that, it's a longing to pry open my heart to God, to His blessings in the present, each present. 

I want to BE present. To live present.

And in the meantime, my fable of the animals continues.  [If you don’t get this reference, see my post from last week!] This time it's that my sweet Mami has been in the hospital all week… would you say a prayer for her right now? Her name is María de Jesús.

May YOU live present today. Right now! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

As I write this, my daughter, my youngest child, is in the next room dancing with her newborn baby, swinging rhythmically side to side to the tunes on her iPhone—and whispering into her baby girl’s ear,

“When I see your face
There's not a thing that I would change
'Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are

And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for a while
'Cause girl, you're amazing
Just the way you are

Sometimes life feels like holding a moonbeam in your hand.

Just the other day, it was me who was swaying side to side, dancing to Bette Midler’s “Beaches” soundtrack on our stereo, and whispering to my youngest child, my daughter,

Baby mine, don't you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine.

Little one, when you play,
Pay no heed what they say.
Let your eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

looking at everything as if for the first or last time

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way… Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way.

~Robin Williams as teacher John Keating, 
addressing a group of students 
from atop of a desk, 
from the movie Dead Poet’s Society

“Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first or last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
~Betty Smith, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Friday, October 14, 2016

when there's so little space you can hardly breathe

I’ve been thinking today about an old fable I heard many years ago. It begins like this:

A poor man lived with his wife and six children in a very small one-room house. They were always getting in each other's way and there was so little space they could hardly breathe!

Finally the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. "Go see the rabbi," she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room. The poor man told the rabbi, "We're even starting to yell and fight with each other. Life couldn't be worse."

The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man's problem. Then he said, "Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?"

"I promise," the poor man said.

The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question. "Do you own any animals?"

"Yes," he said. "I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens."

"Good," the rabbi said. "When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you."

The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said. So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house. 

+   +  +

It’s been a demanding, crazy, awe-inspiring, exhausting, joy-filled, draining, blessed summer. Yes, I am aware that it’s mid-October, but I just now feel like I’m shifting seasons!

Like the farmer in the tale, I felt like more and more “animals” kept coming into my “home,” which already felt very full.

But before you begin feeling sorry for me, let me emphasize that the vast majority of these new “animals” are unequivocal blessings: new jobs, new grandbabies, family gatherings, book signings and presentations…

Somewhere in there, however, my body started hurting—and the pain I felt demanded that I pay attention to my body and its needs.

All of a sudden I felt forced to add even more “animals” to my “home” chaos. Doctor visits, medical tests, acupuncture, physical therapy… I’ve been ready to try anything that could possibly help.

It was only last week that I finally acknowledged the one piece I’ve been missing—my attitude, my perspective.

It was thanks to something the physical therapist said, or rather, what I was able to hear. I’ve been walking around the summer months acting like there’s something for me to fix.

Yet the reality is not that anything new has “happened” to my neck. I have advanced degenerative disc disease. It is part of my condition, and it is not going to get fixed. It will never be well.

So what my body is demanding is actually rather simple. I need to slow down. Rest. Take time to meditate. Pray. Listen to what my body needs… not in a big picture of life, as much as on a day-to-day basis.

The challenge is to notice, and not wait until the pain is screaming at me to pay attention!

A visible sign that I haven’t been doing this very well is this blog. I can’t believe it, but, Day by day with María has turned into (almost) Month by month with María!

Writing for me is a spiritual endeavor. And paraphrasing what Flannery O’Connor once said, one of the blessings of this blog is that it helps me know what I’m thinking… and what I’m feeling… and most importantly, pay attention to what God is saying to me in the specifics of my life, on this day, at this moment.

The shift in my attitude is as basic as moving from me-centered to God-centered.

It’s the difference between reading God/is/nowhere and God/is/now/here.

+   +   +

oh, and ps. As you may have guessed, there’s more to the poor man’s fable! Here you go:

The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi. "What have you done to me, Rabbi?" he cried. "It's awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!

The rabbi listened and said calmly, "Now go home and take the chickens back outside.

The poor man did as the rabbi said, but hurried back again the next day. "The chickens are gone, but Rabbi, the goat!" he moaned. "The goat is smashing up all the furniture and eating everything in sight!"

