Friday, December 31, 2010


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 30, 2010

mysteries within reach

the beauty of things spent

open hands spilling grace

angels hidden for a season reveal themselves in winters dying back

once hidden in the dark - unfolding now

graceful reaching for the light


tender sprouts ready for deeper planting

bearing fruit to the end


holding on

letting go

 unexpected places of growth
gifts that linger

hidden self

emerging life - what a little light can do

Monday, December 27, 2010

Modern Magi

“If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe that there’s a force of love and logic behind the universe.  This is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it. But the idea that that same love and logic would choose to introduce itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty is the poetic genius of a creator I can believe in. Christ makes sense to me, and brings me to my knees, literally.” Bono

Friday, December 24, 2010

Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much,
very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can
come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within
our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.
And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you
will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too,
be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and
forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

~ Fra Giovanni Giocondo OFM~

Monday, December 6, 2010

O Christmas Tree

One of our family traditions has been to give our
children a new ornament each advent for the Christmas tree,
with the thought that they would receive their collection
for their first christmas in their own homes.
Last year I gave those ornaments to them for their own trees
(having arrived at 30 something each I had come to the slow conclusion
that it was time).
Of course 7 year old continues the tradition with her yearly ornament
but the tree this year has been transformed in that one gesture from having its
branches overladen to branches very simply adorned.
Those ornaments were not just sparkly things, but years of memories,
carefully chosen to represent each child, their likes and desires, as they grew.
There were foxes and ballerinas, mice in wagons and angels small,
snowmen and St. Nicholas’, and children (3 of a kind)
which inevitably caused them to quickly converge to sort out who’s who!
Their delighted childhood laughter echoes in my memory
as 7 year old opens hers from the advent house
and squeals with pleasure, dancing away until it breaks in her hands...
we gather up the beads that scattered on the floor and
re-thread a skinny snowman arm, a dab of glue and a days rest
working its magic until evening comes. Ready to decorate the tree,
we open the dusty boxes and search
for the little baby Jesus on his red cushion,
first ornament always, laid in the cross of her branches,
and then she gets her funny snowman, places it on the tree –
puts her arm around me as we savor the moment.

We spend the evening unwrapping ornaments
and placing them on the tree, Christmas carols playing
until at last the paper angel is placed on top and we step back
again to check our handiwork.  It's then
that those simple branches tug at me, tap right into my
heart - and it is precisely that moment when
quietly 7 year old shares her secret with me,
"It's a beautiful tree...I think if we put on anything more
no one could really see the tree, it would be lost."  
I just stood there, felt the warmth of her hand on my back,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Resting in Peace

From moment to moment I remember with astonishment that I am at the same time empty and full, and satisfied because I am empty. I lack nothing. The Lord rules me.
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 43.

Last night I had a Waking Ned Devine moment - As Jackie says in that great film, "The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral. To sit at the front and hear what was said, maybe say a few things yourself."  It was quite an experience all around, as my dearest friends and fellow workers were all 'appreciated' for their ministry.  Lots of funny moments, kind words heaped upon kind words, feasting in such good company.  One by one each was recognized and stories told of Gods work accomplished through them.   I knew the good of each testimony, and the gratitude for such companions on the way was deeply felt and humbling.  Even so, I sat a bit pensive when my name was called.  After a few introductory remarks the speaker began naming some of the areas of ministry I serve, and asking those whose lives had been touched by each to please stand.  Slowly around me grew a living forest, mature and mighty, firmly planted and glorious to behold.    There I sat, small in their presence rising over me, a canopy of grace covering me - beautiful humanity - work of His hands. 
As Msgr. leaned over the table laughing, and said to me "And you're not even dead yet!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

lost and found

Worn out
Head aches - heart aches
everything my eye lands on
seems too monumental to start
I find my sweats
flip flops
head out
end up on the sand
walking along the rocks
dashing it all on the rock
breathing in the salt air
soaking in the sun on my back
cold water wakening shivers of delight
until I am salty
and warm
and wet
at sea with God
who knew where he was leading me
who ever knows
I found this and took it home

Then I remembered this
(ee of course) and smiled

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

As I get older

No, no, there is no going back.
...Now more than ever
you can be generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear forever,
and yet remain unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

~ Wendell Berry ~ Sabbath Poems

Monday, October 25, 2010

Home Remedy

7 year old is sick.
Fever and cheeks bright red.
She sleeps, wakes briefly,
sleeps some more.
She has no appetite -
she who is full of hunger
and growth spurts,
activity and noise,
sips water obediently
and droops back on her pillow.
It is raining and my big plans for the day
have been cancelled.
When she awakens I rub her back,
cool cloth on the forehead,
stay close
where she likes me to be.
I sneak out when she dozes,
a quiet moment
pick up a book
but I’m thinking of her
poor child sick in bed
wanting only one thing
not a snack
not a movie
not wanting to play
no blanket or stuffed toy
not wanting anything
but me, close by
within reach
my hand on her back,
play with her hair as my mom did to me
the comforts of home,
not what but who
this hospital of charity
the ‘hospitable’ relationship between host and guest
one that hosts
one that guests
we take our turns
in this house,
caring and being cared for
guest and host
we give and we receive
only one thing is needed for either,

And the walls come tumbling down

Our house is under construction
and the metaphors in my mind keep running wild;
there is a lot of tearing down of old walls-
which makes quite a mess at first,
no matter how much you try to keep it contained;
splintered wood, chunks of plaster,
nails aimed straight at your tenderfoot.
It's noisy too - you can't hear yourself think!
Then there's the clean up,
carefully avoiding getting hurt in the process,
tough gloves on,
lifting the heavy load and hauling it out,
I still stumble, husband needs a bandaid.
We are helped by one another.
Alone in this new place I lift the broom and do a final sweep
and it's then I pause;
such expanse of space,
light where there was little,
visions of what is possible.
I love this tearing down of walls.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy Harvest Time

Property Values

The owner of a small business, a friend of the poet Olavo Bilac,
met him on the street and asked him:

“Mr. Bilac, I need to sell my small farm, the one you know so well.
Could you please write an announcement for me for the paper?”


Some time later, the poet met his friend and asked whether he had sold the property,
to which he replied: I’ve changed my mind. When I read what you had written,
I realized the treasure that was mine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A small token

Encouragement comes in many forms,
words, surely
fine and mighty
a softly spoken thank you
a word that lands on your heart.
but sounds too
resting an ear to his heartbeat
a proper sigh.
and the eyes drink in encouragement
in a crinkled smile
the knowing look in the eye
seeing joy unawares.
and how about touch
the hand on my shoulder as I crawl back into bed
7 year olds back leaning into my front as we sit a moment,
just there
the wind in my hair.
and then there's song
why music is on this blog
why church requires singing
and why you should mute me now and listen to this
and after
let the silent stillness 
and the happy tune it carries
encourage you.

I recently came across a new term describing a pattern
that the author claimed was often found in Christianity.
The Christian Atheist.
What the author defined as
Believing in God but living as if he doesn't exist.
It's nothing new to humankind...
failing to live up to what we believe.
We do this in life, believe in say, exercise.
A good brisk walk for 20 minutes to relieve stress,
tone and strengthen the body,
clear the mind; but not living it,
preferring to put our feet up and enjoy a glass of wine and the pause it offers.
I have often considered and taught about the difference
in what we believe vs what we value.
I believe in the walk but I value the relief
of that quiet pause, and so that is what I do!
Yet I need that walk!
And when I do head out the door and down the road it feels great!
But I do not want to write about exercise today...
about want or need,
or even about failure. 
Though I do like Edison's perspective;
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

No, I am thinking about that new term - Christian Atheist.
I'm not buying it.
There's room for doubt in belief.
Yes, even room for failure.
We are a people on the way...pilgrims
We call it conversion. 
It is the work of God's Spirit in us.

Remember this? Mark 9:24 - from The message
The father cried to Jesus, "If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!"
Jesus said, "If? There are no 'ifs' among believers. Anything can happen."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried,
"Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!"

I am hearing Tom Hanks There's no crying in baseball!
Picturing Tom in the role of Jesus There are no if's among believers!

I am blessed, as a friend recently wrote me, to spend my life giving away God's love.
Living what I believe about God's love and life in us
is the constant touch point in my living the mystery we call Life in Christ;
it's consideration at each days end shaping and reshaping my walk with Him.
It is my work, also, and yet, truth be told,
it is more about God's work on me and in me, and on occasion, through me.
I clearly needed more attention than most from my creator,
and so He has kept me close,
that I might have regular lessons on His grace.
Kept my feet planted on the hidden ground of love.
As Thomas Merton once wrote, reminding us what scripture reveals,
Spiritual work is done with disproportionately small and feeble instruments..,
Yet even kept close it is easy to lose sight.
Thank the Lord I am surrounded by prompts revealing the face of love,
or at least the occasional mud in the eye that opens  my sight or hearing.
I once read "God is like a person hiding,
who clears his throat, so to give himself away."
and "Love and a cough cannot be concealed"
and this is how I often enough stumble upon divine encounters with Love.
But how about you, how do you stay close
so that you can live what you believe?
How do you wrestle with and live out the questions?
And what is church to you?
Where is Your Fathers House?
And what life and love,
what joy or consolation,
what goodness and truth have you found there,
not only in the rhythmic cycles of the church's community life
but in the rhythmic cycles of life's communion?

This is your invitation to bear witness to love.
Go ahead, post a comment...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Penciled In

We are up and out early all week as we help Kate whose car is in the shop get to college. This early out affords me and 7 year old time alone before school, ready with nothing to do but watch the sun rise as we head out, enjoy a drive-thru breakfast treat of yogurt and hash browns, and linger in one another’s company. We are in the empty parish parking lot, sitting in the car, content in this quiet.  7 year old is looking at my appointment book - reading what fills my days. But when she gets to Saturday nothing is there - Oh, I say - you can write in Dance class - that’s the morning we go to Irish Dance. No, she says, it’s not dance day, it’s our day, me and you. She pencils in a big heart.  The next Saturday gets a collywobbles ‘love bug’, then 3 hearts for the 3 of us God has knit into a family. A picture like that speaks a thousand words, and I hear them daily calling me home.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lord of the Dance

Think of the magic of the foot, comparatively small,
upon which your whole weight rests. It's a miracle,
and the dance is a celebration of that miracle. - Martha Graham

7 year old has been taking Irish dance since she was a wee lass -
our motive simply joy - to dance!
For a life that celebrates, for lively family gatherings;
for a spirit that rejoices,  and a body
that can express what words can only intimate.
To empower her to move through the happiest
and the saddest parts of life
with a heart lightened by the lift and lilt of the celts.
This weekend was her first feis - with hundreds of dancers
working out their nerves in the back of the room,
parents anxiously waiting and watching,
fussing (who knew about sock glue?)
and photographing.
I sat in the front on the floor,
amazed at her composure, and took it all in. 

She placed in the reel and light jig, excited to get a medal for each.
It was when I saw the medals that this alone came rushing to my heart...
Christ at the center of it all.
and while I've no doubt there will be other competitions,
the real gift of dance is already there,
May our eyes remain fixed on that prize!

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:
I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!
I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!
They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy Anniversary

We just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary,
feasting around the kitchen table with our 7 year old
at the end of her first day in 2nd grade,
celebrating with candles and right out-of-the-oven
crisp/soft bread (our own personal heaven),
scampi and fresh lemons, a bottle of wine & a slice of cake from C & L.
After dinner, we played 'give us a clue-what does it do'?
laughing in the living room when Papa gives us this clue;
He makes you happy!
7 year old shouts - GOD!, but he says no....
I shout - Santa Claus!, but he says no...
He gives us another clue;
He fulfills you! (emphasizing the fill, like a televangelist)
7 year old shouts - Jesus!, but he says no...
7 year old shouts - The Spirit!, but he says no...
We are interrupted by a phone call from friends
wishing us happy anniversary (in song no less)
when it dawns on us, and we shout - The Cake Boss!!!!
YES!!! as we erupt in giggles.
It was a funny sequence, as husband and wife exchanged knowing glances,
recognized the surety of what makes us truly Happy.
God, in Christ - the spirit at work, generosity incarnate,
Christmas, family affection, and the delight of moments shared
in constant amazement, huddled together on the couch.
The simple truth is very little is needed to make a happy life.
Counting our blessings, so evident this day.

