A number of years ago I asked a class of seminarians to think of a time in their lives when they felt whole. As we began to share, one student said that he recognized a number of periods of wholeness, but each experience was very different. “My memory of wholeness as a child was very different from what made me feel whole in my teen years,” he said. “And a more recent experience feels totally new. Do you think we could be whole, and then more whole, and then more whole? Or is wholeness a final state of being?”
My grandkids call me “Ammie.” This nickname they created for me sprang from the name I intentionally chose to be called instead of grandmother. I selected “Amma,” and the grands added a twist of their own.
An “Amma” is the name for a spiritual mother from early Christianity tradition of the Desert Mother and Fathers. I decided on this name because my last name is “Wise,” and Amma reflected my desire to be an inspirational source of guidance and wisdom.
I want to leave a legacy for my grandchildren that is both meaningful and memorable. A legacy is a special personalized gift from one generation to the next.
“Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us.” —Socrates
The word blessing is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being.” In other words, one who is blessed knows they have received something special—they know they are loved. Blessings are important and happen in a myriad of ways.
“I will bless you; I will make your name great.” —Genesis 12:1–2
In the midst of a contentious American election season, a hurricane ravaged Haiti, an unprecedented civil war in Syria, and a global refugee crisis, what is the role of spiritual direction? How can a ministry and service devoted to contemplation relieve the suffering of so many all over the world?
Stuck in a waiting room recently, flipping through an outdated magazine, I landed on a follow up interview with the adult daughters of a popular reality TV family. These women's lives exploded in a very public way last year when their oldest brother's past sexual abuse of them and several other young girls hit the news. I grew up on the outskirts of the family's extremely conservative community, where large families and submissive women are lauded as key to God's plan for his children's lives. Such a public failure in a family who has been the face of a movement for years has sent shock waves through the community. Facades have crumbled as many begin to tell their own stories of abuse at the hands of conservative church or family members, and the systemic failure to address these abuses has become clear.
I have been blessed with many Jewish friends who have kindly invited me to the rituals associated with the Jewish High Holy Days, and educated me as to their profound significance.
Beginning with Rosh Hashanah (or Yom Teruah), a day when judgements are written into the Divine Book of that purpose, followed ten days later by Yom Kippur, a day when those judgements are “sealed,” this time is always one of intense reflection for me.
It seems rather easy, almost effortless, to receive and experience peace when in a tranquil setting. When surrounded by the beauty of nature, or standing on a mountain top looking down at passersby, it can be so much easier to let go and release the concerns that can bear down on us.
There is a hymn I find solace in titled, “Peace is Flowing Like a River.” While that is mostly true, there are times when it is not—times when someone or something becomes an obstacle or intrusion to our harmony … times when we allow external things to form a dam and block the flow.