Posted by: geolocke | 2018/04/19

The Struggle

Sitting on the back deck trying to absorb the latest prognosis.  The sun is shining brightly in the afternoon of a late spring day. The birds are singing like a chorus in the trees above, and the neighbor’s children are shrieking in delight as they chase one another around in their back yard. The trees are full of leaves once more, so much so that I can barely make out my friend’s house three doors down. And yet, amid all this splendor and beauty, a shadow lays heavily upon my heart this evening.

How does one help a friend, a loved one, a family member plan for the end of their days? How do we separate what is important for us from what is important for them? How do we help them decide between one more invasive procedure, with the associated discomfort, confusion, pain management, and recovery time, between all of that and finally saying, “Enough, Let me be!”

Although this is not the first time in the history of humanity that this question has been asked, and it certainly won’t be the last time, there are still no road maps, no schematics, no decision trees to follow.  We face a path beset with pain and confusion, overwhelming emotions and yes, even a little fear of the unknown.

The desire to cling to life at all costs battles against the desire to let go of the pain and confusion and to finally be at peace.

***

Lord, you are kind and forgiving. you know every small flower by their own name, and not the least among the sparrows falls to the ground that you do not know about it and take them unto yourself. So I know that you will be there to comfort and console us in our time of pain and confusion. You will be there with us every step of this journey, and you will be there to greet us at the end.

***

The wind is picking up now. A cold front is making its way into our area and the trees are tossing to and fro as successive waves of cold air rush in to replace the warm air that has let the spring time blossoms flourish.  There are no storm clouds visible, but still the battle rages above us.  Soon though, things will settle down and a new equilibrium will be achieved.

 

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Posted by: geolocke | 2018/04/11

“Peace Be With You”

We had a visiting Priest this past Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday. I find it refreshing to listen to a visiting priest, to hear them preach in a manner that I am not used to hearing. It causes me to pay closer attention to the Scripture readings, the Psalm, and the message of the Gospel.

And so it was this past Sunday that I reflected on the Gospel story that is typically proclaimed on the second Sunday of Easter. It is the story of the Apostles locked in fear in the upper room after the Crucifixion, how the Risen Christ came to them, and the ultimate conversion of “doubting Thomas.”

The visiting Priest, whose name I did not get, preached on how Jesus’s greeting that day, “Peace be with you” was an act of divine Mercy.  Jesus’s Shalom was so much more than just a casual greeting, as many might use it today. His use on that first day was made in such fullness of the meaning of the word that it becomes a divine act of Mercy.

The thought that flashed in my mind when I heard the Priest say this – the thought which I am still discovering new aspects to as I try to find the words with which to write this post – is that His “Shalom” could be thought of as a ‘culmination’ of his teaching.

J. R. R. Tolkien states in a letter to one of his sons that (roughly paraphrased) “to truly appreciate the Gospels it is best to learn to read them in the languages in which they were originally written.”  The intent implied being that much meaning conveyed by the original words can be lost in translation.  I am by no means an expert in any language, (especially English!) but my understanding of the meaning of “Shalom” intends not just a cessation of war and aggression, but more a fullness of health, harmony, and all things that are good for the wholeness and unity of body, mind and spirit.

For me, this thought, still maturing in my mind, now lets me see the full paragraph from John’s Gospel (in English) in proper context: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

In this moment, I can see healing and forgiveness, commission and admonition for the Apostles and for the Church. Surely that is a fullness or wholeness of unity for them and for the Church. I am also reminded of earlier teachings like instructions on how to pray (“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”) and the washing of the feet at the last supper (“As I have done to you, so you must do unto one another.”)

Christ has forgiven the Apostles their sins, healing them, and instructed them to go forth and to do as he has done for them, reminding them that having received great mercy, they are to go forth and grant great Mercy, and reminding them gently of the consequences of failing to be merciful. And this applies not just to the Apostles, but to the whole Church, from the clergy and laity, consecrated religious and missionaries, believers, doubters, and disbelievers, from the holiest stranger among us down to the most lowly servant of the Gospel, the Pope – the entire body of Christ.

There is so much more left for me to discover in this thought that occurred to me in the briefest “flash of insight” that I will be thinking about this for days, a prolonged ‘Lectio Divina” I suppose. I get the feeling that I will never be able to find the right words to convey everything that flashed in my mind, but I hope this posting will provide a glimpse of the deeper meaning of my ramblings and I will leave it here.

I wish you all Peace!  Shalom!

 

Posted by: geolocke | 2018/03/16

The Weight

Lord, this cross I carry weighs my body down,
Causing me to stagger, stumble, and fall,
Leaving a furrow in the earth behind me
as I carry it through the darkness of all my days.

There is no memory of the sounds of joy left to me,
Only the taunts, jeers and insults from the crowd.
I am wounded by whips, thorns, and splinters.
I have no tears left to moisten my eyes,
Only the spittle from the crowd that covers my face.

But you, O Lord, you hasten to give me aid,
You ease the burden on my body,
You wipe the filth from my face,
You steady my staggering steps,
and lift me up when I fall.

Your comforting Word is always in my ear,
Bringing light to the darkness in my mind.
You renew my spirit within me
Giving strength to my body,
Reviving joy in my heart,
Confirming hope of life spent with you.

May tears flow freely once more from my eyes,
Crying away the shame of sins too numerous to count.
May the tears of my eyes be like a shower of rain from heaven,
Watering the freshly turned earth, the furrow of my cross.
May that furrow, watered by my tears, be fertile ground
Where new growth can spring up and cover the earth with flowers;
Flowers of praise, glory, honor, and adoration to You, O Lord,
My Light, my Strength, my Hope, and my Joy.

Posted by: geolocke | 2018/02/21

Little Gifts

In Lent we prepare for the coming of Easter. The great Triduum Mass which follows Christ from the last supper to his rising on Easter morn.

We spend this time of preparation in prayer, fasting, acts of penance, and acts of charity, otherwise known as giving alms.

Some think of this as a time to be reserved, quiet, and non too jovial, sort of the opposite of the time spent preparing for Christmas, the season of Advent. I realize that my time spent in self-reflection might make me appear to be gloomy on the outside, but more times than not I find myself joyful and sometimes almost tingling with expectation.

I can’t really explain it other than to say that the weeks self-reflection and the time spent focusing on the journey of Christ preparing to enter into his passion, and the resulting joy of his resurrection, leave no room in me for gloom. As the song says: “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

And so I take note of what I do and what I say. I try to take an extra moment to consider my thoughts before I open my mouth to speak or before I eat and drink.

I take note of opportunities to say quick prayers at times throughout the day, and not just at the day’s beginning and end, and I look for ways to give little gifts of charity, gifts of Love during the day.

A smile here, and a supportive word there. Making a point to put aside the everyday annoyances and to say a prayer for those who try my spirit.

In a way, it’s almost like a reversal of the Advent season. Instead of gathering gifts  throughout the time of preparation, and giving them away during the celebration of Christmas, I’m using this time of preparation to give away these little gifts of Love as I await the coming of the celebration of Easter.

Of course, the truest reflection I can make is to finally realize that I can and should live this way all the time, and not just during the Lenten season. To live my life giving precious little gifts of Love to others in thanksgiving for the priceless gift that has been given to me in Christ.

May our world come to be filled with people giving little gifts of Love so that we might one day truly live as sisters and brothers in peace.  Amen.

Posted by: geolocke | 2018/02/17

Taking our place

In the Catholic Church the typical pattern of readings on Sunday mornings follows a familiar template: The first reading is from one of the books of the Old Testament followed by the singing of a passage from one of the Psalms, then the second reading is from one of the New Testament epistles, and we finish with a reading form one of the four Gospels. The subject of the first reading almost always relates to the subject of the Gospel reading.

Weekday Masses follow the same pattern except the Psalm is typically read, not sung, and the reading form one of the epistles is usually omitted.  This pattern is carried out week after week, year after year. The Church further structures the readings on a higher level by focusing on one of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) each year, with John’s Gospel used every year during the High Holy seasons of Easter and Christmas.

In this manner, over the course of three years of daily readings, we cover the entire Bible. We then start all over and do it again. It’s a bit more structured than what I’ve described here, but you get the idea.

The reason I am beginning this post with a description of the liturgical cycle of readings is because sometimes we get comfortable with hearing the readings. That’s because we’ve heard them before from the same lectors, Deacons, and Priests. Having heard these proclamations of the Word from the same voices so many times, we settle into our ideas and understanding of what the readings mean to us.

Being so comfortable with hearing the Word in such a manner, we sometimes find that we’re just waiting to get through the readings to get to the Homily, because after Homily is Eucharist, and after Eucharist is brunch with the family, or golf, or football, or any one of many other ways that we spend our Sundays after Church.

And yet sometimes, out of the blue, we find ourselves actually listening to the readings and dwelling upon the Word of God. We ‘awake’ from our comfortable state and in those brief moments we hear something we’ve heard many times before, but in our mind’s eye we see it in a new light, and understand it in a new way. Last Sunday was one of those days for me.

Last Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the first reading was from Leviticus (13:1-2, 44-46) dealing with the rules concerning lepers, how they should dress, behave, cry out “unclean!” and dwell apart from the camp. The Gospel was from Mark (1:40-45) relating how a leper came to Christ begging to be made clean, with Christ actually touching the leper and healing him.

I always have a quiet chuckle to myself when I see that the first reading is from Leviticus. Not because Leviticus is humorous, but because of a description given to me by a former candidate in RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation of Adults) who stated: “Reading Leviticus is like reading the EULA for a piece of software. You just want to look for the ‘I accept’ button so you can click it and move on with the ‘software install’.”

They had a point. Leviticus is just chock-full of rules for living and being part of the community of believers and followers of God. It can be quite dry reading, but it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of Leviticus in order to understand the mannerisms and customs that were in place at the time when Jesus walked and preached among his people, and just how far He would go to bring healing and open hearts.

The reading from Leviticus gives great detail about how a leper is to act and behave and how “He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” The reading from Mark talks about a leper who comes to Jesus seeking healing and who receives healing through the compassion of Jesus.

Most homilies I’ve heard preached on this passage focus on the compassion of Jesus, or the Leper’s faith when he says to Jesus “If you wish, you can make me clean.” But last Sunday, my focus was on the end of that Gospel passage:

“The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.”

Upon hearing that passage, the realization that came to me was not only did Jesus heal the leper, restoring his identity as a member of the community, but then Christ took the place of the former leper by dwelling apart from the ‘camp’ in deserted places. Christ’s healing with not just of the physical effects of the leprosy, but also of the stigma and hardships endured by the man because of the leprosy.

This thought has been with me all week and has triggered internal questions: When I give alms to the poor, am I working to restore their place within the community? What am I doing to help restore the dignity and identity of the poor within the community? How willing am I, or am I even willing to take on the stigma and hardships endured by others who live “outside the camp” of ‘normal’ society in order to help restore their place within it?

I do not yet have an answer to any of these questions and that thought makes me uncomfortable. I ask for your prayers that I may find at least some answer to these and other questions that I travel with this Lent.

May Peace be with your Spirit as you travel your own Lenten Journey this year. -geo

Posted by: geolocke | 2018/02/15

Lent 2018

Seems to me that this Lent will be filled with much reflection and review of many things I have experienced over the past year.

Good choices and bad, failures and triumphs, wonders I have beheld and sufferings I have endured.

Although the ashes will be washed from my face this morning, they will remain in my heart as I walk my Lenten path toward Easter.

All y’all be Blessed and be kind to one another. -Peace be with your Spirits. -geo

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/12/30

Sound Memories

Of all that has happened during this past year, the one sparkling event that stands out above all others is the trip that we took with our friends Ken and Susan to visit Washington State. We took a little more than two weeks and drove around and over the entire state, visiting family and friends, and witnessing its many stunning vistas and its many temperate zones.

And even though as I sit here at year’s end, reflecting upon the many sights I beheld for the first time, reviewing them with my mind’s eye much like I have reviewed the many hundreds of photographs that I took, the memories that strike me the most are the memories of the sounds of water, wind, and earth.

It must be said that our trip occurred during a time of forest fires in neighboring British Columbia and Montana, and the prevailing winds covered much of the state in a smoky haze such that the visual wonders were muted a bit if not outright hidden at times. So, while I saw and photographed many beautiful things and places, perhaps my habit of listening to the landscape around me was better focused than normal.

The sound of water is most prevalent in my memories. I can still hear the rushing and crashing of the Little Pend Oreille River as it descended over Crystal Falls tucked deep amid the tall pines along the Colville-Tiger Highway (Wa-20), the river’s flow coming down fresh and strong from its headwaters higher in the Selkirk Mountains. We passed by these falls early in our trip and they were just a prelude to the many experiences that lay ahead of us.

In stark contrast to that, but perhaps more memorable to me, was the unnamed rivulet we discovered when we pulled off the side of Wa-155 running along the south side of Banks Lake, about two-thirds the way from Grand Coulee Dam heading towards Coulee City and Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park. The road had been slowly climbing up a basalt cliff face for several miles heading toward a pass running through a gap where a large portion of the rock face had separated from the main cliff.

We were one of a very few vehicles on that road and we pulled off the highway just before we reached the pass so we could take in the stark desolation of the area with its towering basalt cliffs falling down to the blue waters of Banks Lake. The road stretched for miles behind us, a black ribbon amid the gray and brown rock and dry scrub brush of a desert-like scene.

The sounds of gravel crunching under our feet and wind blowing in our ears seemed to be the only sounds until Susan noticed some green color on the side of the road and went to investigate. She discovered a small waterfall, coming from an unknown source high above and splashing down a small crevasse tucked into the face of the basalt cliff. Because of its recessed location in the cliff, the waterfall was not readily visible from the road. The unnamed stream went under the road in a pipe and continued its journey down the cliff to join with the waters of Banks Lake.

Although the flow could not have been more than the volume of a few garden hoses, the sound of the water splashing and pulsing down the cliff was the only sound of life we could hear in that spot. And as if to punctuate the message, the spray from the falls encouraged the growth of grasses and mosses along the cliff face and at its base. It was the only greenery visible amid all the dusty gray and brown colors of rock and dry shrub grasses along that stretch of road.

The sound of flowing water is also recorded in my memories. One evening we sat by the waters of the Chewuch River at its confluence with the Methow River in the Town of Winthrop. The light of the setting sun as it pierced through the smoky haze painted the western sky with incredible reds and yellows. At one point a small cloud passed in front of the sun, its outer edge shining in brilliant argent as the light was further filtered through the tall pines.

The light was changing constantly, and I was taking photos every thirty seconds or so to keep up with the rapidly changing conditions. The backdrop to all this action was the sound of the rivers in their stony stream bed. The constant yet always changing gurgling, splashing, murmuring, and lapping of the waters of the rivers seemed to be playing as the soundtrack to the changing events playing out before my eyes in the sky above. And even though the light soon faded as the sun went below the horizon, still the rivers next to me sang their unending song as I put my camera away and greeted the evening twilight.

The following day the soft singing of the confluence of the Chewuch and Methow Rivers was replaced by the wistful sighing of the pines at the Washington Pass overlook.

We left Winthrop that morning driving across the northern Cascades on our way to Bellingham on the Puget Sound. As we approached Washington Pass, we finally climbed above the smoke and haze and were rewarded with clear blue skies and the sight of Early Winter Spires, also known sometimes as Liberty Bell Peak. We turned off the Northern Cascades Highway (Wa-20) into the Washington Pass Overlook area and then hiked from the parking lot up to the overlook to get a better view of the spires and the valley below.

The trail led us through an old growth of pine and spruce trees. Our steps crunched on the gravel path as the wind sighed through the branches, gently stirring the mosses that grew and hung from the trunks. As we approached the overlook however the trees began to show signs of having braved fierce storms.

Many of the trees near the overlook were twisted and bent by years of having faced unrelenting winds, while others had been blasted clear of their bark, remaining mute memorials of past howling and screaming furious storms. In the sight of those twisted, bent, and blasted trees, the sound of the whispering and sighing wind was to me like an echo of storms past, and a warning of storms yet to come. Even though I have experienced several hurricanes and a tornado, I felt sure that I would never want to hear and be witness to any such storms as those that come upon that place.

I was not reminded of storms when we later stayed at Kalaloch Lodge on the Pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Rather, I was reminded of the calm after the storm. The Lodge is set on a cliff above the shore. The sound of the pounding surf on the stony beach below the cliff was ever-present in our ears. That night, listening to the constant sound of the surf, I had the most peaceful sleep that I can recall. The following morning I walked the fog enshrouded shoreline at low tide. Gulls sitting on the shore wailed mournfully while waiting for the fog to lift. I felt entirely at peace as I walked that beach alone in the early morning light.

Later that same morning we drove up to the coast a little bit and then turned inland until we entered the quiet stillness of the Hoh Rain Forest. Amid those ancient moss-draped trees, some many feet in diameter at their base and climbing from the forest floor up to heights unseen, what I remember is not the sounds as much as the silence. The very presence of these ancient giants demands a hushed stillness of awe and respect. Although birds made their songs among the branches of those ancient trees, I felt like their songs and their presence, and our presence too, would soon be forgotten and replaced by the silence of their age-long growth.

In that place where time seemed to stand still, I imagined that the only sounds that would be remembered by those trees would be the slow and steady grinding of rock into soil by their roots amid the background sound of falling rain. To those trees, the sounds of mankind must seem like no more than the sound of a buzzing insect is to us, a momentary bother that is soon forgotten.

There are many other sound memories that I brought home from our trip. The comforting sounds of conversation and laughter along the road. The times and meals spent together with each other, with Ken’s friends, and with members of both our families. The sounds of traffic, vehicular, rail, and maritime, and the roaring river of humanity that is Pike’s Market in Seattle. The quiet stillness of the devastation surrounding the Mt. Saint Helen’s blast area, and the quiet moments spent with Lottie in the evenings discussing the events of the day.

All these sounds come back to me as I sit here reflecting upon all the wonders of our journey together. They wrap me in a blanket of warm memoirs and sing softly to me the life-long melody of shared friendships and love.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/12/15

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

I wrote the following back in 2012, the morning after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We do not seem to have made any progress since then, but with Faith, Hope, and Love we still look forward to one day having Peace in this world.

*****

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” Jeremiah (31:15) (see also Matthew (2:15))

My Advent candles hold a different meaning for me this morning. They shine as light of mourning and memorial, and yet they are still shining as lights of hope in this present darkness.

To try and put meaningful words to what happened yesterday seems pointless. There are some things in this world which defy any explanation. Though many will try in the coming days to explain what led to yesterday’s ‘massacre of the innocents,’ no amount of news coverage and analysis can fully explain what happened, nor help those who now grieve. No amount of legislation, heightened security or advanced situation preparedness can ever fully eliminate the risk of an individual who, for unknown reasons, goes on such a rampage. And so, this morning, we as a nation, as a world are left to weep over the loss of all our children: the loss of life, the loss of friends, the loss of family, the loss of innocence.

As a Christian, this is a time of year for me to prepare my heart for the coming of the Light of the world. To cleanse my life of all that keeps me from being the person God wants me to be, and that hinders my journey toward the union of that person and God. It is the promise of the Advent of a new age for this tired, sad, darkened old world. An age of Peace and Harmony and Good Will toward all my sisters and brothers.

The world seems to be a much darker place this morning. But in that darkness there still shines a light. It is the light of families, friends, neighbors and strangers pulling together to help those who mourn uncontrollably this morning, though they themselves weep. It is the light of a nation of believers and non-believers offering prayers and gentle thoughts for those who grieve. It is the light of hope in the darkness of this moment that Love will ultimately triumph over hate.

And so I light my Advent candles and conduct my morning prayer and I pray for those who lost their lives and for those who survived and for those who are left to mourn for the dead. I pray in Hope for a better world to come, although I may never see such a place. And I pray that in this time of darkness, the Light of this world will come and illuminate the hearts and minds of all of us, believers, doubters and non-believers so that there may truly be “Peace on Earth and Good Will toward All.”

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/12/08

Your Holy Altar

The humble young maiden
Gives birth in a stable
Amid animal filth and smells
Lowing and braying
And beholding her son
Cleans and wraps him in cloth
Then lays him to rest
In a straw filled manger
Her heart swells with wonder
And Angels rejoice

That lowly feed trough,
In a stranger’s stable
Your Holy Altar
Where Heaven above
Touches earth below

The maiden now grown
Having seen her son die
Whipped mocked and spat upon
Nailed to a cross
Once more holds her son
While others wrap him in cloth
Then lay him to rest
In a cold stone tomb
Her heart pierced she mourns
And Angels are hushed

That terrible cross
On the hill of terror
Your Holy Altar
Where Heaven above
Touches earth below

The sorrowful maiden
Though darkness surrounds
Waits for His will to be done
Hears the news of His rising
The tomb now lies empty
Sees him clothed in His Glory
In the warmth of true life
Her heart healed she rests
His heart now her cradle
And Angels revere

Her Trust in the promise
Her Faith through the darkness
Your Holy Altar
Where Heaven above
Touches earth below

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/11/27

Thoughts on a 3rd century quote from Origen

This is from a journal entry made on this day back in 2009.

*****

One of my reading assignments for the Deaconate class was a book by Scott Hahn called “Letter and Spirit: From Written Text To Living Word in The Liturgy”. At the end of chapter 5 Hahn quotes from Origen, who was originally from Egypt, but later moved to Palestine and died there in the mid to late 3rd century after Christ. (see article http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11306b.htm ) Anyway, the quote runs as such:

“You who are accustomed to attending the divine mysteries know how, when you receive the body of the Lord, you guard it with all care and reverence lest any small part should fall from it, lest any piece of the consecrated gift be lost. For you believe yourself guilty, and rightly so, if anything falls from there through your negligence. But if you are so careful to preserve his body, and rightly so, why do you think there is any less guilt to have neglected God’s word, then to have neglected his body?”

There are a lot of good passages in Hahn’s book, but this is the one that sticks in my mind. I think it is a pity that in the centuries that have passed since they were written, we (apparently) are no less negligent than those to whom Origen addressed with those words. I myself am painfully aware of my own negligence. Still, I strive to live the life that the Lord wants for me. I stumble, fall, and with the Lord’s help, I pick myself up again and again. I consider it a small victory when I find that I am not stumbling over the same things repeatedly, but it is only a small victory, and not the battle won. That remains for the final victory.

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