And thou shalt love

Today’s scripture in my Bible Gateway app is Deuteronomy 6:6-7. I recognize the Sh’ma and V’havta :

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.

 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart;  and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them as a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house and on thy gates.

(Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9, KJ21)

A perfect followup to yesterday, when I was accepted as an associate of the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province. The Community is a women’s Benedictine order within the Episcopal church, and I wrote about beginning this journey here and about my first visit to “The Mountain” here.

Love the Lord thy God… When I was accepted as an associate yesterday in the presence of my faith community at Epiphany Church, Sr. Elizabeth spoke about the Rule of Love/Rule of Life. Yesterday, the readings were about the commandments. Jesus, as we know, summed it all up when He pointed out the greatest commandment. Paul echoed it when he spoke of faith, hope and love: The greatest of these is love.

Sr. Elizabeth, one of the nuns from the Community, was in for a visit and to give a presentation at Epiphany’s “Programs and Potuck” on the Benedictine way and the Community of St. Mary. She stayed with friends Diane and Vickie, and I had fun showing her a few highlights of the area on Friday.  Our tour was filled with places born of love.

First, we spent time at Solomon House, which is Epiphany’s outreach ministry. This ministry grew out of the Brown Bag program, and serves clients with not just food for the body, but food for the spirit.  Minister Ellen Nora is the director, and we had a great visit. I love and support the mission of Solomon House, but life is often busy and I don’t always get to visit there as often as I’d like. We saw the brand new client-centered food distribution, and I also identified a way for our DAR chapter to help with the ministry beyond our individual volunteer efforts.

Ellen Sr Eliz Bren at Solomon H copy

Ellen Nora, Sr. Elizabeth and me at Solomon House. Deacon Diane and Solomon House were instrumental at bringing the Women at the Well program into the world.

Next, we went to the Rosary House in New Iberia. Here, handmade rosaries are offered for sale alongside statues of saints, holy medals, prayer cards and books. It is Roman Catholic in focus, but it’s all God.

Our next stop was Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, a favorite stop of mine when entertaining out of town guests. This wildlife sanctuary and botanical garden was born of Edward McIlhenny’s love of nature and concern for conservation. The Tabasco factory is also on Avery Island, and McIlhenny began making Tabasco sauce here after the civil war. Sr. Elizabeth was delighted to see snowy egrets as we wandered through the gardens. “Just wait,” I kept telling her. When we made it to “Bird City,” an aviary on the island, she saw what I meant. This sanctuary literally saved the snowy egret from extinction and today is home to thousands of nesting egrets.

egret avery island

Egrets at “Bird City,” a wildlife sanctuary at Avery Island, Louisiana. 

Finally, we went by “Homeplace” – my own little corner of the world. Our time was short, so I borrowed Pop’s golf cart and Sr. Elizabeth, SweetGirl (my furry 4-legged child) and I took a quick tour. My husband was working in the yard, and my brother and Bubba were working in the garden – all labors of love.

Today is Monday, and if it is a typical workday I will face challenges. I will hold the medal I received yesterday as an associate of the Community of St. Mary, breathe deeply, and remind myself to love my neighbor (even if one is driving me nuts).

At least, I’m going to do my darndest. I usually fall short, but following a rule of life and love gives me some extra help.

Just for today….
I accept myself as I am, allowing Divine Love to work through me
I am my own compassionate witness
I allow myself to make beautiful mistakes.
I ask for and receive Divine Help and Grace.

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It’s Possible!

Possibilities. Choose the wrong one, and you get stuck.

When I started college, there weren’t that many possibilities. Sure, at the time there were, but nothing like the possibilities for young women today. I didn’t have to confine my career choices to secretary or teacher, but there were still a lot of limitations.  I had no idea what WAS possible then.

I didn’t stick with my original career choice (broadcast journalism) but did spend many years in advertising. Those skills still serve me, so I suppose nothing is ever wasted. But I’ve always been reminded (often by friends and family) of things that “just aren’t possible.”

Oddly enough, though, there are more possibilities today for a middle aged woman than there were in the 1980s for a young woman or at least in my corner of the world. Hmmm. And interestingly, things that one would say are “impossible” for me hold no interest. Meh.

There are many things that fall into the “oh, that would be nice” category. I love it that I have possibilities. Many things are possible, and my challenge is to first remember that, and then decide what is worth my passion, time and effort.

It’s possible! C’est possible! Knowing something is possible gives you a choice as to whether or not to pursue it.

In considering my #OLW (One Little Word) for 2018, I had several choices. I kept coming back to the word possible. It chose me, so that’s the word for the year.

possible 2

I’m reminded of the song “It’s Impossible” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella.

For the world is full of zanies and fools

Who don’t believe in sensible rules

And don’t believe what sensible people say

And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes

Impossible things are happening every day!

It’s possible!

It’s possible!

It’s possible!

possible 1

Call me a zany fool. It’s possible.

A wonderful bird is the pelican…

I never know for sure what I’ll see as I walk around my home here in rural south Louisiana. We have a fair amount of typical wildlife – birds, squirrels, rabbits, armadillos, raccoons, foxes, snakes, an occasional bear – you know, everyday critters. Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with the bears as I walk to work (just the overturned garbage cans on occasion).

Today was a first, though. While I’m used to seeing egrets and herons in the pond behind our house, I hadn’t seen a pelican in the pond before. They prefer the vast openness of the Gulf, but this fellow looked quite content to paddle around for a while in my backyard.

pelican blog 1

He had a couple of snacks, as I saw him snatch up something from the water. (I wish he’d de-populate the turtles, but I’m sure he prefers the small brim that are plentiful in the pond.)

pelican blog 2

Pop has an affinity for pelicans.  Today is his birthday; I think the pelican was a special “Cosmic birthday card” for him!

What if she said no?

Have you thought about what would have happened if, when approached by Gabriel, Mary would have said “umm…thanks, but no.”

Unthinkable, right? After all, Mary had been specially chosen. Besides, God clearly knew her answer would be yes (or so I’ve always been told); otherwise, God would not have chosen her.

Right?

Hmmm. Maybe not.

In the image of God, male and female, was humanity created – and with free will, to boot. After all, free will had come into play in a big way before (think Abraham, Sarah and Hagar as a good example) and history kind of got rearranged. Eve and Sarah have long been blamed for leading men astray. (Funny how free will gets forgotten there!)

Mary could very well have said “no, thanks, and have a nice day” when Gabriel came to call.

annunciation tanner detail

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation

Had she said no, would God have given up on this creation of humanity as a sort of failed prototype, feeling that humankind was a little too feisty, a little too uncontrollable? Or had Gabriel been dispatched with a Plan B? Was it a case of “if Miriam says no, then go ask Salome, in the next village, she’s also a good Jewish girl, and hopefully more agreeable than this one” or would it be “well, your loss; we’ll wait a while to proceed with the Messiah business…another millennium or so.”

Mary – indeed, women in general – played a critical part in the Incarnation. Sure, God could have popped out Jesus fully grown in the middle of the Temple one day, but it wouldn’t have had the same effect. God could have said “tough, it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be,” but that wouldn’t jive with God’s gift of free will.

Now, I’ve always felt very strongly that women are called to full inclusiveness in Christian leadership because Jesus was inclusive in His ministry. Some denominations have women in leadership roles; others do not. Those who don’t ordain women count among their chief reasons that 1) Jesus, our Savior, was a man, and 2) Jesus didn’t call women to be apostles.

I’ve touched upon reason #2 before in this blog in writing about Mary Magdalene, Apostle. In my mind, though, the first reason loses all validity when you consider that Mary could have said no.

We do consider Mary to be an integral, necessary part of the Incarnation, don’t we?

If Mary had not agreed, Salvation would have taken a detour. (Unless, of course, the Holy Spirit said “that’s ok, we’ll find another woman.” Ouch.)

Mary’s participation was vital in the redemption of humanity. Jesus died for our sins; Mary gave birth for our sins.

 

Those rascally quanta!

This morning, Fr. Matt delivered a sermon that had several of us standing outside after church talking about it. Now, that happens…but this one really struck a chord. It was on a subject I’ve thought a lot about (and alluded to, just a bit, in previous posts) but it’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one wandering into what I’m calling the “physics of prayer.”

Like most of us, I hung onto my concrete childhood concepts of prayer. Asking God was like asking mom or pop.

girl praying

Somewhere in high school, I listened to my inner self that said that prayer could be something more, and could be found throughout everyday life…and of course, my cynical teen self didn’t buy everything from religion class, either. For example, I had never bought the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation. (Perhaps I had an overzealous religion teacher or two. Or three.) And when I heard the my catechism teacher explain that “Jesus could never deny His mother anything, so pray to Mary” I thought that was pretty much along the lines of “if daddy says no, go ask mama.”

As I reached young adulthood and attended a Jesuit university, my concept of prayer expanded to, well, “hanging out with Jesus” and trying to listen to the quiet voice of the Divine. The Zen courses I took at Loyola helped with that (as did my physics and philosophy classes), and partly because of Zen, the book The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav appealed to me. I finally read it in my late 20’s.

dancing wu li

Now, why hadn’t physics been like this in high school and college? The concepts were fascinating, and made actual sense. Yes, on the “macro” scale everything is totally different from the teensy-tiny-itsy-bitsy quantum scale. Those rascally little quanta! Just when you’re not looking, there they go…. but I digress.

Suddenly, the power of prayer and prayerful intention that I’d learned about and tried to practice in some fumbling way started to make some weird sort of sense.

In his sermon today, Fr. Matt spoke of this. He spoke of quantum entanglement. Put simply, quantum entanglement is when two particles interact at some point and then are separated…except that they can never be truly separate again. Their quantum state is such that they can no longer be described separately. It is as though they have a “forever connection,” and that connection is not dependent on space or time. (That’s my 2 cent summary of quantum entanglement; just don’t ask me to do the math.)

quantum formula

No, please do not ask me to do the math.

So what does this have to do with the power of prayer? Well, think about it, because at the very foundation of who and what we are is energy, and we are all “entangled.” Each encounter we have with another human being has an effect, however slight, on our spirit. How can it not?

I remember having this mind-blown feeling when I first learned about quantum entanglement. This meant that intercessory prayer had a legitimate foundation beyond “I don’t know why it works, but it does work.” Here was an explanation for the power of prayer, especially of group prayer and group intention.

My inner cynic/skeptic loved it. For the first time in my life, I realized that Transubstantiation seemed possible. Intention is critical. I’m not going to wander down a rabbit hole of discussion on under what exact circumstances Transubstantiation may actually occur. I’ll use the all-encompassing answer that I learned from the Sisters of Mercy: “It’s a mystery.” (This is why I prefer the explanation that Christ is uniquely present in the Eucharist.) Niels Bohr, one of the fathers of quantum theory, said something along the lines of “all the stuff we think is real is made up of stuff that isn’t real.” That’s not “new age woo-woo,” that’s a Nobel Prize winner. In physics.

niels bohr

Niels Bohr. (Image from famousscientists.org)

We don’t know exactly how the power and intentionality of prayer connects to quantum mechanics. There’s really no way to measure for this connection, either, unless you subscribe to superdeterminism, a group of theories that says that everything is determinable. Taking the quantum physics thing a step farther, Bell’s theorem says that basically…there’s no way to measure absolute outcomes in this quantum landscape because you can’t know all the variables; in other words, free will. (Take THAT, superdeterminism! It occurs to me that I am skating dangerously close to discussing Predestination and the paradox of free will. Physics, theology…is it really that different?)

Free will. Mystery. (Let’s not forget the Uncertainty Principle.) Starting to sound familiar?

No matter what we pray for, we – and the one(s) being prayed for – are dealing with free will. How do things happen? How are prayers answered? Why do we see those mind-boggling flashes of coincidence that Jung called synchronicity (meaningful coincidence)?

How many times have we been thinking of someone when they called us? How many times have we been reunited in a completely unexpected way with someone we haven’t seen in decades – right after we were thinking about them? I experienced synchronicity just yesterday when, at a luncheon, the keynote speaker used the very same quotation I was planning to use in my summary remarks.

I’ve written of some synchronistic events that clearly had a “God touch” to them. There’s the story of finding Nancy’s lost earring, and another one about finding my singing bowl.  I wrote about the power of joined intention at Pentecost.

I recently picked up another copy of one of the God Winks series by Squire Rushnell. I love his books about synchronistic God-winks. A departed friend, Janette, used to call such synchronicities “cosmic post-it notes.” These are those odd coincidences that let you know you’re on the right track (or gently steer you onto the right track).

christ project

What is the right track? Well, we all have a “Christ project.” (I used to hear it called “God’s plan,” but I really like “Christ project.”) How can I become more fully a part of the Body of Christ? This is my Christ project, and those God-winks are like…well, little cosmic post-it notes that remind me about my Christ project, and remind me what I’m supposed to be doing.

rascal quanta

Somehow, through quantum entanglement and through the ripples of energy sent forth by our actions, thoughts, prayers and love, we get back on track when we wobble. We hold each other up, and help each other out.

Following the terrorist bombing in Brussels last spring, I wrote about the power of prayer. News media was sneering about calls for prayer, but I posited that the need for prayer is real. It always is, and always will be; for through prayer we are entangled with others, and entangled with God, working on our Christ project.

We often use the term “quantum leap” thinking it is a huge jump. Well, it’s actually a miniscule jump on a subatomic level, but it results in a jump from one energy level to another. How does that fit with prayer, with being a part of the Body of Christ, and with our Christ Project?  I’ll leave you to ponder that – that, and the nature of those rascally quanta!

 

Volunteer Labor

One of the guys at the camp is a member of the Cajun Navy – at least as far as the term “member” can be used with the group. If you haven’t heard, the Cajun Navy is an unofficial group of folks from south Louisiana who, at their own expense and on their own time, offer assistance in flood situations. To put it in a nutshell, they show up with their boats and rescue people.

While this has been going on for some time here around home (there are plenty of folks who fish, hunt, own boats, and flooding has happened for a long time), the Cajun Navy burst into public awareness last year during the flooding in Louisiana of 2016.

Cajun Navy in action

Cajun Navy in action

Now, the Cajun Navy is part of the rescue response to the flooding of Hurricane Harvey. Paul (one of the guys at the camp) was able to get to Vidor, Texas, and one simple word summed up what was going on: Catastrophe. Back at home, the rest of us are looking for ways to help.

I think that the president summed up the feelings of most Americans when he referred to the outpouring of help and support as a beautiful thing. From my point of view, there is nothing surprising there. Natural disaster = helping each other.

water everywhere

Water everywhere.

A few days ago the Sacred Sisters (my prayer group) prayed for all affected, all who were helping, and asking for guidance – what can each of us do? I commented that my only surprise in this response is the surprise of the rest of the world – wow, look at everyone helping each other!

Well, of course! That’s what we do, isn’t it? Is it a reflection on the world that so many are surprised at the outpouring of help directed towards “complete strangers?”

Compassion. For Christians, it is being the hands of Christ. A non-Christian won’t use those words, but it’s still compassion and kindness.

We are all seeking ways to help. Sorting donated clothing for distribution to evacuees far from home. Cooking for evacuees and volunteers. Rounding up helpers. Collecting water and supplies for those who can go to affected areas. For every helper we see on the news, there are hundreds and thousands more working quietly behind the scenes, doing whatever they can.

Cajun sorting 2

Sorting donations for evacuees in our area

The elderly lady making cole slaw in her kitchen. The overworked professional saying “what do they need?” and giving money. The school children collecting socks.

Maybe it’s because we know first hand the helplessness of floods. Maybe it’s because we know that there are thousands of large and small losses in each family, in each life. Perhaps we respond in part because we know the long, hard road that awaits the evacuees when they can get back home.

Rita flood

Why we build our houses “up.” Hurricane Rita.

Then again, maybe it’s just because that’s what we do.

Perhaps the “surprise” and the “news” expressed by the media, and all across social media, aren’t so much surprise as backlash reactions to the hate-filled stories that have filled the mainstream news media outlets. No, that narrative is NOT what America is about. It’s NOT what the southern states are about. It’s NOT who we are.

THIS is who we are: People who give a damn. People who care about others, regardless of their skin color or faith. People who will get creative and not sit around to be told where and how to help, but who will find a need and address it, even if it’s taking the bass boat on the road or buying extra toothpaste and underwear to share with those who left home without anything – or something as unassuming as shredding cabbage for cole slaw or folding, sorting and stacking donated clothing.

Cajun sorting 1

Clothes, food, toiletries, donations pouring in.

This Labor Day, there are many, many Americans who are giving of their time, funds and labor to help others. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday.

What once was lost…

Sometimes I find things and am able to reunite them with the person that lost them. How did you find that!? I have no idea.

It’s happened off and on over the years. Is this what you’re looking for? I ask, holding up an object. Yes! But…I looked there! It’s not me, it’s gotta be a God-thing. Heck, I can’t even find my own keys half the time. It makes my day when I can help someone find something they thought was gone for good.

seriously lost

Within the past few weeks I’ve had three “reuniting” events. The first concerned a cell phone that I didn’t find – but I did find the owner.

My brother found the phone in the middle of the road. It wasn’t an iPhone, but clearly a nice, new smartphone. My husband walked into the house and said “Can you charge this enough so we can turn it on and see who it belongs to?” as the battery was dead.

He told me where they’d found it, and all any of us could think of was “oh, my heavens, someone put this on the bumper of their car and took off without realizing it…they’re gonna be so upset…” and the middle of a winding Louisiana 2-lane road isn’t exactly an easy stretch to retrace your steps. It’s a dreadful feeling. You lost your phone, your contacts are all on there, you might no longer have a landline, and this was NOT an inexpensive flip phone, either. lost phone contacts

It took a bit of doing. We had no charger that worked. By this time, friend and music partner Bubba had joined the find-the-owner crusade, and we decided to head to WalMart to see what kind of charger the phone WOULD take. Could we use a charger at their display to charge up the phone? No such luck. A kind sales associate told us it was a unique kind of charger, pointed out the only one in the store that would work.

I wound up purchasing the charger, keeping it long enough to charge the phone enough to turn on, then repackaged neatly and returned to the store. “Is there anything wrong with it?” the lady in customer service asked. “No, not a thing,” I replied truthfully. “It just didn’t work with my phone.” (True. It would NOT work with MY phone.)

The phone, of course, was passcoded so we couldn’t access any info about who the owner might be. However, we did figure out the service carrier – one I was unfamiliar with, but that had a local office – and the next morning saw me at the store, explaining to the manager that no, I didn’t want the phone unlocked, but I was hoping they could track down the owner through the SIM or serial number on the phone.

Here’s where it gets to be a God-thing. He powered up the lost phone I’d brought in, and while he was accessing the info in their computer system, the phone rang. Amazing Grace

It was the owner of the phone, who just so happened to try and call at that precise moment when the phone had been turned on. I didn’t realize this at first, I thought it was some higher-up customer service person at Metro PCS talking to the manager. I heard the manager say “no, she’s right here, she just brought it in…sure, hang on” and handed me the phone.

It was the lady who owned the phone! She was overjoyed to know that she would be able to get it back. Sure enough, it was a new phone – and she had been en route back to Lafayette from visiting family. She would have had to have retraced over 30 miles to search for her phone. In fact, they did retrace their route – I can only imagine my brother found it very shortly after it fell off the hood of her car, as it was unscathed except for a scratch on one corner of the case. I was overjoyed to have played a part in saving someone a lot of headache – in this case, there was a team of us trying to reunite the phone with its owner. We were ALL delighted that it was returned.

Fast forward to this Thursday. I’m heading home from work (walking across the yard) for lunch, and I see one of our employees and my husband both searching for something. “What’s missing?” I said. “Hearing aid” said our employee.

Uh, oh. Those aren’t cheap. We started hunting. Another employee came to park a route car and started looking as well. I started praying for help; who wants to have to replace a $$$$ hearing aid? (In addition to St. Anthony, I believe there are “find-it” angels hanging around. I don’t know, I just ask for whatever heavenly aid is available.) We looked. And looked. And looked…. st anthony

Then, there it was. Sort of like picking pecans; suddenly, your eyes shift and you see what was hidden in plain sight. It was lying among the limestone, perfectly camouflaged.  All I saw was the tiny wire leading from the earpiece to the grey battery unit, but it was enough. It’s a God-thing, I said. Go figure.

Today, though, blew me away.

A few months ago, I found a gold earring in a parking lot. It was a coin, in a gold setting, a clip-on earring that had been somewhat squashed by a car wheel. Yikes! That probably has a story behind it, as I recognized the coin. earring upload

 

I contacted the stores adjacent to the lot, TJ Maxx and Stage. I spoke with the managers (or at least, that’s who I asked for) and explained what had happened. Had anyone contacted them concerning a lost gold earring? No? I left my contact information and stressed that this was the kind of thing that someone would be very upset to lose. I put an ad in the local paper….nothing. I tucked it away in my jewelry box, feeling that I needed to keep it safe, but handy, because there was someone out there looking for it.

After church today, I was walking out and stopped to talk to a fellow Epiphanite. As we talked, I noticed her earrings – wait a minute.

“Nancy,” I said. “Did you have an earring like that that you lost a while back?”

Her eyes grew big. “Yes! How did you know?” she asked.

“Because I have it!” I said.

It turned out that she loves these earrings, and after losing one, had finally gone to our local “can-do” jeweler (Allain’s Jewelers in New Iberia) to have one replicated. However, before doing so, she had retraced her steps, searching the parking lot and contacting TJ Maxx and Stage. Nope, no one had said anything about an earring! (That made me fume! Obviously, we’d spoken with two different people at both stores…but you’d think that someone would have at least posted a note on a bulletin board!)

“Now, you can have a matching necklace!” I said. There we stood, in the rain in front of Epiphany Church, with simultaneous jaw drops. We were BOTH thrilled to see God’s hand in this. “I almost didn’t wear these this morning” she said. “I usually don’t wear them to church.”

To me, all of these things are “nudges” from something beyond us. Sometimes we hear these nudges and act on them, sometimes we miss them – or, often, we hear them but don’t believe them or just think “that’s my imagination.” I have to trust that intuitive voice more often, the one that says “hang on to this…look here…go there….”

shhh angel

I told her and told her, so let’s see what she does now. Ya think she heard? 

The very best part of these stories is how blessed, humbled and happy I felt to play a small part in being God’s hands. Sure, it’s all material stuff. But a phone, a hearing aid, and a beloved earring ARE important, and it’s good to remember that we have Divine help with the “everyday” stuff as well as the “big” stuff. (It also feels good when I know that someone else is NOT going to have to go through the headache of replacing a phone or hearing aid.)

Now, before you think I have some superpower here with reuniting stuff with owners, let me assure you that I don’t. I’m still looking for my beloved Mont Blanc fountain pen, which has been missing for quite a while. And my keys. Anyone seen my keys? Crud, where’s my phone? My glasses? Now, where did I put my glasses?

wheres my glasses upload

Oh, wait. Um. Never mind…