Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I have been missing. A busy weekend...too busy for God, you say? No. But too busy to write about God.

Tonight, after a long, hard, difficult, head-slamming day at work, I reconnected with someone I haven't spent time with in 6 years. We spent 10 precious Tuesday evenings in each other's company--I was a new, intimidated, unsure writer and participant. She was a grieving mother writing about loss and love and rebuilding. But tonight, we were friends. Tonight, we laughed and listened, and watched as her sweet 6 month old mischievously stayed up so as not to miss out on the visit. And that was God. Pictures of her sweet lost baby hung on the walls and I sat in awe (as I did 6 years ago), that she was still standing. It is grace.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Isaiah 26:1-6
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Isaiah 26

Song of Trust in God’s Protection

 1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
   “We have a strong city;
He sets up walls and ramparts for security.
2 “Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter,
The one that remains faithful.
3 “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.
4 “Trust in the LORD forever,
For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.
5 “For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city;
He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He casts it to the dust.
6 “The foot will trample it,
The feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless.”

Tonight, the Advent retreat calls for prayerful reflection on Scripture as opposed to Ignatian contemplation. I am supposed to think about what the text is saying, what it is saying to me, and what does the text make me want to say to God.

Oh, Old Testament, you are a formidable foe. The NT is so accessible to me, and then I try to deconstruct this...I like what it says about trust, though. That trust in God brings peace, which is ultimately a gift of God, and that trust brings us closer to God, and God closer to us.

Verses 5 and 6 brought Occupy Wall Street to mind. While the verses seem to be alluding to destruction or active ruin, I actually like seeing it through a lens where the afflicted and the helpless are SEEN and HEARD. They demand to be seen and heard, it is God's will for their experience to be validated and made real. Their experience is not to be ignored or swept under the rug...it is to be faced and acknowledged by those with power and privilege.
Examen (incomplete, but with good intentions)

I continue to be grateful for friends. I am also grateful for my parents and the coaches I had over the years. They made a difficult job look easy, and always handled the chaos with grace...I am thankful for their example as I coach.

I ask for your help and guidance as I try to be a good friend. I really try to listen well, to be attentive, to be like Kim, but I think I fail more than I succeed.

Allow me to use my free time wisely this weekend instead of letting it disappear.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Retreat -- Day 3

Matthew 4:18-22
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The First Disciples

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “[a]Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, [b]James the son of Zebedee, and [c]John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

I am going to try something this Advent. I need structure in my blogging, and I may have found it. Thanks to my Jesuits, of course:

So, each day, I am to spend some time praying with scripture...not an easy task for me. I picked the right day though...this is a story I can get behind. Today's assignment is to pray with this passage using Ignatian Contemplation, which asks that we enter into the story and see it as an eyewitness, hear it right from Jesus' mouth, and try to imagine what it would feel like if He was talking to us.

I've always loved the line about "fishers of men," sexism be damned. Even before I really understood it, I liked the turn of phrase (this was before I knew what a turn of phrase was of course). This scene is a good place to start my Advent journey because I enter into this scene easily. I am standing behind Jesus, watching him walk up to the shore, hearing His call to these disciples. They recognize something in him, clearly. They drop what they are doing...they drop their lives, to follow this man.

Two thoughts came to me as I read, reread and reflected a bit on this passage. First, I started singing "You Are Mine" to myself.
"come and follow me, I will bring you home...I love you and you are mine"

This is their call. Jesus is offering them a life with him...and from the looks of things here, they know very little--if anything--about him. And yet they are willing to leave everything--homes, families, their own identities--to follow this person. "Fishers of men"?! What does that even mean? They must have been confused...but something inside must have told them that there were bigger things ahead.

I think about the people in my own life who draw others to them...whose light is so strong, so enchanting, so beautiful, so powerful that others are willing to follow them. Not blindly, but with an unspoken understanding that they will be safe and treasured and valued. It is that light that Peter, Andrew, James, and John saw and trusted when they dropped their nets. And that is why I know them, why they are familiar to me and why I see myself in that scene. When someone has the light of the Creator, of God, shining so brightly from their core, you are willing to follow, to listen, to go with them on a journey. It wasn't grand promises of fame and fortune that had these disciples leaving all that they knew; it was the promise of community, of connection, of relationship. Who doesn't want that?

The Advent Retreat asks that we also pray in the tradition of Ignatius Loyola at the end of our reflection by praying the Examen.
Loving God, today I am ever so grateful for my friends...for the community that I have created for myself, for the time and space to be with these friends, even in the difficult moments.

I am grateful for a teacher who did not meet my student's disrespectful and threatening "test" with anger or malice, but instead with patience and grace. Even though he didn't understand what was happening, he was able to handle the situation without escalating it and in a way that may allow him to build a relationship with this student in the future.

Please help me to better manage the time with which you have blessed me. Help me with focus and attention.

I hope I was able to show my friend some of your love, compassion, understanding and empathy today. She needed it, and I tried to give it without reservation or second-guessing my own reactions.

Forgive me for the times I fall short with my patience, or spend my time, energy and focus on things that don't deserve it as much as my work and my students do. Give me the strength and the patience for SM, TH, MM and more.
I look forward to tomorrow...to being a better reflection of you to all I see.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 4 of 30

Travel by Chris Guillebeau

If we live truly, we shall see truly. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

My list of places is long...the A's dominate the top of the list--Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia), Australia, and Alaska. I do think Africa tops the list though...my mother's cousins spent some of their childhood there--in Johannesburg in the 1960s. They've been back many times. I want to visit the cities (Jo'burg, Cape Town), as well as safari/game park. I want to experience something so vastly different from my world.

How will I ensure I get there? I don't know, but I know I will. It'll take planning and saving...and hopefully someone with whom I can travel. A traveling companion is probably non-negotiable...there are a lot of things I am willing to do alone, but this is a trip that will be richer for the company, I think.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 3 of 30

One Strong Belief by Buster Benson

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

I've been thinking and thinking about this one. I truly can't think of one of my core truths and beliefs that my family and good friends don't share in some way, shape or form. Our paths to those truths may differ, but the truths are common.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 2 of 30

Liz Danzico – Today

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson,Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Be the duck.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 1 of 30

Gwen Bell – 15 Minutes to Live

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.

2. Write the story that has to be written.

Afraid of each other? Not me. I am one who craves community. I love to be surrounded by people, to hear stories, and tell my own. Life is to be shared, of this I am sure. It is possible that being the product of a large, loud, story-telling Irish family ruined me for life in the very best way.

Community has not always been easy for me to find, though. I struggled to find my place—spent many years being more comfortable in a room full of adults or small children than with my own peers. I felt lost and often alone. I had wonderful friends along the way—some of them came and went with the years, and others stuck around and we delight in our years of friendship even today. But it seemed everywhere I looked, people had a ‘group.’ People belonged somewhere. Even these friends of mine had groups of friends…groups that didn’t quite have room for me.

I kept looking though. I moved 3,000 miles away from everyone and everything I'd ever known in search of the elusive community. Community was promised to me, but once again, community failed me. It was not going to come easily. I was going to have to work for it. I was going to have to be brave, going to have to strike out on my own and do things that scared me.

I am so grateful for that lesson. If I only had a few minutes left to live, I'd be most grateful for that one...learning that I just had to trust myself enough to jump. My tribe was there waiting. With a net.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


just in from a 30th birthday party. the tiny dive bar was PACKED with the birthday girl's friends and family....no fewer than 13 of whom i've known since i was 6. a few of those i hadn't seen in 15-20 years. it was a little crazy.

i am one who craves community. i'm lucky to have it in so many forms and combinations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


‎"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~Anais Nin

This is my theme of the day for tomorrow. I have to blossom...even if it hurts. I have to leap, even if there's no net.

Monday, March 21, 2011

For the measure will be returned...

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”
~~Luke 6:37-38

From today's Gospel reading. We are reminded again to love one another, to forgive one another, to treat each other as we would like to be treated. Because, in the end, that love, forgiveness, and care will be returned to us thousand-fold...million-fold.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


"the trees are gold and thirsty and they need a little rain...
...nothing would ever happen if we always stayed the same."
~n. nields

I am not usually a person who welcomes change. Change, even when necessary, is painful and uncomfortable and difficult. More often than not, changing one thing (your address, your medication dosage, your toothbrush, your commute) leads to other changes...a chain reaction of sorts. I do not like it.

But right now? I *want* change. I'm longing for change. I know exactly what change(s) I want. I can close my eyes and see the other side. They are changes I welcome...even with all the hassles that come along with them (a move, certification tests, more school, job applications coming out my ears). Half of this change is what I am meant to do, I am confident in that. The other half of the change feels right...it's something I'll regret NOT trying.

The wait is what's defeating me right now. The idea that I could do a whole lot of work to make these changes happen...the changes I believe are the right ones for me...and I could wind up jobless and/or homeless (well, figuratively homeless--I have many places I can stay). I know I need to trust. Trust is hard. Being out of control is hard. Waiting is hard.

Maybe that's the lesson, for lack of a better word. Maybe Sr. Laura was right in 2nd grade--patience is a virtue; one I need to exercise this Lent and this year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Tonight, I am grateful:

*for cousins
*for potatoes
*for sunshine
*for a warm bed
*for hints of green
*for full moons
*for basketball
*for good friends

(in no particular order)

Friday, March 18, 2011


Today, spring arrived in New York. People were lying out in Central Park in bikinis, there were short sleeves, daffodil and crocus leaves began to push through the soil, the sun was shining, there was a beautiful breeze, and people just seemed to be smiling more.

There was an air of new life...yes, there will be more frosty evenings, and mornings when I walk to work with my breath smoking out before me. I won't put the down coat away quite yet...but it's coming. There is joy. And isn't that what Lent is all about...preparing for that joy, for that new life? It arrives on Easter--when the flowers will be in full bloom and the leaves will be fantastically green on the trees. And with the flowers and the leaves comes a lighter feeling in our chests and i our stomachs. Khalil Gibran tells us, "Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. " These are the days that remind us of that.

They are worth the wait.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

10 years

10 years ago today, St. Patrick's Day 2001, I woke up to the news that my dear friend Tim's brother had been killed in an early morning car accident. I didn't know Chris, but over the next few days, I began to learn about him. The following quote is his "statement of life aspirations," written when he was just 17 or 18 years old. It resonated with me then and now, 10 years later, it remains true for me. I try my best to live it--for me and for him.

to touch the life of a person, to help them see the world in a better light, to enable them to live a fuller, more productive life; i would like to do something like this. i am searching for a profession that will enable me to inspire, to help, to enlighten, to leave my mark on the human race. i will live a full and vibrant life, doing whatever i see fit, not conforming, not rejecting...my life will belong to me and it will be great not for the fame and fortune i receive, but for the lives i help change an the happiness i achieve. ~christopher a. hoppe (may 4, 1981-march 17, 2001)

missing blogs

My internet was down for a few days, which put a damper on my Lenten postings. So, I'll post three times today.

I got an email from a friend yesterday. She said that she hates the wilderness...that wandering in the wilderness feeling--like Moses and the Chosen people, like John the Baptist, like Jesus, we all have wilderness periods. For me, the Wilderness times come when I am filled with uncertainty...when the path before me is unclear. The Wilderness brings doubt, anxiety, and frustration. I cannot see that there are always green fields and gurgling brooks on the other side.

But we also know, thanks to John the Baptist, it is in the wilderness that we may hear most clearly.
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”"

The Wilderness is where we are asked to prepare...to get ready for the next leg of our journey, to prepare our hearts and our minds for what lies ahead. The Wilderness is necessary because it is there, in the desolate quiet, that we might hear most clearly.

I'm trying to trust that.

Monday, March 14, 2011


In your prayers do not babble like others do,
for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. (Mt 6:7)

These words precede Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray--giving them the words to the Our Father. They are interesting because I do think God wants to hear from us, in as many words as we want to use.

I do think that the use of the word "babble" -- whatever that word translates to in Aramaic -- is interesting. I think the point is that while we can talk to God for hours because God wants to know us and be known by us, and is always willing to listen, we should be deliberate in our prayer and in our conversation with God. It shouldn't be rambling streams-of-consciousness, but there should be purpose and thought behind our words.

St. Ignatius left the world a beautiful way to structure prayer. It is called the Examen and it is meant to be done every day, at the end of the day (or maybe in the morning when you can reflect on the previous day). There are 5 steps, which I have seen outlined in several forms. This is my favorite, borrowed largely from What's Your Decision? How to Make Choices with Confidence and Clarity by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ.

1) Pray for light and to see truth.

2) Pray in Thanksgiving

3) Review the emotions of the day...the feelings are more important to discern than the events behind them. Recall both positive and negative emotions (joy and happiness, laughter and love, sorrow and anger, jealousy and sadness)

4) Choose one emotion and pray from it. It could be the strongest emotion, or the most surprising emotion, or even the emotion to which you are most resistant. Spend some time sitting in and with that emotion--where did it come from? How is it helpful or harmful? How did it affect your day?

5) Look forward to tomorrow. What lessons did you learn to better equip me for tomorrow?

The Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt said that prayer is a "long, loving look at the real." The Examen provides us with a framework to take that long and loving look with clarity and direction. What are the lessons of today? How will they help me tomorrow? Where do I need God's help and support? What can I do better? What am I thankful for today? Where is my gratitude? What is my sorrow?

We don't need to put on false airs with God in prayer. We don't need to pretend we have all the answers. But prayer requires effort and connection, just like conversation with your best friend. The Examen provides a jumping off point for that conversation with God.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday blog

"Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life..."
~from Hosea by G. Norbert

In The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, James Martin presents us with a new image of God--God as someone who helps you find your way home.

It's an image that I love...not God as puppet master, but not God as disinterested bystander either. It is God as the voice in the back of your head, God as the feeling in your gut, God as the pulls at your heartstrings, God as those deepest desires of your heart.

Right now, I am hoping that this journey I'm traveling is the one that will take me home.

Saturday's blog

Didn't get to the computer last night, so I owe two blog posts for today.

Today's Gospel reading tells the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Temptation is an interesting concept. The devil/Satan/The Dark Prince doesn't actually show up in our lives as a living, breathing, talking being like he does in this story. Our temptations are more subtle.

We had an interesting talk around the breakfast table this morning before we all headed home from our ski weekend. Topic: technology. Is it good? Is it bad? Has it made us ADD? Is multi-tasking a curse or a blessing?

I'm not sure I have the answers to any of those questions. I don't think anyone else does either. What I do know is that the temptation of technology--be it media, email, texting, facebook, or a combination of those things--sometimes makes me less-than-present. I am not as focused on the tasks at hand sometimes, unable to give something (or someone) my full attention. And though I'm aware and conscious of this tendency, I have had a hard time figuring out how to change it. Camp last summer was great. I was TOTALLY present all day long. Our cell phones didn't work on site, and there was no time to look at a computer during the day...and I didn't miss them. I spent my days focused on the kids, focused on fun, focused on the people who filled my days.

It is a challenge for me--to be present. And maybe another thing I can take on as we enter this first full week of Lent--to be more present. The distractions are many and my mind likes distractions, but you can't do 5 things at the same time and expect to do any of them well.

Jesus turned away from temptation and turned towards God. He chose to trust God and the plan God had for Him. He knew that these temptations couldn't offer Him anything more than what God had in store.

Hopefully I can trust that what is in front of me is what I should be doing...and also trust MYSELF that I can do things well with focus and attention. I owe myself and the people around me my presence.

Friday, March 11, 2011


This weekend, I am away with friends and friends-of-friends. We will ski tomorrow and Sunday. I love skiing. I'd forgotten how much I love skiing until I went to a tiny little hill outside NYC 2 weeks ago with my cousin. It was my first time on skis in about 10 years. It was like riding a bike. My body remembered--my hips, my knees, my ankles...I shifted my weight to turn and to stop. It's like flying. I'd forgotten. Forgotten that I love this activity so much that even falling 30' out of a chair lift and snapping my arm in half couldn't keep me from doing it again. Forgotten the feeling of frozen cheeks and toes as you wait in line for the lift. Forgotten the lightness in my stomach and my heart as I cruise down the hill.

Forgotten the breath-taking beauty when you stand at the top of the mountain and behold the creation that surrounds you, blanketed in a soft white powder. What a way to rejoice in God's creation.

I will try to be more seasonally appropriate in my reflection tomorrow, but for tonight? I dream of flying.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Recently, a friend asked me about my prayer life. I stammered and stuttered before finally admitting, "I don't really have a prayer life. I'm not good at it. I'm not good at sitting still." I felt slightly abashed and ashamed. "I can pray at church, " I added, hoping I wouldn't look like I needed to be on the receiving end of "The Idiot's Guide to Prayer" or "Praying for Dummies," and not acknowledging that the prayer comes after Communion when I can bury my face in my hands so that I don't start people watching instead of praying.

I try to pray. But I'm easily distracted...every sound, every person who walks by the door of the chapel, every thought that floats through the back of my mind. I cannot just let them pass--I turn and look at each one. My nana loved to pray. When we took her to Ireland a few years ago, she'd sometimes disappear in the afternoon or evening. It became a running joke. "Where's Nana?" "Saying her prayers..." She took great comfort in it. The house could be falling down around her...and she wouldn't know it in those moments.

But I do believe that God's wants to know me (and you), and to be known by me (and you). God wants to be in relationship with me. I want to create and carve out the time to nurture that relationship, to listen to God and talk to God the way I listen to and talk to my friends. I know that when I slowed down this past fall and took time to read about Ignatian spirituality and discernment, the time was fruitful and positive. It helped me to see my choices clearly and make a decision that I truly believe is God's desire for me.

I hope that this Lent I can make some more of that time, creating the space to go deeper with God.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This morning, I found myself wandering an unfamiliar area of the Bronx as I visited 3 seniors at their service sites. I was unsure of my surroundings, unsure of my path. As I walked from the subway to the first daycare center, half the foreheads I passed bore the dark smudge of Ash Wednesday. We were different in countless ways, but there was an immediate kinship, a mark that made us one. One as sinners, one as repenters, one as faithful people on a journey back to God.

I am committing to be here every day during the season of Lent (thanks again to D for the inspiration). I want to try to make the time, create the time and the sacred space, to reflect and grow on this Lenten journey. I think of all that has changed since this time last year--the people I have lost, the experiences I gained, the decisions I've made, the good news that lies ahead...it is overwhelming. It is a year that asked me to go deeper, and for that I am grateful.