My Reading Vacation


This year, I decided to do something I have always dreamed of … I took a reading vacation. Days of rest and renewal, moving around a bit (first the ocean, then the lake) but solitary for the most part. Except of course for those friends who jump off the page and into my imagination.

It has been a wonderful adventure, and has also helped me rediscover reading. Don’t get me wrong, I read some, but not like I used to. But after years of grad school when my brain could not absorb much beyond assigned reading, I turned to easy reads like mysteries on my kindle app. And of course, we are in the era of streaming television services! You know what they say about habits.

But I miss reading real books, and now remember why.

My vacation reading list? I am so out of practice in literary efforts that I am also out of the loop on newish fiction. So I did some research. I looked at recommendations online from Nancy Pearl and the bookstore, and picked up a great audio book at the thrift store for the car as I travelled around.

  • Siracusa by Delia Ephron
  • The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
  • Turner House by Angela Flournoy
  • Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maude Montgomery

I will admit to liking some more than others, but they all held my attention and brought me into their worlds. I only managed half of The Turner House, because I think I left it at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. (By the way if you love books and the ocean google this marvellous place!). But will find another copy!

Island of the Sea was an audiobook read by by S. Epatha Merkerson. Her talent plus Isabel Allende’s words kept me captivated. It paints a picture of slavery in the colonial era in the North of Haiti, close to where our Sisters now minister. Plus it is just a human story, beautifully told.

I was surprised by The Last Days of Night, a historical novel about the fight around the light bulb patent. I know, sounds thrilling. It is by the same author as the Imitation Game and kept me up late at night and woke me up early in the morning, anxious to read.

As for Lucy Maude Montgomery, I am rereading the Anne Series this summer. It is in the public domain and you can download it for free. I am now part way through Anne of the Island, and it is a joy as an adult to rediscover the real Anne as described by Lucy Maude.

I have a few new books I have picked up at thrift stores along the way, but do not anticipate large chunks of time to read in the near future. But I may trade netflx for real books, at least some nights.

Books are such a gift. Saying a special prayer tonight for authors of all kinds!

How vast and wide

I am spending a couple of days at the Oregon Coast for some rest and renewal.

This morning, armed with my coffee and perched in a comfy chair looking out at the ocean, I cracked open my morning prayer book and prayed these words from Psalm 104:

How many are your works, O God!

In wisdom you have made them all.

The earth is full of your creatures.

Vast and wide is the span of the sea,

with its creeping things past counting,

living things great and small.

The ships are moving there,

and Leviathan you made to play with.

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

You give it, they gather it up.

You open wide your hand, they are well filled.

Vast and wide is God’s love, like the sea. So big it is hard to imagine. There are storms in our lives. The horizon may be hidden in fog. But the sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day. God is present, source of everything that is good, wanting us to soak up and spread that goodness that comes wave upon wave, if only we are open to receive it. God’s goodness strengthens us, helps us to weather the storms of our lives, and to welcome the wonder and majesty of the gift of creation. And then my friends we can share the gift of that goodness, becoming the waves ourselves.

At least, that’s where my prayer led me this morning. Guess I have been a bit renewed!

Believe in Goodness

I have not posted in this space for quite some time. Life has been busy and the world has been crazy, you know how it goes.

But tonight, with the President choosing climate denial over truth, short term profit for a few over long term sustainability for this little planet we call earth and its inhabitants, isolationism over true leadership … I feel compelled to write.

The past few weeks have been a tough run. Terrorism and hatred in many forms grips the headlines, from Manchester to Portland. Terrorism in other parts of the world, places like Kabul and Bagdahd which have been ravaged by war, we try to ignore.

Then there is the ridiculousness from covfefe to the very probable meddling of a hostile foreign power in our democracy and hints of possible collusion by government officials.

It can all be too much, but in the midst of the swirly nature of life right now, I feel I must proclaim these words.

I believe in goodness.

The goodness of people to stand up to hateful speech in my adopted hometown of Portland, risking all for goodness.

The goodness of folks who stand up for what is right, on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, Earth our common home, healthcare, justice and peace.

Yesterday I had the privelege of being with lay leaders from our csjp sponsored ministries in New Jersey. Day in and day out they provide compassionate care in health care, education and social service to people who are poor and vulnerable. We had the chance to hear stories of how the mission is alive today. In the midst of the challenge and strain of this crazy time, goodness abounds.

There is much we cannot control, but we can believe in goodness and act that way. We can choose to bring goodness into this world, little by little, relationship by relationship.

Pope Francis recently called for a revolution of tenderness.

Let’s be good and tender. Let’s follow that sage advice from Micah. Let’s act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.

I have to believe it will make a difference.

Good Friday in a wounded world

Somehow it is already Good Friday, with the promise of Easter just days away.

 Today we remember the power of love.

Love as modeled by Jesus is not rational, it is not self serving, it is not romantic, it is not saccharine or weak or pointless.

Because love is the point of it all. Love is the way to wholeness and healing and harmony and peace.

These of course are things our wounded world needs so deeply and dearly, even as in our name, some of our elected leaders threaten lifelines, tear open holes in our social safety net, drop death dealing super weapons and exploit our common home for short term profit.

And so this Good Friday I pray for wholeness and healing, for harmony and peace. For me and you and the entire human community.

Jesus, one with us, you who humbled yourself and suffered death on a cross, be with us in our cross carrying moments today. Inspire us to journey with one another, to remain at the foot of the cross, to bear witness and to create openings for hope even in the darkest of days. Teach us to love one another, always.

Overheard Rumblings

I found myself at the airport very early this morning, as my friend Sarah says before God was awake.

It was quiet as I went through security, so as I put my bags on the xray belt I heard a TSA agent, apparently originally from Poland, tell a coworker that she needs to get her family Polish passports because under Trump it will get harder to travel on an American passport.

As I sat having a cup of coffee to wake up, I heard two young business folks talking about the appointments of Trump and debating whether his actions and cabinet appointments would be good for business or hurt the economy and people who won’t realize what is happening until it is too late.

We are a preoccupied nation. We are rumbling and concerned, no matter what side of the spectrum we are on. Many of those who voted for President Trump were motivated by their own rumblings and concerns about being left behind. Many who did not vote for him now find themselves alert to what devastation may come as a result of his policies.

What to do with all this agitated energy? I highly recommend reading this article where Tich Naht Han and other zen masters give advice on coping with Trump.

Brothet Phap Dung points to the Buddhist teaching of interdependence: that people we perceive as our greatest enemies can be our greatest teachers, because they show aspects of ourselves that we find unpalatable and give us the chance to heal.
“We have the wrong perception that we are separate from the other,” he said. “So in a way Trump is a product of a certain way of being in this world so it is very easy to have him as a scapegoat. But if we look closely, we have elements of Trump in us and it is helpful to have time to reflect on that.”

Resistance as the Way of Love

Today’s Gospel from Matthew is certainly timely (Matt 5:38-48).

Go read it.

Love your enemies. Resist evil itself, not evildoers. The way of Jesus is not easy my friends, but it is transformative. It can transform our own hearts, our web of relationships, and our world. 

The first reading from Levitivus is also challenging and timely (Lev 19: 1-2, 17-18).

“Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love

Nonviolence

Resistance

The way

Jesus

She Persisted – Praying with Gospel Women

Today’s Gospel tells the story of the syrophoenician woman, whose persistent faith led to the healing of a loved one. I was inspired by the Gospel, and by current events, to create this video reflection praying with persistent Gospel women.

The women speak out and act for healing, for justice, for compassion, and for love.

Grant me justice

Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs

I will be made well.

They have no wine.

May they inspire us, strengthen us, pray for us, be with us.

May be be blamed for persisting as well, for the sake of the Gospel

#ShePersisted

Resistance and Relationship

When I was studying theological ethics at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, one of my main research areas was the ethics and spirituality of Christian nonviolent resistance.

Resistance of course now is a trending hashtag on Twitter. I was invited to share some of my thoughts and research about the urgent need for an ethic of resistance grounded in relationship in a guest blog post for NETWORK Lobby (the folks behind Nuns on the Bus).

Whatever comes next, it is crucial that we develop an ethic of resistance that is grounded in human dignity and right relationship. Otherwise, we face the danger of recreating and repeating negative cycles of violent and dehumanizing language and actions. …

In fact, we would all do well to read up on the history of resistance to social sin. Resistance is not futile, but neither is it easy. The Christian tradition of resistance begins with Jesus, and think of where his path of resistance led.  Jesus resisted dehumanizing social norms, created a wide web of relationship, and engaged in liberating action for the oppressed.  In the centuries since, Christians have followed in his footsteps and resisted social sin and injustice.  

Read the rest over on the NETWORK blog.

Working with the Spirit

In today’s reading from Paul’s Letter to Timothy, we hear

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.

I think we all need to pray with and reflect on these words, especially as we enter into a time like none we have experienced in our lifetimes, when the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the marginalized and vulnerable are under attack by misguided, isolationist and dare I say non-Christian policies.

But God did not give us a spirit of cowardice. God gave us the Holy Spirit to disturb us, urge us on, and give us the energy and inspiration to stand up for what is good and right and just.

We were called to these times to bring the Gospel values of love, justice, peace, inclusion, equality, and compassion to our lives together. We are called to work with the Spirit on behalf of the common good.

The church, which means both leaders and the people of God, needs to be a strong voice for Gospel values during these dark days. 

For my part, I have decided to tweet to the president each day of his administration, since it is a platform he follows religiously as it were. But more important than whether or not he actually reads any of my tweets, I am committed. I am praying for him each day. I am praying for those who are impacted by his unjust policy choices. And I am speaking out. Resistance must be centered in the goal of right relationship, and at this point when I want to just hide under the covers, I am called to stay at the table and engaged, to keep my eyes open, and to act with a compassionate heart and a loud voice for justice. As someone who follows Jesus, it is the least I can do, and hopefully this commitment will lead me to courageous action on behalf of the common good.

Who will join me?