Bob Blogs

Bob and my husband have been friends since their boyhood days at St. Mary's
(where his mom carried her tupperware purse at yard duty
and was proficient in the corrective uses of the whistle)
and have shared a lifetime of mischievous fun in a lasting friendship.
Lucky me, that this duo immediately and irrevocably embraced me
when I first showed up on the scene back in high school.
Over the years we have laughed and cried,
borne one another's burdens in quiet companionship,
grew up together (with many a crazy adventure), lived together,
quietly prayed through one another's grief,
and Lord willing will grow old in one another's good company.
When Bob sent me this I was struck by the character of his friendship,
the common faith that looks at hopelessness with eyes full of hope,
who refuses the label and looks again to see the life,
 and who has not forgotten how to laugh at the good of it. Cheers indeed!

"We live in unusual times. Here in the middle of homeless Old Town Temecula,
the 2nd great depression has lent us more permanent homeless residents than most .
Unlike the last recession where we had characters named toothless Bob and Shorty,
for whom they and their friends found that our building was perfect for their needs
(backporch showers, frontporch bedrooms ,weekend partying and an occasional five finger discount –
anybody seen a slightly used laptop and overexposed telescope?),
the current times provide us a different kind of park and street dwellers.
I am not sure how you would characterize or classify them but they are different.
I am similarly not sure what to make of a fellow who rakes our leaves
and waters our lawn because he is bored (unless he is casing the joint –
he probably does not know Mark’s laptop is ancient history!).
Just as oddly, I cannot figure out a lady whose new dog poops on our lawn
and she comes over not just to remove the grass-killing pile
but also to clean the grass so no trace exists. These same two “homeless” types
were also spotted doing other nefarious deeds such as cutting our dead branches
and putting them in our dumpster on a timely basis (Thursday dumpster pick up)
and picking up trash in our yard while dog walking ------
sheeesh , what is the world coming to ? ……
this week , at least, I was glad to witness what it is coming to in our little part of the world…"
Cheers , Bob

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I overhear her urging her friend, "Ask your mom if you can stay for dinner.
My mom is a really really good cook!"
I smile (I'm popping a frozen pizza in the oven). It's just a box pizza, I say.
She sidles up beside me conspiratorially.
"That's ok - you really really are a good cook."
Later, reading a bedtime story and tucking her in, I thank her for the compliment.
And she tells me then that when she grows up she wants to be just like me.
My shortcomings are hovering in the shadows of those words,
when she breaks into my maternal terrors with this;
"You are kind and you always help me,
unless you are teaching me to do it myself, but then you watch.
You are a good dancer. I'm a better singer though.
And you pray my bad dreams away and you have a lot of good ideas.
You are the best mommy ever!"
She asks if we can cook something together tomorrow,
and we do.
The image of her, aproned and cracking her first eggs into the bowl
is already in my scrapbooked heart.
Husband/Papa saw it too, this snapshot of grace.
We share the good of it in one delightful moment.
Good thing, cause I completely forgot my camera.
Life makes it's demands of us, but oh, it is so very full of magnificence.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We went hiking in the evening recently,
feeling the need to move past the walls that house us & occupy us,
breathe in the wide open spaces and the good company of the earth & one another.
We needed the quiet woods, as Emerson said,
to adopt the pace of nature - whose secret is patience.
Papa and 7 year old pack up a picnic, I grab my camera and we are off.
Mission Trails
Late afternoon sunshine and a cool breeze rustling the trees
accompany us as we make our way.

It is easy to find the path, feel confident heading into unknown territory
since so many have walked these trails, a well tramped path underfoot.
We found the old dam easily and it's rustic beauty and waterfalls were a pleasant surprise, a tranquil beauty.
It was just an evening walk; but filled with wonder...
We met a giant tree snail that gave Papa and 7 year old a lift.

Rabbits stopped to greet us on the path as they hurried and scurried to dinner.

An old, one-antlered reindeer guarding the sky.

Crossing a bridge later I saw this sign;  SENSITIVE HABITAT

Ask God for a sign and sometimes it's a humdinger!
It's the place we have been living; our family, all of us
as we walk by faith on this new trail still being forged.
We picnicked on a fallen tree and then
7 year old walked the length of it balancing with her arms open wide.
I snapped away happily cheering her on -
it was only later at home I made the discovery -
Just on the edge of each shot, ready and waiting,

Papa's hand.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir