Another Week Begins

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At times during this pandemic, I feel like Bill Murray’s character, Phil, in the 1993 classic film, Groundhog Day.

I resonate with this character most often in the morning as I “make” the pot of coffee, empty the dishwasher, open the window blinds, and prepare my daughter’s first cup of milk.

Day after day, week after week, month after month- this is the start of my day.

I am not complaining as it comes with great blessings. I am fortunate to be healthy and alive, joined by two beautiful children and a wife who after four months of isolation, still is somewhat happy to see me walk down the stairs.

With that being said, I find myself today, preparing for another pandemic Monday, and not necessarily looking forward to the routine that awaits me.

I am already preparing myself for the familiar script of what each week brings: My wife and I will juggle responsibilities, piecing time together like a puzzle to meet our work demands, discuss grocery lists and diaper supplies, and manage to help our children grow, learn, and be loved. As many parents are realizing, this is precious yet exhausting times.

It is easy to fall into the perspective of the mundane, seeing these days as boring, tiresome, and familiar. The invitation; however, is to see them as ritual.

What if we saw each task as an act of love.

  • The brewing of the coffee and the preparing of meals as  gifts of nourishment.
  • The cleaning of clothes and dishes as a blank canvas for adventures and relationship building.
  • Home school as an opportunity to teach our children more than the alphabet, but an emotional intelligence that forms them, guides them beyond these socially distant days.
  • Moments outside as gift, where the air isn’t potentially poison, but precious and fulfilling.
  • Moments inside as refuge, a space where we can strengthen our family unit.

As a Catholic, when I first think of ritual, I recall the sacred liturgy.  I know the sequence of events, prepared to respond on cue within the order of the Mass. I anticipate the next move without difficulty, yet I am still invited to find the holy- to experience God.

And this is the same for us within the secular context and the gift of the familiar. Instead of finding the routine boring or finding yourself saying “not again,” respond with gratitude and appreciation. Say “thank you” to our Creator for the opportunity to be alive, to achieve these simple tasks, and to be in service to others.

Find the holy in the ritual of your routines, your tasks, and your responsibilities. God meets us there if we are listening. Attach prayer to what you have to accomplish this day. Seek God in all these tasks.

At times, we are called to be like the sister Mary in Luke’s Gospel, resting before Jesus, to listen and to learn. At other times, we are called to be Martha-  working in  preparation of the task at hand (Luke 10:38-42).

Find time for both this week. Do not resent the familiar, approach it with anticipated ease as God awaits us there. Also, find time to simply be silent and to listen to God in our midst.

Finally, as we approach a new week, we pray: may God bless us, keep us safe, and inspire us to respond to the needs of our home and our world with justice, peace, and love. May each day bring a ritual of love that we might willingly participate in search of the divine.”

A DECADE OF LOVE

Ten years ago today, I married my best friend.

To mark this moment, as a gift to my bride, I created a sixteen-minute slideshow capturing just about 500 photos. Each one tells a story, a memory rekindled.

Music provides the backdrop, a playlist of songs that accompanied us through our first kiss, our first dance, and our children.

As I watched the final product, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

What started as a simple hello between a California girl and a boy from Queens, we found that kind of love in which poets dream.

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One of our first walks in spring of 2008 in New York City.

To be honest, I sometimes wish I could go back in time and tell my shy younger-self how through the twists and turns, he would eventually end up in the arms of the woman that God created just for him and for their children.

As the slideshow moved from image to image, the blessings flowed. In between these images, we danced, laughed, cried, and found God in both the ordinary and extraordinary.

I then started to recall those who have passed since we said “I do,” (and sadly, as is the case over a decade, there have been many). How we miss them- their smile, their embrace, their love.

I find myself thinking of them from time to time.  I find comfort in knowing they are not so far away.

In these images, I also notice the new life, the precious pitter patter and laughs of children who brighten our world, all while revealing God’s love.

I also reflect on all the new friendships that came into our life since that blessed day, those who missed out on a piece of our wedding cake (it was delicious), but who provided us with the gift of themselves.

Over the course of 3,650 days of married life, we learned, we tried, we loved, and we grew. As we mark this occasion, we now hold two beautiful daughters in our arms and we are surrounded by a community of family and friends who bless us with their love- even if it is slightly more than 6-feet away

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As I saw almost a quarter of our life pass by in these photos, I couldn’t help but think of this scriptural passage:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).”

Anxiety accompanies me most days. This struggle is not present in these images, but they are there, lurking in the shadows. As I move forward, I am invited to learn from St. Paul and to trust even more in God, as God has been so very good to me.

We also feel a deep sense of responsibility, not just to our girls and our family, but to our local and global community. As we celebrate our united love, we recognize that our world is hurting, people are crying for justice and peace, there is deep mourning and grieving over the loss of life, work, and health. We pray that we can be a part of the solution, always leading with, and providing dignity- especially for those who do not often receive it from our society.

The roads before us will surely have their twists and turns. Tears will flow, loss will knock us to our knees, as will other circumstances. We will laugh and we will smile, and at times, we will simply hold hands as we first did so many years ago.

As the slideshow ends, I see four faces, with the youngest only two-months old. My cup truly overflows.

Who knows what the next decade will bring, but if the last ten years proved anything- I am a blessed man, blessed among women, and eternally thankful.

 

 

Come Home

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Colorful Digital Art by Iann Schonken

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.(Matthew 35-36)

Imagine if Jesus entered your town, or more intimately, your home today.

He would find many of us battling one of the most difficult years of our lives.

Masks covering our drawn faces. Rallying cries desperately yearning for equality and justice. The growing list of wounded, burdened, and dead. The fear and anxiety of tomorrow accompanied by questions and regrets of the past.

Jesus would surely find today’s crowds to be troubled as he did 2,000 years ago, and we pray his heart would again be moved with pity.

Jesus is the “good” shepherd who shows us a different way. Other spiritual teachers and heroes of faith reveal a similar path to peace, justice, and love. No matter the situation, whatever crosses we must bear, like the Prodigal son, this path leads us home (Luke15:11-32).

Home, in the spiritual world, is God. Home is, as the saying goes, where the heart is- and that heart is our Source and Creator.  The same God that dwells in your heart, in our temples, mosques, and Churches, in nature and in all things- gently calls our attention.

Jesus brings home into the towns he visits, inviting them to give up their possessions and to follow Him (Matthew 19:21). These possessions go beyond our belongings. It also includes our burdens, self-doubt,  anxieties, fears, and troubles. In God, we find freedom, and we find home.

As I write these reflections, I do so with my soon-to-be 2-month-old daughter resting in my arms. Occasionally, I look down and see this angelic face and I am reminded of God’s presence in my midst.

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This child, a miracle, came from God (she has a small birthmark on her forehead which I like to say is where God kissed her before sending her to us). She, like all of us, started as a microscopic spark and by forces we do not fully comprehend, came into being.

As we were being created, we were not troubled, worrying what will happen tomorrow. We simply were and allowed God’s spirit to move. Why did we stop trusting as the years passed and the Ego strengthened?

The Bohemian-Austrian poet, Rainer Rilke, provides this beautiful reflection to ponder this day:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me. Flare-up like a flame and make big shadows I can move in. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose me. Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand.

This life, in all its seriousness, is not a solo journey. God lives within us and with us- we just need to return home.

 

Day 29: What I’ve Learned

This reflection is a part of a month-long series titled, 30 Days of Healing, as we seek to be instruments of peace and change.

This month, each day starting on the June 2nd, we focused on the need to heal and to be healed.

As I shared in an earlier post, I found myself really struggling at times this month as I came to understand my wounds in a real, deeper, and intimate fashion.

I pray you grew this month and in some small way these daily reflections played an influential role.

As life once served again as teacher, this time I was a focused student. Informed by spiritual teachers, the working of the Holy Spirit, and invited into loving communities, this month healed many of those parts of my being that have been hurting for some time.

What I learned most of all is best summarized by Henri Nouwen: “You are the place where God chose to dwell.”

God dwells within you. All the healing, and all the possibilities. Trust and come to know this as true. Once you accept it, you will realize how God moves through you, and transforms you into a new creation.

May we continue to heal, be healed, and to know who and where God is!

Day 28: We All Hurt

This reflection is a part of a month-long series titled, 30 Days of Healing, as we seek to be instruments of peace and change.

If I learned anything during my trips around the sun, it is this: God loves us unconditionally and everybody hurts.

If we can own God’s love for us, despite our hurt, our mistakes, and our wounds, we can ground ourselves in a place of grace and peace.

From here we can approach others with compassion. We meet their hurt as wounded people ourselves. In a divided world, it is in our wounds that we find middle ground.

Instead of finding success in strength and status, we encounter God on our knees. It is in the crosses that we bear where our perspective changes, where our Ego vanishes, and where stranger becomes neighbor.

We avoid pain, as we should. But when it arrives, as it inevitably does, an invitation is tucked away underneath the trauma and the tears. It is a pathway toward a deeper knowing. A grace to encounter the divine.

There is enough to divide us. But what unites us is our hurt- let’s find God there together.

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