The good rabbi said, "Go home and remove the goat and may God bless you." 

So the poor man went home and took the goat outside. But he ran back again to see the rabbi, crying and wailing. "What a nightmare you have brought to my house, Rabbi! With the cow it's like living in a stable! Can human beings live with an animal like this?

The rabbi said sweetly, "My friend, you are right. May God bless you. Go home now and take the cow out of your house." And the poor man went quickly home and took the cow out of the house. 

The next day he came running back to the rabbi again. "O Rabbi," he said with a big smile on his face, "we have such a good life now. The animals are all out of the house. The house is so quiet and we've got room to spare! What a joy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

will you remain faithful to the Crucified?

 Pondering today's feast, the Exaltation of the Cross...

More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction. The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ’s cross after him… Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise...The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love, and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.”
written for the community’s renewal of vows, 
September 14, 1939, 
the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross doesn’t remove the cross. It points to a more difficult – and at the same time more hopeful – faith. We pray for the grace to embrace our suffering, ‘obedient even unto death,’ to make our pain an offering and believe that in God’s mysterious plan, it has the power to heal. When we are tempted to ask God why, we pray instead as Jesus did: ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit’.” 
~Richard Reece, from 
today’s reflection in 
“Give Us This Day”

[photo © María Ruiz Scaperlanda -- San Alfonso Retreat House, 2016]

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

we must be doing something right

I don’t want to give any extra publicity to a local satanic cult that has taken aim at the Church of Oklahoma.  I will simply say that evil is real—and that it seems self-evident that Satan is busy causing havoc and despair, not only in our city, but throughout the world.

That’s why yesterday, for the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Michael and I joined a crowd of over 1,000 Christian believers for a Unity Walk and Prayer Service in downtown Oklahoma City.

The ecumenical Christian event began at the statue named, “And Jesus Wept,” well known as a sign of hope and healing in this Midwest capital city.

The statue is not only on the grounds of St. Joseph Old Cathedral—it is also directly across the street from the Oklahoma City National Memorial, site of the 1995 Murrah Building bombing.

“As we stand here in this particular place we are reminded of what evil has done to our city and the lives that it has destroyed. But we are also aware of the good that rests in every human heart, good that overcomes evil, that seeks healing and community and peace…

And it is why we are gathered here today. To stand together against evil and rely upon the goodness of God in whose image we were created.  He is the source of all that is good and holy. We ask Him to dispel all darkness and evil of every kind in our city, our nation, and the world.”

~ Father William Novak, pastor,
St. Francis Catholic Church, OkC

At the standing-room-only ecumenical Prayer Service that followed the walk, pastors and religious leaders from several different denominations took turns leading the crowd in specific prayer petitions… for the family; for the state of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City; for the government; for education; as well as for racial reconciliation. 

From Father Novak’s prayer for the family:

By your plan you created the family and you desired that it be a place where one finds nourishment, protection, support, and love throughout our lives.  We ask your continued blessing upon all families, that the love of husband and wife may bring forth the gift of new life – that the comfort of mothers and the protection of fathers may be generously given to their children—and that children may honor their parents.  We ask you to watch over families who are separated and experience difficulties and hardships; families that remain divided by hatred, resentments and outside evils. Give to those families, Lord, the help they need to reunite, forgive, and be patient and compassionate with one another.

We ask you to protect families who suffer under poverty, abuse, addictions, neglect, and violence. Give to these families the desire to seek help, the help they require, and ongoing support so that they may flourish and prosper

We ask you to give our city, our nation and the world a deeper respect for the holiness of the family by extending and enacting laws that protect the dignity and the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death, the sacred institution of marriage, and the unity of the family that is often under attack from our overly individualistic and materialistic culture. Help us to always rely on you o Father of Mercy, for the grace we need in our own families and with one another, as we work together to build up the family until we are all united, as one family, in your heavenly kingdom, forever and ever, amen.

Two more things to note

first of all, I believe that the Church of Oklahoma must be doing something right if the forces of evil and darkness repeatedly take aim at Oklahoma City!

and finally, here’s a short video of the enthusiastic crowd singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” during the Unity Prayer Service:


 and a video of Father Novak's prayer... so that you can hear the crowd's reaction: