Christmas Lights, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

ChristmaslightsThere is something about Christmas lights that is like no other lights throughout the year.  Just think of the houses that do not have their Christmas lights removed.  You can see them gleaming in March, but it is different.  The lights of  Christmas, whether white or red or multicolored touch something in us.  Usually it is at the beginning of the season. We see a tree decorated, and admire it, but when the lights come on, there is a gasp coming from the entire group watching. Wondrous!  Then we get used to it and by December 27 the Wow factor subsides.

Christmas lights should remind us of the bright bevy of angels the shepherds saw.  Or perhaps the star that for 2+ years the Magi followed.

At present I am living in our infirmary recuperating from surgery.  Across the hall from my room Sr. Kathleen enjoys the longtime friendship of a very creative person.  Her wall has butterflies, ivy and at this season of the year Christmas Lights. The lights form a tree of sorts and a frame for the large clock.  Those lights are turned on from the time Kathy wakes until she falls asleep.  Wonderful!

Lying in my bed at night, I see the reflection of those lights in my window. A poinsettia plant from the Adopt-a-Sis girls I meet and a small tree on my window sill seem to come more alive in the reflection.

I got to thinking.  A gift to someone else has also become a gift to me.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”  That being so, maybe I need to see how the light given me by Jesus, can reflect in the lives of others.

Merry Christmas and may the light you are shine brightly all year long.

Sharonlu OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Windshields and Rear View Mirrors, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

The designers and manufacturers of cars work to make their product safe, convenient, and comfortable, among other things. They have added little goodies like lights that go on automatically when the key is turned, and stay on for a full minute after the key is removed:  windshield wipers that have several speeds depending on the rain falling, windows that open automatically on the driver’s side, but require manual return to the closed position, so that children (or adults acting like children) do not get their heads caught in a rising window.

One thing you will find in all models is this:  the windshield will be very much larger than the rear view mirror, and rightly so.  We need to see what is in front of us in order to be sure we are going where we want to go, and safely.

The rear view mirror shows us where we were and what is following us.  Those are very important things to know, but not as important as what is ahead of us.  So the mirror is smaller.  In addition the picture in the mirror is distorted, unlike the clear view we have through the windshield.  Well, the view will be clear unless we have allowed mud, dust, rainspots etc. to cloud it.

By this time you have probably surmised where this is going when applied to the life of the person driving.  If you were to look at the rear view mirror most of the time,  you would be a prime subject for an accident.  You cannot always be looking back.  That image is a convenience, a checkpoint, but not a direction.  The windshield is there for good direction.  But even so, the direction may be distorted by  the things mentioned above. In any venture, keep your eye on what is ahead of you.  Check now and then on the past, but do not dwell there.  And be sure that trivial things do not distort the clarity of  your vision.

We all have things in our lives that we regret.  For some it is a fleeting remembrance that pops up and fades.  For other it is almost like the filter through which they view everything.

I may have told this anecdote before, but I think it bears repeating.

Jess had repented of many evil things in her life,  and when she died she was still full of remorse fo them.  When she was face to face with Jesus she began tearfully to enumerate all of them.  Jesus said to her, ‘I do not remember those things! I only remember that you loved me.'”

St. Paul says this. “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind, but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal.” Cor. 3,13-14

Blessings on pursuing your goal,

Sharonlu OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Pleasant Incense, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

IncenseBowlIncense can have different effects on people. Some cannot stay in church on Holy Saturday night or Easter because of the incense burning in the ceremonies. I can understand that. I do love that fragrance, though, and would not like having it eliminated. Not only the scent, but to see the smoke rising as our prayers do delights me.

Here at the Oldenburg Franciscan Retreat Center, we try to accommodate as many people as we can. One thing we did was place a vessel, as the one pictured, in the lobby. The bowl-like vessel is made of wax that has been hand poured and embedded with natural essences and natural and silk botanicals. It is designed to release a unique long-lasting aromatic fragrance of garden sage, and purple basil with a touch of rosemary and thyme.

In the lobby, the vessel was put on the lower self of a table holding flowers and a small figurine. It was not noticeable, but each person entering the building remarked on the pleasant atmosphere and asked what the scent was.

This led the Center’s décor manager to request similar vessels for each of the halls on the bedroom floors. We chose Woodland potpourri and the mild fragrance seems to be part of the air we breathe, as if we were in a pleasant garden. What I like best about the wax vessels is that we do not need to light them nor watch them disappear as the wax is consumed. The vessels just sit there, just are. There comes a time, of course, when the fragrance is lessened. The directions say to take a dry washcloth and rub the vessel all over. Then the fragrance is once again active.

What about us? What can we learn from this seemingly inert thing? If after doing our ministry, we find that we haven’t had an original thought for several months, years, decades; it is time for the brisk dry rub of renewal. That may be a sabbatical, or a retreat or even a vacation.  Do not forget to slough off the old and make way for a more beautiful fragrance to emerge.

Peace and Joy,

Sharonlu OSF

Play Ball!, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

StealingSecond

The score is 8 to 6, favor of the white team. It is the bottom of the ninth; there is one man on third and one out. Blue player has just singled safely. Tension is high. What will happen? Is the blue player thinking of stealing second? Will the pitcher catch him on the way? Will blue get back to base before the throw is caught?

In the stands, the fans see the whole picture. The pitcher switching back and forth, hoping to catch the blue player off base, aiming a pitch to first base, and then to the plate. Meanwhile the blue player has taken a good lead off, hoping the pitcher will miss it.  If not he will have to return to first base PRONTO!

This back and forth goes on several times, and finally blue speeds off to second while the ball is still in the pitcher’s hand. He dives to second base, and then the thud of the ball in the second baseman’s glove. SAFE! Whew!!! And the fans roar! This is the kind of excitement that brings fans back again and again.

Let’s take a look at that first base runner. He is always safe as long as his foot, hand or any part of him is on first base. But if he is to make headway in the game, he must get to second base, where he can be safe again. This can happen in several ways. The blue batter could get a hit, and that would advance our runner to second, at least. Or, the pitcher might throw four balls, walk the batter, and force the first base player to second. A third option is when a batter is hit by a pitcher’s ball. The batter advances to first and forces our blue runner to second.

The most exciting move to second would be if our blue runner could steal the base. That has the fans experiencing heart-stopping-tension for the 3 or 4 seconds it takes to accomplish this.

All of this is dependent on the willingness of our first base runner to take the risk. I do not know the statistics about how often a base stealer is caught and gains only an out for his team. I think more are caught than make the base. But make it or not, the runner has taken a great risk. That risk entails letting go of a safe place. More than that, he takes this risk before hundreds of people… thousands if you count TV coverage.

I have had to take risks, so have you. Mine were very small and my percentage of wins is about 50-50. My percentage of losses is also 50-50. That is not the problem. It is when we do not take the risk that we must examine our reasons. Frederick Wilcox wrote, “You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”

If a risk issue arises for you, look at it carefully. Why do you think you cannot take over the chair of the bake sales? Why can’t you give a little talk to the parish council? What is keeping you from reaching out to a neighbor?

Some wonderful things happen when your risk bears fruit. Oh, there will not be fans screaming, clapping, and jumping up and down. However, you will find your own heart dancing. And if it does not bear fruit?  You will be like Edison who had over a thousand tries before the light bulb was a reality. More than that, Jesus had his share of wins and losses.  He weeps over Jerusalem, remarking that all he wanted was to gather her under his wings.  In the garden of Gethsemane he asked that the cup of suffering be taken away.  He loves you and me, really loves us.  We delight Jesus at times, and at other times He tries to gather us under his wings and we skitter away.

Stretch your horizon! Take a risk.

Peace,

Sharonlu OSF

Gardening, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

petuniaHave you ever planted a garden? If so, you know the toil required to initiate the soil for planting, the tedious work of seeing that the seeds or seedlings are placed in the ground to their best advantage, water just enough but not too much, the weeding and careful watch for aphids and other things that “bug” flowers and food. Then comes the praying that rain will come and sun will shine to nourish the tiny plants, but also hoping that there will not be too much of either rain or sun.

A garden takes a lot of work. However, when the flowers bloom or the tomatoes ripen it calls for that grand feeling of self-satisfaction that indicates that you have participated with God in the creation of this beauty.

Consider this.

The day was blisteringly hot with humidity at a high level. I appreciated the air-conditioning of my car, and was surprised by the blast of heat as I opened the door. I had parked in front of my workplace where cracks in the sidewalk were often found, but not dangerously wide to be hazardous.

By my back tire, standing perkily at four inches was a tiny pink petunia. How it stood the heat was miracle enough, as there seemed to be nothing to nourish it. But there it was in the center of what was the most perilous part of the grounds. Why a car, my car, had not obliterated it was almost unbelievable.

I stopped for a moment to marvel at it. It was a thing of beauty, certain to die soon. However there it was and remained for several days. Cars came and went; the sun was unbelievably hot: there was no rain at all. Yet the pink petals remained fresh and lovely, proud and perky, beautifully pink and totally without human connivance.

The little petunia came because the good God had a task for it to perform. Several people saw the little flower, and stopped to admire it. Seldom would they do that for a bed of petunias! Looking at ONE and the situation it was in, brought them to attention. They marveled that it could thrive, and decided God had something to do with that. Have you ever looked at the person who is in the wrong place and seemingly useless and tried to discover what they offer?

