What is Beauty?

I have started reading a wonderful book called Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue.  If you struggle with the purpose of beauty like I often do, I highly recommend this book.

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St. Birgitta of Sweden – Motivated by Trust

As I have been doing some research on St. Birgitta of Sweden (St. Bridget of Sweden,) one of the chapters in the book I recently read, Open the Door, came back to me.

St. Brigitta of Sweden is known as the Patron Saint of Widows.  But, she is also known as the Patron Saint of Failures.  This later title is said to have been granted because she never accomplished her vision to establish a new monastic order in Sweden–The Order of the Most Holy Savior, also known as the Brigittines.  

One of the chapters in the book, Open the Door, talks about detaching from the results of what I do.  It was an idea that I had trouble grasping.  I think this is because I am such a goal oriented person.  The idea that that might not be a good thing has caused a bit of a struggle in me.

All I am asked to do is “make the deepest commitment with a total detachment of were it will take [me].”

Open the Door by Joyce Rupp p. 164

The saying to “Let Go and Let God” is one I have heard many times, and I try to apply it to my worries.  Yet, the idea of applying it to my actions and what I do was something new.  Consequently, I have been thinking often about what it means to let go of the results of my actions.  It really requires a lot of faith to do this!

I know that God’s way of answering prayer can be very different than what my answers might be.  I can deal with that.  I can pray that God’s will be done.  However, not being able to see the outcome of what I try so hard to do is something else.  I like to have a goal, a vision.

Maybe the problem with having a goal is that my goal is not necessarily God’s goal.  It is easy to get so caught up in my vision, that my desire to please God gets left behind.   My pursuit can easily turn into my own ego trip.

It ended up being St. Birgitta’s daughter, who carried on after her death and fulfilled her dream to established the new order.

Lord, help me walk humbly with You at my side.  Help my trust in You to be the only motivation I need.

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Dreams – Making Ideas Reality

This is a paragraph from the cover of our church bulletin today.  I thought it was such a great analogy, that I had to cut it out and save it.

Martin Luther King was a dreamer.  So are we all.  But for some people dreams stay just that…just dreams.  Putting them into reality requires focus.  I deas can toss around in your head like a clothes dryer.  You have to stop the machine of life’s busy-ness, let things settle, and pull out what you are looking for.”

~Fr. Denny Dempsy,
Church of St. Dominic bulletin January 15, 2012

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Is God Using Me?

Last Friday, our priest, Fr. Denny, gave a homily and used the example of a trip he once took to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) to make a point.

He told the story that he and a group from his former parish had set out into the BWCA wilderness and were well on their way when he realized they were missing the backpack with necessary equipment–like tents.  So, he and another person decided to go back to base and retrieve the pack.

As they made the portages carrying the canoe from lake to lake, they realized that they would not make it back before nightfall, so they turned around.  Making their way back to the group, they ended up in the middle of a large lake after the sun had set.  The lake was so big and it was so dark that they could not find their portage, which would reunite them with their group.  Then, they saw a little light far on the other side of the lake.  It was a campfire.

Fr. Denny asked everyone at Mass if they thought that God had lit that campfire for them.  Many of us replied “yes!”  But, Fr. Denny surprised us when he said that he did not think so.  (I believe that got the attention of many people in attendance.)

Rather than believing that God had started the campfire to guide them, he chose to believe that God simply used the campfire that another group of campers had lit.  The campers did not know that they were guiding a lost canoe to shore.  That was not their motive to light the fire.  Their intention was to simply stay warm and probably cook dinner, just like campers would ordinarily do.

The point of the story was that many times God uses us in ways we do not even realize.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinsaff/176614332/

Well, I have had heard a message like that quite a few times in the last couple weeks, but I still was having trouble making sense of it.

The message/question started when I was reading the chapter Bringing Hope from Joyce Rupp’s book, Open the Door.  She talks about how we are not to focus on the results of our actions.  We are to be committed to our actions with passion and take responsibility for what we do, but we are not meant to worry about the results.  That part is not in our hands.  That part is in God’s hands.

Is having a reason for doing something–having a goal or vision–not what God wants us to do?  I was having trouble grasping that idea.

When I read the status of a friend last night on facebook, I could not help but smile.  This is the quote she posted, which Desmond Tutu said to another spiritual leader:

We are only the light bulbs, and our job is just to remain screwed in.

Do you think there is a message here I am supposed to learn?

I am also doing some research on St. Birgitta (Bridget, Brigida) of Sweden right now.  (Not to be confused with St. Bridget of Ireland.)  St. Brigitta is the founder of the Brigettine Order, also known as the Order of the Most Holy Savior.

She is the Patroness of Widows; however, she is also referred to as the Patroness of Failures.  This last reference is part of what makes her so interesting to me.  Though she wrote the Rule for the Brigettine Order, she never realized her dream of it becoming an established monastic order.  This did not happen until after her death.

I will tell you more about what I have read about her in another post, but I am hearing God saying to me in more ways that one, that more times than not, he uses ordinary people doing ordinary things to carry out his plan.  In other words, God uses simply who we are.  We do not need to be anyone else.  God can even use ordinary things we do, like lighting a campfire when we are camping.

Enter, the Book of Esther–a Beth Moore bible study I just started last night with a group of women from our parish.

Another smile came upon me as I began this study.  Okay, God.  I think I am beginning to get it.  =)

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Is God in the Walls, the Ceiling, the Floor, the Furniture? Is God Even in the Messy Room?

Yesterday, I received an email for The Upper Room–a daily devotion I subscribe to.  It talked about going though every room in your home and blessing it as a way to make room for the coming of Christ, which I thought was a wonderful idea.  I did not get around to actually doing it yesterday, but it was on my mind.

As I passed the room of our 20 year-old son (now in Colorado) I thought about blessing that room.  The room is turned upside down with piles and stacks of stuff.  I wondered if there was any reason to bless that ignored messy room.  Then, the saying “bless this mess” came to mind.

“Sure, I could use God’s help with blessing this mess.  Maybe that would get me to spend some time in here trying to put things back together.  Maybe I want to clean it before I bless it.  If I did that it might not get done.  Would God even want to bless this mess?,” were some of the things that came to mind.

My thoughts did not go much further than that yesterday; however, today the idea of blessing each room rose up again.

I have been starting each day with morning pages (I will talk about what that is at the bottom of this post).  I was pondering how I was writing about God as if God were not in the room.  I wanted to start directing my words as prayers directly to God.  Then, I started to think about all the places God could be in the room.  Could God be in the brush that painted the painting on the wall.  Could God be in the paint, the colors, even the paper?  Could God be in the wood of the furniture, the fabric of the upholstery, the carpet, the floor, the walls and the ceiling? I then said a little prayer that God would bless the room and all who would enter it these next few weeks of Advent and Christmas.  I asked God’s love to be here, in this place, and in the hearts of all who visit.

Along with the morning pages, I am also journeying with 2 books, which I read each morning.  One is Open the Door by Joyce Rupp, and the other is The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner.  The chapter for today in The Artist’s Rule was titled Sacraments of Daily Life.  At the very top of the page she quotes the Rule of St. Benedict:

“Let him regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.”

I pondered what “..sacred vessels of the altar” meant.  What do we hold in the vessels of the altar?  The body and blood of Jesus Christ, was the answer that came quickly to mind.  So, if we embrace the idea that Christ is everywhere, why can’t he be in the physical wood and walls of our homes?

The book by Joyce Rupp talks about opening the door to our heart and soul–our interior home or as St. Teresa of Avila refers to as our “inner castle.”  Both of these refer to our inner home, a place we cannot physically see with our eyes.  It is the place I think about when I ponder my faith.  Yet, God has given us eyes to physically see as well.  Can I use my physical eyes to ponder God?  I believe God is in my home.  I just need to recognize God more.

Cleaning out our homes and preparing for the coming of Christ can be both physical and metaphoric.  Some rooms are harder to clean that others.  Yet, even if our rooms are messy, we can still make a pathway.

Come, Lord Jesus…Immanuel, God with us.  I welcome you into my heart and home.


Click here for information about the book, The Artist’s Rule.

Click here for more information on the book, Open the Door.

Click here to subscribe to The Upper Room Daily Devotions

Click here for more information on the book, The Artist’s Way

Morning Pages come from a suggestion by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way .  The idea is to write 3 pages of whatever comes to mind.  They are not for anyone else to read but you (if you even want to.)  You are not to be worried about spelling, sentence structure, or punctuation.  You are not supposed to hesitate writing something for any reason.

At first, I found myself writing stuff in the margins that I needed or wanted to do.  For instance, “Wash windows” as I saw how streaky they were with the morning light shining through.  It actually helped me get stuff done that might not get done as quickly otherwise.  I might have passed those streaky windows many times each day, but did not have the time to clean them then, or I did not take the time to write down that I needed to do it.  At first I thought that was why the pages were so useful.

After about a week, I went back and read what the purpose was again.  The purpose is to get rid of the little “censor” that tends to block our creativity– that censor that says…that’s stupid…you can’t do that….  They are the things that squelch our creativity.  By writing and ignoring the censor telling you to spell correctly, write correct sentences, or not to write something down, for instance, you start the day by shoving that sensor out of the way.

It is pretty amazing that you don’t even need to know why you are doing it and it works.  You could say that I was pushing the procrastination censor aside when I wrote down to clean the streaky window.  I did not have to take the time to clean them all, like the censor might say.  I would just do the one.

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The Orthodox Chotki and The Silent Breath Prayer

 

33 Bead Orthodox Chotki

The Jesus Prayer is also referred to as The Prayer of the Heart, and The Silent Breath Prayer.  It is the prayer of the publican found in Luke 18:10-17.

For some of us it may seem that the words of this prayer “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” put too much focus on how “bad” we are.  “What about our self esteem” some might say.  Is it really healthy to go around repeating this prayer over and over?  Would it not be better to repeat a prayer thanking God for how wonderful we are?

I had some of those same thoughts when I was first introduced to the Jesus Prayer.  It is so much easier to want to be like the proud Pharisees and feel good about ourselves.  Acknowledging that we are sinners is humiliating, and no one likes to be humiliated.

It is a strange paradox, however, that in acknowledging that we are a sinner can actually make us feel better about ourselves.  The knowledge that we are never good enough and asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness frees us from the guilt and shame that bog us down.  So, it is in that prayer “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” that we feel a thankfulness to God unlike no other.

The experiences I have had above did not come right away when I started using the Jesus Prayer.  I believe I have to really live with the prayer for a time before I understood the mystery of this beautiful prayer.

By acknowledging we are sinners and asking for God’s mercy, we are praising God for his love and thanking God for creating us.  When we are carrying around the burden of guilt and shame, we cannot even really see the beauty around us.

For me, The Jesus Prayer has become a way that I can truly give thanks to God, that despite my failures, the God’s love and mercy makes the beauty of the world new every morning.  It gives me an opportunity to start fresh.

Along with using The Jesus Prayer with prayer beads (one of which is the Chotki as shown above) this simple prayer has also been used through the ages as a way to pray continuously.

When you breathe in “Lord” – breathe out “have mercy” – breathe in “on me” – breathe out “a sinner”  – your every breath can become a prayer.  If you uses meditation or yoga as tools in your prayer practices, The Jesus Prayer can be a wonderful way to focus your mind on Christ.

Have you had experience using The Jesus Prayer?  What does this prayer mean to you?

~ Chrisitne

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New Pocket Rosaries Listed

I have just listed four new Pocket Rosaries–also know as Tenners, Decade Chaplets, and Linear Rosaries.  Medals included are St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Michael, and Stella Maris.

Check my Shop to see listings.

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Irish Penal Cross Symbols and Meanings

http://www.etsy.com/listing/76469180/irish-penal-era-rosary

As I was working on this new rosary today, I was reminded that I have wanted to research and write about the symbols and their meanings found on the Irish Penal Crucifix.  For a few years, I have been collecting the information I find on the internet regarding the subject and putting it in a folder for this purpose.

One thing that I have been particularly sensitive to lately is the accuracy of information found on the internet.  With that, I have also become aware of the reality that even historical information written in books could be one individual’s interpretation of the facts–especially if it is written many years later.

So, as I relay this information, I would like to add the disclaimer that though this information is taken from multiple sources, discovering what is fact versus what is fiction can be difficult.  But, just as historians often need to interpret their findings, I am sure that people who lived during the Penal Era in Ireland could also have had some varying ideas of the meanings of these symbols.

Still, there are some symbols that have been recognized by Christians going back as far as biblical times.  Many of the symbols and their meanings on the Irish Penal Cross fall into that category.  Unlike many historical writings, much of the New Testament writings date back to the to the times of Christ.

The Crucifix itself is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Our Lord, and so too are the symbols that surround the Corpus on the Penal Cross.

Inscription – INRI is the Greek acronym IESVS · NAZARENVS · REX · IVDÆORVM, which translated into English is Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.

Crown of Thorns –  Representing the Crown of Thorns placed on Christ’s head.

Chalice – Representing the Last Supper.  This is an example where an image is symbolic of more than one thing.  Just as the chalice is representative of the Last Supper, so too it represents the Eucharist where we share in the the Resurrection through the body and blood of Christ today.

Hammer – Representing the tool used to nail Christ to the cross.

Cords – Representing the Christ’s Scourging at the Pillar.

Five Wounds – Representing the wounds Christ endured on the cross–the nails in his hands and his feet & the sword that pierced His side

Spear – Representing the spear (sword) that the soldier used to pierce Jesus’ side.

Ladder – Representing the ladder used to remove Jesus from the cross after His death.  It is also said to represent the stairway to heaven.

? Bowl – Representing the bowl (jug) of water used to wash Christ’s feet on the Last Supper.

Nails – Representing 3 the nails (spikes) that were pounded into Christ’s hands and feet.

Rooster and Pot – Representing the rooster (cock) that crowed 3 the times Peter denied Christ just as Christ foretold.  (This explanation leaves the pot below in question.  However, artifacts that have been found of Penal Crosses show that the images differed. )

or

Representing the legend of the rooster (cock) that Judas’s wife was cooking in a pot.  According to the story, Judas came home and told his wife that he wanted to hang himself in fear that Christ would come for him because he had turned him over to the Roman soldiers.  His wife told him that the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead and coming to get him was as likely as the rooster in the pot coming back to life–which it then did.  (Some reference this as a biblical story, but I am not aware of this written anywhere in the bible.)

If anyone has any additional information or information that differs from the above, please comment.  I will keep this information up to date on this page: http://www.prayerbedes.com/?page_id=528

Click here for more information on the Irish Penal Rosary.

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Holy Saturday – Faith in the Unknown

The space between.  The space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  The space between death and the resurrection.  Is this the space between knowing and unknowing?  Is this the space where I most often live–wondering if the resurrection really did happen?  Is Jesus really the Savior of the World?  Is my faith only but a false hope?

Today, Holy Thursday, I am pondering those questions.  I am also wondering what it must have been like for those who saw those last days of Christ’s life on earth with their own eyes.  Did they ask themselves these same questions?  Will I always be the doubting Thomas that needs to see and touch the nails that pierced Christ’s hands before I will believe He rose again?

Is there a space between knowing and unknowing, or do we have to choose one or the other? If I question what I believe does that make it unknown to me?  Does that mean I do not have faith?

The more I think about it, that space between is the unknown.  Good Friday is a known and Easter Sunday is a known.  Where we live is in the unknown.  Where we live is in the space between.  Physically, we have yet to experience death.  Physically, we have yet to experience Christ’s promise of the resurrection.  However, we are more than physical beings.  That I do believe.

Can I also believe that I experience death and new life over and over again in my walk with Christ here on earth?  Can I die to my own insecurities and let Christ be the master of my being?  Can I be in the unknown, yet knowing?  Can I not know, yet have faith?  Isn’t that what faith is–to know in the unknown?  Or, is faith not knowing but believing?

“I do believe; Lord help my unbelief”  Mark 9:24

Click here for the article by Christine Valters-Paintner that ignited these thoughts.

 

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Making May Own Lampwork Glass Rosary Beads

One of my favorite things to do is to make my own lampwork glass beads.  Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, I can crack the windows and fire up my torch again.

Not only do I find the act of stringing beads a prayerful process, I also find the act of making beads prayerful.  There is something about melting a glass rod and turning it into a bead that often brings words of scripture and song to mind.  The analogies and metaphors of the process of making glass beads are many.

One of the songs I frequently find myself humming is “Sprit of the Living God.”  As I melt the bead and mold it onto the rod, I meditate on God melting me and molding me as well.  My prayer is that I will be as giving as the glass in my hand to my Lord’s hands.

The smaller beads are something I will probably never attempt to make, but the larger focal beads are a way I can offer a personal touch.  They are also another way I feel like I can add my own prayers for the recipient to the piece.

Pictured above are a few of the newly listed rosaries I have made with my glass beads.

You can visit my shop for my pictures and information: http://www.prayerbedes.etsy.com

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