In this season of gratitude, it is often easy to come up with the right answer to the question: What are you thankful for? Things like family, health, stability, and community quickly come to mind as classic answers. But what if we dug a little deeper? What gratitude can we find in the growing—often painful—parts of our lives?
I have recently had the opportunity to explore the Enneagram with both my coworkers and my family. It has been a profound learning experience, and I have been thankful for the opportunity to understand myself better, as well as the people I hold dear. More than that, I have been surprisingly thankful for our differences.
Presence is celebrating a birthday! To honor Presence journal publishing its 20th volume in 2014, we’re printing all SDI publications in full color this year. It’s our way of saying thank you for making a commitment to keep Presence and the colorful legacy of spiritual companionship alive and filled with light.
Years ago, a couple from our parish invited Steve and me to their annual potluck dinner to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. For our friend’s family, the festival is customarily celebrated on All Souls Day, November 2.
Our friends made a big pot of posole, a traditional Mexican stew, and asked that we bring for the altar a picture or some object to remember a loved one who had died.
I asked Marcus to place signs on all the SDI pilgrimage tables in the restaurant: Ruhe. In German, ruhe means silence. SDI pilgrims would be eating meals in silence on Sunday, a day of silence during the Interfaith Pilgrimage to Germany: In the Footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen.
Start over. Repent. Create a juicy new beginning. That’s what’s happening in the Jewish community during the High Holy Days in September. Even if you are not Jewish, the High Holy Days offer spiritual guidance for supporting seekers of many faiths who are ready to release anxieties and transgressions from the past and embrace God’s ever-present love today and into the future.
During the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim) between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), Jews make a spiritual inventory and repent (teshuvah). In the book, Jewish Spiritual Guidance, Carol Ochs and Kerry Olitzky describe the value of meeting with a spiritual companion, or mashpiah in Hebrew, in the process of repenting:
For the next three years, SDI will explore the theme Emerging Wisdom. When I shared the new theme with my mother and father during a recent visit, we were sitting around the puzzle table at our family cabin. Hundreds of mostly blue puzzle pieces surrounded the tip top of Split Rock Lighthouse, which was just beginning to take form against a blue sky (see image above).
“Sometimes it’s hard to separate the water from the sky,” my father said, comparing two blue puzzle pieces. “Wisdom can be hard to distinguish too,” I responded. “True wisdom shines through, and keeps shining, like a beacon protects ships from the rocky shoreline,” my mother added.
My prayers for Nelson Mandela, his family, and the South African nation are changing. My mind knows that to hold onto Mandela with prayers for healing needs to shift to praying for a peaceful transition. My heart feels the painful anticipatory grief.
Simultaneously we are invited to hold hope and grief. While celebrating a global prophet alive in our midst, I feel the sadness that his wisdom will not always be available for us to glean in person.
When I visited the prison cell on Robben Island where Mandela lived for almost twenty years, I tried to imagine the depth of his faith. I wondered if he sometimes knelt down on his straw mat or cement floor and what his prayers sounded like in that tiny cell. He must embody extraordinary trust in God’s goodness.
May God’s abiding spirit be experienced by Mandela now.
My car is now giving me praise. We recently purchased a hybrid, and at the end of each trip, the dashboard displays all sorts of information about distance, average speed, and fuel consumption. Best of all, if I drive more efficiently than forty miles per gallon, “Excellent!” appears in big letters across the console. A momentary thrill.
I admit to being a little embarrassed by how much I enjoy getting kudos from my hybrid. In some ways we are so simple. We want to do the just thing, to live in right relationship, to be compassionate and caring. Yet often we don’t receive much feedback about how we are doing day to day. Discerning how to make choices with integrity can feel daunting.
“There’s a new world coming,” Dr. Barbara Holmes told us during the community event in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Hundreds of people gathered to learn from her how mystical ways are passed on in black family traditions. When Holmes played Bernice Johnson Reagon’s music, “There’s a New World Coming,” the song’s rhythm sank into my ears and my bones. Throughout the conference, the refrain, “There’s a new world coming. Where will you be standing when it comes?” stayed with me.
Teenage feet. Female feet. Muslim feet. Atheist feet. Dark feet. Light feet. The tattooed feet of a prisoner. These are the feet the newly elected Pope Francis chose to wash on Maundy Thursday.
It takes courage and humility to ignore liturgical laws and break with tradition to wash and kiss the feet of twelve juvenile offenders in a detention center instead of washing the feet of twelve priests in the basilica. It’s the kind of courage grounded in love that Jesus modeled throughout his ministry. By turning upside down our staid assumptions about how the world works, we are freed to imagine new ways of being in relationship.