Meditation for Women’s Day 2014, by Jarrett Meyer

Be hubme for you are made of earthOn Ash Wednesday, those of us who are Catholic received ashes and heard the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”  Let us take a moment in silence, eyes closed, to imagine our origins as dust… not as flecks of insignificant dust or dirt, but stardust!

There is a beautiful Serbian proverb that says:  “Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.”

In the beginning, from a nebula of particles and a great spark of energy, God brought forth the universe through an explosion of light and matter… And so we imagine ourselves, long before we came into human being, whirling and twirling, colliding and generating heat as stardust… when in a brilliant burst of light, the cosmos were impregnated, and God began birthing life in a prolonged and ever-evolving expression of love and meaning.

We remember that at the beginning of Earthly time, our planet endured seas of lava, walls of ice, and rivers of acid. It survived volcanoes and earthquakes and floods. The earth stretched and compressed, creating the deepness of oceans and the majesty of mountains. Finally, when God was ready, the violence ceased, and so began peace for living things.

We are atoms fused from love. We are time and space. Just as we are part of the cosmos, the cosmos is part of us. We are made in our divine creator’s image. We are celestial, heavenly. We are love made self-aware of love.

We stand tall as the giant sequoia, and we are as small as an amoeba. We are as undying as the immortal jellyfish, and we pass in the few hours of a mayfly. We run as fast as the cheetah, we fly as high as the goose, and we swim as deep as the anglerfish.

God created an interconnection of beings. The animals and plants balance each other by breathing and expiring opposing gasses. Our bodies give nutrition for each other. We are a joining of all things. We are conjugation of all life past, present, and that yet to come. Just as God created us, we collaborate with our world to bear the next generation. God is a creative, loving God.  Our lives, being made in that image, call us to create and love.

~written by Jarrett Meyer (parishioner at St. Christopher, Indianapolis) for Women’s Day 2014 at Oldenburg Franciscan Center

Living, Loving & Learning, a poetic reflection by Angela Nevitt Roesler

The greatest joy in life
Is in giving of yourself,
But to give, you must first
Love yourself enough to
Delight in learning,
Striving to be your absolute best,
Passionate with confidence, desire,
And hope…

If you seek not and learn nothing,
You’ll have nothing to give.
And if you have nothing to give,
You’ll find nothing to love.
And love is everything.
Love, unlike any physical substance known to man,
Can be given endlessly and
Its supply will never diminish, only grow.
That is, if it is truly love.

Love is not
Sick, demented, depraving, selfish, suffocating, stingy, or stifling.
Love is, perhaps
“The process of my leading you gently back to yourself,”2
A simple reflection,
Guiding you back to what is unique and beautiful
And pure about you, an assurance of your
Goodness.

If that is love
Then only by that definition let me love,
And let me do so endlessly and graciously.
Let me seek for myself the beauty, compassion, and mercy of God
So that I might gain a knowledge or insight so extraordinary
That in sharing my love with you, with anyone,
I might gently lead you back to yourself,
Your true you, your vast potential,
Your open heart, your living soul,
Your life as it was meant to be.
And if you love me,
Let you do the same for me.

May my actions never betray you,
Diminishing in any way the stunning expanse of your essence in hopes of
Shaping you into what I might wish for you to be, for me.
I do not want to become such a small person;
I want to experience the vastness of human potential,
Giving freely and fostering greatness
Insomuch as I am able,
Through learning,
Recreating & readjusting my world
For the newness of each day
And finding, in this spontaneity,
A love greater than
The ordinary,
Sweeter than the satisfaction of desire;
A love that lives in me
Wherever I go,
Hopefully transforming me
Into one of those beautiful people
Who honor life and
Love abundant and contagiously.
I will always be imperfect,
But if I should strive for anything,
May it be for nothing less.

1 Reflection on the book  Living, Loving, & Learning by Leo Buscaglia
2 Quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Wind, Sand, & Stars)

Gratitude & Happiness, by Jennifer Profitt

1545613_10152251216623273_297926641_nSurely most people are vulnerable for the longing to be happy. I get a glimpse of this and understand the willingness to look all over the place for this treasure. But I so catch myself in my own life too –forgetting that the last place most folks look is right under their feet, in their everyday activities, accidents, and encounters.  What possible significance could there be in a trip to the post office?  How could something as common as shoveling snow or washing your dishes, walking your dog, or having a tooth filled be a door to greater happiness?  I think it can and I think ‘thankfulness’ is the X that marks the spot and one I often cannot see because I am standing right on it.  When that’s the case, this kind of happiness requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special companions; just the willingness to imagine I have everything I need and offer the consent to be right where I am, thankfully.  So easy, so simple, but can be so hard.

Perhaps the Kingdom of God shares some similar qualities of the X marks the spot, thankfulness, and ‘simplicity’ but also similarly challenging to embrace and appreciate. I think of it this way, when people asked Jesus, really questioned Him about what was God’s realm really like, He told them stories about their own lives. When people asked Him to tell them God’s truth about something, He asked them what they thought. With all kinds of opportunities to tell them how to think, He often told them what to do instead.  Wash feet.  Love your neighbor.  Give your stuff away.  Pray for those who are out to get you.  Be thankful for what you have.  In essence be God’s love where you are and be that to whatever is right in front of you.  Stop where your feet are for a moment, look around.  What can you be thankful for?  What can you do from right there?  It’s there happiness will reveal itself, it always has.

Jennifer Profitt is a visiting retreat leader at Oldenburg Franciscan Center.  She will facilitate Fear and Moving Forward on Saturday, January 25th.  9:30 – 2:30.  $45 includes program & lunch.  CEUs are available for counselors for an additional $20.  Visit our website to register online, or call 812-833-6437, or write to center@oldenburgosf.com.

Media as a Mirror of Faith, by Angela Nevitt Roesler

Always believeWhen it comes to recognizing how our faith affects our daily lives (our choices and our behaviors), S. Joan Chittister makes a wonderfully powerful and concise observation in her book, In Search of Belief:

“Until I discover the God in which I believe, I will never understand another thing about my own life.  If my God is harsh judge, I will live in unquenchable guilt.  If my God is Holy Nothingness, I will live a life of cosmic loneliness.  If my God is taunt and bully, I will live my life impaled on the pin of a grinning giant.  If my God is life and hope, I will live my life in fullness overflowing forever.”

I have been thinking about this particular statement lately, and about the indicators around me that can help me see what kind of God I’m allowing to manifest in my life.  Since the information we ingest on a daily basis has such a huge impact on the way we understand and interact with the world around us (including our God!), I wonder if we can assess it as a spiritual checkpoint, or mirror?

What do our patterns of media consumption say about our relationship with God?  Who is the God we seek to animate in our lives via the media we choose to feed our minds?  Is it a God of life and hope, leading us to fullness in our own lives?

After all, the age-old adage goes, we are what we eat… and as it would seem, we consume more media/ideas than food!  (Interesting statistics here.)

These questions remind me a lot of the Cherokee Legend of the two wolves where a grandfather teaches his grandson how to know whether “good or evil” will win over the struggles of one’s inner life.  In the end, the spirit that wins is the one that we feed… If we apply that same analogy to the case of media consumption, we know that what we seek will begin seeking to connect with us in return thanks to evolving marketing tools.  What a striking and specific example to be mindful of what we attract!

On a broad scale, TV and radio adjust content to majority ratings – so you may not personally see more of what you like if you aren’t in the majority, but what is playing is always indicative and ever adjusting to social trends and desires.

The Internet, on the other hand, works via its intelligent search and social media engines to give us each more of what we individually want (and less of what we ignore) – without us ever having to think about it.  That being the case, we can easily find ourselves in a “small world” of our own design where our exposures are more or less limited by our likes, subscriptions, and “follows.”  How important to recognize the world we are creating for ourselves – and that we are significantly empowered to influence and improve the quality of our environment.

So… if we take time to assess our online interactions and news, what can we learn about our relationship with God?  What do our followings, interactions, and activities reveal to us about our beliefs?  Are they harsh and critical?  Taunt and bully?  Filled with life and hope?  Does the reality of the picture they paint jive with the God of our hearts?  If not, what new “seeking” (liking/following/ subscribing) or pruning might we do to change the flow of information and create an opening for a more expansive God to shine through for us?

I think when we are indoctrinated in a certain way of seeing the world that it can be hard to believe that any other way exists – but when we really pause and seek change, new things emerge.  One of my friends who I love following posted a beautiful quote on Facebook today… “Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.”  I think that’s a great thought to feed upon.

In 2014, let’s be mindful of the world of information that we submerse ourselves in and seek to consciously shape our surroundings in the image of our most loving creator God.  If we pay attention to the clues of our informational surroundings and adjust what we “ingest” (and generate!) to help us stay connected with the God we believe in, I wonder what new things will emerge!

If we believe, like S. Joan, in a God of life and hope, hopefully the environments we submerse ourselves in (including media) will reflect and support us in that!

by Angela Nevitt Roesler, manager of Oldenburg Franciscan Center

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

The Advent Wreath, by Jennifer Profitt

Candlelight_AdventThe Advent wreath, which graces my kitchen table this month, reminds me with the warmth of glowing purple candles of Christmas approaching. Nightly as I say a grateful prayer of blessing upon the meal before me, the increase in candlelight with every new Sunday magnifies the growing message that Jesus is coming.

This late autumn I have been blessed to have friends welcoming in new little babies into the world. The arrival of these new babies, the growing excitement to meet them, to hold their tender selves in the new World outside the protective one they have known for the last 9 months, is thrilling. Something in my spirit catches at the sheer joy of it all.

How easy it is for me to conjure the image of Mary awaiting the birth of her child –especially in the last weeks before delivery. How easy it is for me to grasp the joy of others who anticipated His birth.

As exciting as it is to welcome any new child into the world, to appreciate the wonder of tiny fingers and wrists, to share in the joy of a family that adds another little one. Here is where I marvel most: Mary’s little baby who will be called Jesus, who will be surrounded by his mother’s arms and held so closely to her that His tiny ears hear her heartbeat, this little one will be the Savior of us all. Yes, the Savior to someone like me, the very woman who this month enjoys her nighttime meal with flickering purple candles and anticipates His arrival in participating in an advent remembrance tradition some two thousand years later. What a wonderful way to acknowledge that Jesus is coming to the world for everyone.

Jennifer Profitt
Spirituality & Psychology Retreat Facilitator
Oldenburg Franciscan Center

Cultivating a Waiting Spirit, by S. Mary Beth Gianoli, OSF

waitingcrib

I don’t like to wait.  I never have and I probably never will!

However, Advent has always been a special time for me.  Maybe it was the way my parents approached that time that made waiting bearable and even exciting.  We had a lot of family traditions celebrating Advent including the traditional Advent wreath, Advent calendars, and Advent resolutions.

When I was very young, my dad made me a little wooden crib out of some scrap lumber.  The crib was for baby Jesus and my job was to get it ready for his arrival.  Every day that I fulfilled my Advent resolution I got to put a cotton ball into that crib.  If I didn’t have a good day, I had to put a wooden toothpick in the crib.  I wanted to have a lot of cotton for the little baby to lie on so I did my best to keep my resolution.

Not only did this simple practice help me to adopt some positive behaviors, it also helped me to wait patiently for the Babe of Bethlehem.  I surely didn’t want that baby to arrive until the crib was ready!

I still have that little crib.  Although I have replaced the cotton balls with straw, I still try to keep my Advent resolutions … and wait patiently for the coming of the newborn King.

S. Mary Beth Gianoli, OSF
Leadership Councilor, Sisters of St. Francis Oldenburg

Recognizing our “Advent People,” by S. Margie Niemer, OSF

The Apparition of Christ, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Apparition of Christ, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The holiday season is a time when most of us think of significant people in our lives.  Some are deceased, some have played a part at a particular time in our lives, some have always been a part and continue to bless us in the present.  The Advent season features accounts of the lives of people who played a role in the time leading up to the birth of Jesus: Anna & Joachim, Elizabeth and Zachary, Mary and Joseph.  Perhaps the most controversial is John the Baptist.

John lived in the desert, had no paying occupation, ate odd things, and preached to anyone who would stop to listen. His message was hard and grim, brooding and dark. His preaching could be described as a warning: repent or be lost.

But this was John’s purpose in life, the reason he was born.  His job was to close the Old Testament.  Jesus recognized this when he told the people that up to John’s time, the law and the prophets were what mattered.  With the coming of Jesus, that chapter is over and the Kingdom of God begins.

We are invited into that Kingdom as builders, not as passive bystanders.  Who has helped you become a Kingdom of God Builder?  Those people who taught and encouraged you are your Advent People.  This week, remember to pray in gratitude for them.

Margie Niemer, OSF
Leadership Council, Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

One Advent, Not Two, by S. Maureen Irvin, OSF

Peace&Hurry

As we begin the season of Advent, many of us feel torn. We sense a conflict between our desire to really celebrate the season by reflecting on the readings of the Church and concentrating on the spiritual meaning of Advent and Christmas, and the fact that we are constantly bombarded by the advertisements, the carols and the decorations that begin earlier each year. There is some wisdom in the encouragement that “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  The super-busy, hectic, all-consuming preparations for and celebration of the holiday of Christmas are probably not going to change, but they do not have to dampen the real spirit and meaning of Advent. This year, I am determined not to have the usual tug-of-war.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I posed to my family, how they would suggest maintaining a calm and peaceful balance between the spiritual and secular preparations for Christmas. My brother, Dan, suggested fully entering into all of the shopping, baking, gift- wrapping and parties of the season, but also consciously setting aside a time each day or each week to pray and reflect on what it means to have God incarnate in our midst. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but just a dedicated time to which we can be faithful.

My sister-in-law, Karen, advised constant mindfulness. She encouraged that while baking or wrapping or decorating, we enter into the experience fully. Don’t think about what else is on the “to-do” list or what you will do when you complete this task. Just do whatever you are doing with great mindfulness. Enjoy the lights, the colors, the aromas, the textures, the music, the friends, family and co-workers, the delicious foods and festive drinks. All are gifts from our loving God. All are a part of human experience and part of our natural world, which God wanted to share completely—hence, the incarnation.

My own idea is to look for the symbolism is what we see, hear and do. Candles can remind us that Christ is the light. Children’s voices can speak to us of hope, joy and love, while also calling to mind Jesus’ birth and childhood. Wrapped gifts can represent the multitude of gifts, yet to be discovered and realized from God’s bounty. Decorations show that this is truly an important feast for which we want to “deck the halls.” Parties and festive food and drink can represent the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, Christ, our spiritual food.

The beautiful season of Advent is to be lived, not just endured or tolerated.  It is one season that holds incredible richness, not two seasons (one secular and one spiritual) that compete for our attention. Let’s make every effort to really celebrate all that we experience these days as we await the Feast of Christmas. Relax, enjoy, be mindful, be calm and at peace.

May you have a happy and holy Advent season!

S. Maureen Irvin, OSF
Congregational Minister
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