Contemplation has been a central part of our gatherings here in Oldenburg. To stop, be silent and let your thoughts be controlled by God. You realize many things you did not even know you knew! Sometimes we find a beautiful pink petunia where before there was only a crack in the concrete.

Peace and Joy to all of you,

Sharonlu OSF

 

One Way, by Sharonlu Sheridan OSF

OneWay
The day was perfect as far as Ashley was concerned. Blue skies, a few white puffy clouds and sun shining brightly. She had put the top down on her convertible and just enjoyed the drive. Cars going the opposite direction whizzed past her. Traffic was very heavy, but she was being careful. So when a police officer stopped her she was confused.

“Where do you think you are going?” the officer asked.

“I’m not sure,” said Ashley, “but I think I am late. They are all coming back.”

“Lady,” said the police officer. This is a one-way-street and you are going the wrong way!”

What one-way-street are you traveling?  Check closely.  Is it the one you want?  Choose the street that will get you to your goal.  All those worrisome things that pound their way in to our thinking are going the opposite way. So we must learn to work around them.

Sometimes it seems that the whole world is whizzing past us.  The temptation is great to go with the flow.  However, the less traveled road, the one that keeps bumping into things that swerve us from our final destiny, is the only one that will get us where we want to go – heaven.

Drive Safely!

Peace,

Sharonlu, OSF

Repeat, Re-phrase, and Write it Down, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

All of us have had some experience with people who have a hearing loss. When we have to deal with our own loss, we realize others do not understand what happens when hearing wanes. So the Reflection this week is on information coming from my own experience.

I was in my 50’s when my housemates in Gaylord, Michigan told me I did not hear well. I did not notice it, except that I asked to turn the TV up in the evenings. Therefore, to satisfy them, I made an appointment with a specialist in hearing disorders. The result of the test showed that I had loss that could not be repaired by surgery. My left ear had 75% loss and the right ear 60% loss. The cause was aging and heredity.

You may have heard people say everyone talks as if they have mush in their mouths. There is a reason for that. The first thing lost is consonant sounds, especially the initial consonant. Someone may be talking about a bell in the new building, and I would have heard fell instead of bell. I would mistakenly think that someone fell in the new building. You catch on quickly though, and watch the mouths of speakers. The “b” sound and the “f” sound clear things up for me by the position of the lips of the speaker.

If clattering dishes in a restaurant annoys you, know that people with hearing aids have that sound increased so that they wince with pain.

What do we do with our deaf friends? Here are a few tips:

DO:  Speak clearly at a speed slightly slower than normal.
DON’T:  Mumble or exaggerate your words.

DO:  Keep eye contact.
DON’T:  Cover your mouth or look away.

DO:  Speak at a normal volume or slightly louder.
DON’T:  Shout.  This will distort lip patterns. Deafness causes a loss of pitch, not volume.

 DO:  If there is more than one person speaking, take turns to talk.
DON’T:  Speak over each other- this is very difficult for a deaf person to follow.

DO:  If they do not understand the first time, repeat it, and if needed try rephrasing it.

Remember; DON’T be afraid to check that the deaf person can understand you. Keep  this motto in mind:  Repeat, Rephrase, and Write it down.

Having hearing aids is a lot like putting your fingers in your ears as you did as a child. Your voice echoes in your head and gives you a different sound than when you speak and hear your voice at the same time. That same sound in my head happens with every word I speak now. Because of that, I speak much softer when I am wearing hearing aids and when I take them out my voice raises considerably. That is why I take them out when I lector. Otherwise, I seem to whisper into the microphone.

I was so glad to hear things after I received my hearing aids that the ticking of a clock was like music, and hearing bird’s song lifted my heart. I have to admit though, that removing my hearing aids makes for a lovely silent world; a world perfect for contemplation and meditating. So there are good things that happen even with handicaps!

Love your ability to hear and use it well. I can no longer go to concerts or listen to music in the car. All those “noises”really rattle my head. BUT, when the Academy has an outdoor concert, I can enjoy that very much because the sounds are not bouncing back and forth against walls or car doors.

Everyone has a handicap. Some are more noticeable than others. Love yours and put it to work for you and the Good, Wise, Gentle God who gave us each what we need.

Repeat, Re-Phrase, and Write it down.

Much love to all,

Sharonlu OSF

Credit Where Credit is Due, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

A lovely bouquet of summer flowers was on display for all to see: daisies, roses, lilies all in a beautiful arrangement. A young woman brought the vase to the table where it now remained. When asked where the flowers came from, she said sweetly, “I brought them here.” leaving the questioner to make her own decision about what that meant.

“You fixed the bouquet yourself?” and she nodded. You picked the flowers yourself?” and again a nod. “From your garden?” another nod. “Well, they are just gorgeous. You should be very proud of yourself,”

Actually, she had been asked to bring the flowers to the table because the true gardener, planter, and arranger needed to be somewhere else.

Or an office worker does hours of research, and computation and makes a report to a co-worker, who takes the recognition for the hours put in by the assistant.

Joe Dan Prado put it well. “If you got something you didn’t work for, then someone else worked for something they didn’t get.’’

Justice is not only upheld or violated when major issues are at stake, like hiring, pay, or housing. Praise accepted, when it is not mine, steals a bit of recognition from someone who may truly need it. That is injustice close to home.

The Golden Rule, my friends, never loses its value in our relations with others. Remember to give credit where credit is due.

Peace and Joy,

Sr. Sharonlu

Independence = Responsibility, by S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

We put in a lot of celebrating when the Fourth of July rolls around. And it is good that we do so. However, what we celebrate is the culmination of years of preparation, argument, debates, and before that, anger.  What was perceived as unjust interference by England grew from annoyance to a call to action.  And that was not done quickly.  It is also true that not all the people were in agreement.  Pulling a country together so that the people who had always had decisions made for them learned to make decisions themselves without trampling on the rights of others was not an easy task.

The Declaration of Independence is a marvel, and I doubt that any other country asserts in their documents that the pursuit of happiness is part of human rights.

Our becoming a country independent of another might be compared to rearing a child.  We have all heard the phrase “the terrible twos”.  That is the point in the child’s development when she perceives herself as separate from the mother.  With limited vocabulary the child uses what she has. Therefore “NO!  Me do it!” are a major part of communication.  No matter that he does not have the skills or the strength to do the task.  The will to do it is strong. The USA in its early development was scattered in what they wanted to do.

During the adolescent stage of development the pull is away from the family.  Soon this individual will be establishing a family separate but connected to the paternal home.  The organism is strong but has not yet attained the mental powers to make good judgments.  Breaking from the family has to happen if the person is to attain his goals.  We had our Tea Party to get this message across.

The leaders that emerged during this time were outstanding.  Can you imagine trying to put together a form of government for a country whose breadth was unknown!  Even though there were representatives from all the areas (states) there could never be total agreement among those leaders much less the people they represented.  It is the people whose responsibility it became to cohesively form a new government.  The give and take that happens in a family is not too far removed from the same give and take required of citizens of this country.

The marvel is not so much the actual independence as it is the journey to get us there. So when you see the fireworks and light the fire-crackers, remember what it took to get us here, and resolve to do all you can to make this wonder land of ours stay together.

For movie buffs there are several very good (but old) ones I would recommend. The first is a comedy, but ends up with a powerful message for all of us.  That one is PROTOCOL with Goldie Hawn.  Another is Mr. Smith goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart.  These two movies give me insights every time I watch them.

Have a safe Fourth of July!

Sharonlu, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Water, by Sharonlu Sheridan OSF

It doesn’t take much thought to recognize how important water is to all of us. Scientists tell us we can live 2 weeks to 30 days without food, but only 3 days without water. That in itself would give us pause to think and thank. Too often when we read about or talk about water we think BIG: oceans, seas, lakes, rivers. I would suggest that it is time to check out the small.

It was during a Thanksgiving dinner party that each person was to share what they were most thankful for excluding family and other relationships. We would take it for granted that would come first. But what of other things for which we are thankful. Take the kitchen for example. Sarah, with three young children, said she was thankful for the “trap door” in the refrigerator, which enabled them to get milk or juice without opening the big door. Lexie, newlywed, was most thankful for her microwave. Alice named her refrigerator earning her gratitude. Great Grandma Bertha said running water, tap water was the best for her. Not having to go to the well for water morning and evening was a blessing.

Let’s look at just plain tap water. Do we ever take it for granted! And yet millions of people do not have that luxury. How often do we turn the tap and get water. We use it for everything from washing the dirt off potatoes, to wiping the pesticides from the apples. We fill a pot to cook the beans, or add a quart to extend the soup. We just take it for granted safe water will be there.

Water was used as an example of the rewards we can expect for our positive actions. “Whoever gives a cup of cold water in my name, will receive a reward.” I think if I were the person who turns the wheel at the water works that sends the water rushing to all the faucets in the city, I would pray, “I give all this water to all these people in your name Lord.” (Leave it to me to set myself up for a big reward!)

Actually most of the things we are offered as examples in the gospel involve simple things, and quite often water: Cana, the lack of it at Simon’s house when Mary washed Jesus feet with her tears, moving the crippled man to the water for healing, those simple fishermen and their boats on the sea, Jesus washing the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper. Water, simply water must be a big part of our Thank You prayers this week.

Remember that when you are brushing your teeth, or washing your hair, or rinsing out your hose. There is never any time when you would want to separate God from your everyday thoughts.

I’d give more than a penny for your thoughts!

Peace,

Sharonlu OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg