Franciscan Bookshelf: A Simplified Life: A Contemporary Hermit’s Experience of Solitude and Silence

By day, guest blogger K.P.—a good friend of Sister Julia’s—reads, writes, and has conversations about literature for a living. By night, she devours theology, sits silently with God, and pursues her calling as a lay order Franciscan through affiliation with FSPA. Each month she will share a favorite selection from her “Franciscan Bookshelf.”

For 25 years, Verena Schiller spent a life cultivated from quiet at the edge of the world. She lived alone in a weather-beaten shed on the precipitous edge of Llŷn Peninsula in Wales, battling both the elements and overpowering roar of her own silence. A member of the Anglican Community of the Holy Name and a consecrated sister, she shares her story in A Simplified Life, a book that rewards its reader for the slow turning of every page with a deeply felt sense of the holy struggle of solitude.

Photo credit: http://www.amazon.com/Simplified-Life-Contemporary-Experience-Solitude/dp/1848250258
Photo credit: http://www.amazon.com/Simplified-Life-Contemporary-Experience-Solitude/dp/1848250258

In prose that is as difficult and as raw as her salt-grimed cove, Schiller nudges her reader towards gentle insights about the interconnectedness of our inner and outer landscapes. The book winds together three complementary narratives: the rich spiritual history of the peninsula itself, overlooking Bardsey Island; the natural history of Schiller’s new habitat; her discovery of companion plants, animals, and tides; and the personal history of her journey from consecrated sister to solitary hermit. For readers interested in the ecological obligations of the Christian, the possibilities of practiced silence, or the structure of a life that is voluntarily secluded and driven by prayer and survival, Schiller’s story will be achingly beautiful, meditative in its rhythms and depths.

Two words that have drawn me, slowly but surely, onto my Franciscan path are the following—simplicity and solitude—and Schiller delivers a thought-provoking account of both. Silence … what a bonus that would be! But sadly, I think even at the edge of the world, I’d be pouring forth in conversation with the wildflowers, the gulls and the seaweed—as Schiller occasionally finds herself doing, actually.

This is not a journey white-washed for those (like me) who occasionally luxuriate in the idea of becoming a hermit: Schiller’s story makes clear that this is a life of struggle, but also of incredible purpose and beauty. I left these pages feeling extremely grateful for the sacrifice of these sisters and brothers whose quiet prayers animate the abandoned corners of our world.

Old-fashioned trunk-centered simplicity

I admire my sisters’ tales of trunks.

Long before I entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration – and long before Vatican II for that matter – the common, communal practice was that every sister had to fit all of her personal property into one trunk.

Our Franciscan lifestyle is an itinerant one. As sisters we frequently move for ministry. For much of our community history, sisters moved from one ministry site to another after just a year or so. They’d move by train, and all of their possessions would move with them in the one trunk. It was an economical and practical way to do things, and such a practice permitted ease for living a simple life of Franciscan poverty.

The trunks contained three black and white habits, an extra pair of shoes, undergarments, and some prayer books. The trunk also held whatever supplies needed for…

[This is the beginning of my latest column for the online newspaper, Global Sisters Report.  Continue reading here.

The process of lightening up my living

A few weeks ago, my whole life flashed before my eyes.

Well, maybe it didn’t actually flash. But, I really did feel I re-lived my 33 years of living in five days.

In those five days, I looked at all of my stuff and made a choice about whether to keep each item (not the goal), throw it away (the least ideal), or give it away (the most ideal).

I saw my baby pictures, the stories I wrote when I was in elementary school, photos and other mementos from high school, college, and my travels. I considered each item of clothing, each book, and every office supply I have accumulated over the years.

It was emotionally exhausting. And it was terribly necessary.

You see, I moved; from a large space to a smaller place. Before I moved, I didn’t feel like I was living with integrity. So, after this move, I actually blocked out some serious time to really sort through everything I had and make a choice about whether it was necessary for me to continue carrying it around.

I had a feeling it might be hard to let go of things and I was a little afraid. I thought I had psychologically prepared myself when I devised a formula I thought would be effective. My rule was that in order to keep something, two out of three of the following questions had to get a “yes” when I considered each item:

1.) Have I used it recently?

2.) Do I really like it? and

3.) Do I really need it?

Certainly this was a very time-consuming and difficult process, but it was extremely worthwhile.

I’m in my new space now and feel less crowded, thank God. Basically I am sighing out all sorts of relief. I am finally living in much more simplicity than I was–in line with the modesty I’ve desired. I’ve been longing for this simplicity for years.

Nope, ironically, since college and my study abroad experience in South Africa (when much of my desire for simplicity began) all my possessions have multiplied. They once filled a medium-sized moving truck. Or, in the most recent case, all my stuff filled a bedroom, an office, two closets, and a sprawling storage area in a basement.

I am a woman who entered religious life eager to try to imitate the radical poverty and simplicity of Saints Francis and Clare. (And Jesus Christ himself!) Therefore, the magnitude of my stuff was, frankly, just embarrassing.

It feels good that pretty much all my things now fit comfortably in a room that is about 180 square feet. In a way, I feel as if I am actually living in a cell like my elder Sisters sometimes did. And, I love it!

Plus, with the loss of clutter around me physically, I’ve noticed drastically less clutter in my mind and, correspondingly, in my prayer life. I feel more centered, more grounded. This has done a lot for my human relationships too.

My desire for greater simplicity and smaller living isn’t only rooted in my admiration for Saints Francis and Clare and their radical way of living the Gospel. I have also been influenced by my admiration for contemporary movements and trends, such as the tiny house movement, the Catholic Worker movement, and even the simplicity of the small houses in the IKEA stores.

There was good reason for me to have less, to simplify. I realize that for most people in this world, space and material stuff is a total luxury, and I want to live in solidarity with them as much as possible. I also recognize that our landfills and incinerators are quickly filling. I want to be a better steward and tread a little more lightly on this precious Earth.

This was the type of simplicity I long for: the beauty of nature. “Above La Verna, Italy” Photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

Now, a few weeks into living with less stuff, I can admit: It certainly was quite a process to lighten my living, but I am finding that it was totally worth it.

My life is simpler. I feel lighter. I have less stuff but I have more freedom and joy. I feel a sense of integrity. Most importantly, I feel closer to God.

Totally worth it.

Motherhood and Not-So-Simple Simplicity

By guest blogger  Nicole Steele Wooldridge

I always used to find it challenging to live out the value of simplicity in a contemporary Western context.  Now, as a mom, I find it nearly impossible.

I am blessed to be the mother of a twenty-month-old daughter and another little girl due in two months.  I desperately want them to grow up in a home that honors and reflects the values of Jesus — values which I believe are oftentimes in direct conflict with the images of traditional domestic success in this country.  And yet, as a mom who is entirely in love with and predictably devoted to her children, I struggle to disregard the pressures and compulsions of the mommy/baby industry. I want to live simply, but I also want to provide my daughters with “the best…” (insert noun here: nutrition, cognitive development-enhancing toys, opportunities in life, etc.).

From the moment I found out that I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of stuff associated with having a baby.  Merely setting foot in Babies“R”Us made my head spin: playpens, bouncers, bottles, strollers, electric swings, toys, books, CDs, DVDs –how much of this stuff did my baby actually need?  Having lived among babies in Africa and Latin America, my assumption was “not much.”

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Photo courtesy of MorgueFile

For the first few months of my daughter’s life, my husband and I were immensely proud of the fact that we didn’t own a crib.  Initially, we made use of a thrift store bassinet, and when our baby outgrew that, we simply put her on blankets on the floor.  “See,” we thought with satisfaction, “people who fill their homes with baby stuff just aren’t trying hard enough to live simply.”  But then she started rolling.  Virtually overnight, I went from spurning the entire concept of a crib to declining a free crib because it didn’t adhere to current safety regulations (even though I knew four children had happily slept in it throughout infancy).  I wonder: would Jesus consider that to be conscientious parenting or lamentable wastefulness?  I may feel a sense of righteous indignation at the ways in which our consumerist culture preys upon a mother’s desire to provide the best for her children, but I can hardly deny that we are easy prey!

Even without being goaded by marketers, my own weaknesses cause me to fall short of the ideals of “Simple Living.”  Before my daughter’s birth, I was delighted to receive a homemade diaper wipe kit — a kit I only ended up using once.  When she began eating solids, I planned to prepare all of her baby food from fresh ingredients — but laziness, in the form of many store-bought jars of pureed concoctions, prevailed.  And, most scandalously, I confess that I never did figure out cloth diapering.  Our monthly delivery of disposable diapers (“environmentally-friendly” though they may be) always triggers a fair amount of hand-wringing guilt in me.

As my daughter grows older and we anticipate the birth of our second child, the issues surrounding Simple Living and parenthood grow ever more complex.  My husband and I frequently remind ourselves that we want to live our lives and raise our children in a way that would only make sense in light of the Gospel.  But what does that mean?  Given our limited finances, how do we balance our commitment to charitable giving with our commitment to our children?  Right now, those questions arise when we consider whether or not to spend extra money on organic food or a better stroller, but I know that tougher decisions loom ahead.  Do we pay for music lessons?  Do we enroll our kids in private school?  Do we travel abroad with them?  For me, it all boils down to a basic conundrum:  How much is justifiable in the name of providing for our children, especially when one of the things we’re trying to provide is the value of Simple Living?

If you know the answer to that question, please tell me!  I suspect, though, that this is one of those opaque moral areas requiring perpetual personal discernment. I’ve discovered that the terrain of parenting changes abruptly and dramatically with each new stage of my daughter’s development.  I must constantly re-adjust the lens through which I view my vocation as a mom in order to stay focused on what is most essential to me: giving glory to God through this gift of motherhood.

Daily, in matters both trivial and profound, I fail to do so.  But I take comfort in the words of Scripture: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

“Approach God’s throne of grace with boldness.”  I take this message to heart.  A certain sense of boldness is necessary for me to approach the Eucharistic table each week, laden as I am with a disposable-diaper-clad toddler and the weight of so many daily failures!  Yet the God of mercy and grace invites me to come and be nourished… and so I do, confident that the only way I will ever achieve authentic simplicity is with and in the One who simply loves.

This week’s guest blogger, Nicole Steele Wooldridge, has been a friend of Sister Julia’s since they were neighbors (in body and spirit) in Chicago, Ill.  She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, daughter, and very pregnant belly.  She spends her days chasing a toddler, working at a community college, and struggling to live out this thing called discipleship.

a shoe story

One of my core faith principles is that God will provide for all our needs.  Recently, a little sisterly community experience re-convinced me of this.

Last week I renewed my vows. It was a beautiful, joyous event.  Several sisters gathered in our chapel, Mary of the Angels, for Taize’ prayer and meditation Friday night. After a prolonged period of silence I stood up and professed to “live poverty, obedience and consecrated celibacy in community for one year, according to the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis and the Constitutions of Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.”

“Sister Julia’s Vow Renewal” Photo by Nancy Chapman

Getting ready for this exciting event required a lot preparation for me. In addition to readying my heart and mind with a lot of prayer and contemplation, I also had to get my outward self ready. I got a new haircut and a nice new dress, but then I began to fuss about what to put on my feet.

As a Franciscan Sister and a disciple of Jesus, I don’t have really have that many possessions. Living simply is really important to me and I don’t like to have more than I need.  In fact, for several years I have been very content with having only one pair of multipurpose sandals.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  Could I wear my dirty, worn out Chacos® for the special occasion? Could I go bare foot?  Should I just wear my wintry dress shoes or look for a new pair of dressy, brown sandals that I could also wear for teaching and other occasions?  No matter what, I knew that I didn’t want to spend much money or contribute anymore to the destruction of God’s creation by being a consumer.

I hemmed and hawed a while and decided that if it was God’s will for me to wear nice shoes for my vow ceremony then God would provide. This seemed like a safe way to think about it, although in order to receive guidance and gifts from God I need to be open, pay attention and do a bit of work.  To have what God wants us to have, it seems we must be willing to seek.

Once I decided that I was okay with having a pair of new sandals, I wondered how to find them. First, I began checking out the feet of all my sisters, hoping to see a pair I might borrow. I went to Goodwill and studied their shoe options with no luck.  I asked the sister in charge of our community clothing exchange if she knew of a pair that had been donated and might serve my purpose. I looked at everything she had in the closet with no luck.

Then I started asking sisters what they thought I should do. Several of them assured me that it was appropriate and acceptable to buy brand new shoes.  I didn’t like the idea, but I was trusting in the wisdom of my elder sisters.  So, I asked Sisters Kathy and Mary Ellen, who I live with, if they wanted to help me shoe shop. With a hope and prayer we went out to the stores and quickly became overwhelmed with options–most were completely impractical and just too trendy. Eventually, we realized that it is hard to buy sandals this time of year because they are all so picked over.

Sisters Kathy and Mary Ellen were being very patient and helpful.  I was starting to feel a little bit of unnecessary, goofy guilt that they had been putting up with my picky indecisiveness for over an hour. Strangely, I started to use that guilt feeling as my guidance.  After spending so much time and energy I didn’t feel like I should leave empty-handed or disappoint the other sisters, so I bought a really dressy pair and home we went.  I still felt unhappy about the new shoes or the price but convinced myself I should make them work.  (Duh! I know and believe that when we “should” too much, we just get stuck in a big pile of “should” and it really stinks!)

Later that night after prayer in our house, the three of us told Sister Laurie about our shoe store adventures. I said I was concerned for the fact that I have hurt my ankles every time I have tried to wear heals, but if I practiced walking in them I’d be fine. I didn’t admit that I chose to buy the shoes for the wrong reasons, but I think I knew it.

For practice, I put them on and tried walking up the stairs. It was awkward–I wasn’t smiling and my stomach even felt weird. I was trying to be a good sport.  Sister Laurie was tuned into me.

She took the shoes off her feet and said “Here, try these.”

I did. I hadn’t noticed her shoes before. They were pretty much exactly what I’d been looking for and fit perfectly. “Wow. What size are they?!”

“Seven and a half.  Keep them.”  she offered.

“What?! Just for Friday? I can give them back to you after the vows.”

“No. Keep them for good. They’re yours. I don’t need them.”

“Thank you! Thank you!” I said, delighted and relieved. I could take the other shoes back to the store and, after all, God provided just the way I was hoping for.

I am so thankful for my new shoes and for the generous, sisterly love I experienced as I prepared for my vow day, on my vow day, and everyday in this wonderful Franciscan community. I am thankful for all the simple lessons I learned through the experience of getting these new shoes. Wow–thanks be to God! Amen.

Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.     -2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

fostering life in farming, pregnancy and meditation

I’ve been thinking, all of us are called to help foster environments where life can flourish.

This past week I have been blessed to spend time on my sister and brother-in-law’s organic farm.  It was a bit of a retreat, of sorts, as I am in the process of preparing to renew my temporary vows and I am in the midst of some life transition.  (Please pray that I’ll be fully prepared to rededicate myself to Christ at my ceremony on July 20. Thanks!)

The simplicity of country life is healing for my soul. Among the growing plants and animals I was thinking: in ministry, prayer, and community, I am called to foster all life, for Christ is Life.  The awareness that farming is full of Christ’s life isn’t new to me.  I meditated on its endless lessons when I gave a speech of blessing at my sister’s wedding in 2010.  This past week on the farm, though, my consciousness was opened to the truth of Life in new ways.

Life flourishes in healthy community. We are all called to foster the environments that help life be fully alive.  There are a couple of ways we get to do this holy God-work.

First, to foster systems and spaces where life can flourish, we need to care for all who share an environment. I was reminded of this in many ways during my visit, but my example here relates to the impact of chemicals. Although my sister and brother-in-law don’t use chemicals on their farm, most of their neighbors do. Sadly, there was a nearly constant buzz of crop dusters interrupting what would have been otherwise a space free from human noise.  I observed a distinguishable difference in the amount of wildlife present on their chemical-free farm than in the neighbors’ fields. Just going down the driveway to my sister’s house guaranteed encounters with multiple flocks of birds who were seeking refuge in the healthy ecosystem. Naturally, birds can’t flourish in places where insecticides are killing off their food.  Our care for the other creatures who share environments with us allows others to feel safe and at home.  This reminds me of how if we love one another in our homes and communities, we can then open up our space to offer healthy, radical hospitality to those in great need of refuge. Sounds like God’s reign come to me.

Second, fostering life so it may flourish requires attention to the workings of the internal and external.  We are invited, always, to balance our attending to each.  My time visiting the farm was a mixture of prayer, reading and contemplating this translation of St. Theresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle, and also assisting with the work of weeding, cleaning and cooking.  It was a blending of internal and external attending. The book helped me gain peace about the work of balancing all elements of internal and external spiritual living.  Plus, my sister is pregnant. This is a joyous first-time thing, that offered its own profound experiences.  Listening to my sister describe the sensations of pregnancy and constantly consider how her choices were impacting her child, plus seeing the external changes to her body gave witness.  Truly, as I continue to struggle through the trials of loving Jesus with great joy, I am continually challenged to balance and integrate all the ways that God offers blessings to me, internally and externally. We all are.  All activities are full with graces that can bear the fruits of new life.

Our fostering of life shall allow justice to flourish, thanks be to God!
“Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain down justice upon you.”   Hosea 10: 12

In the internal and the external, in our communities and homes, may we foster Life so it may flourish. Amen, Amen, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

“life quite full” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

On the corner of 12th Ave. and Jefferson

True story shared by guest blogger Liz  Diedrich

I was happy to see William pull up next to me on his bike. Last I heard he had been stabbed in a fight and I did not know the extent of his injuries. Surprised at the opportunity, I ask him how he was doing. He seems embarrassed about his injuries and the fact he was fighting; he says he was fine but really blows the question off.

I have known William for three years and I have seen him on and off “the wagon” twice as many times. I know he is an alcoholic. I know he finds himself in a lot of fights. I changed the bandages on his gunshot wound a few years ago. We have a good rapport and I feel comfortable teasing him and challenging him.

So I continue to push a bit. I ask about the fights, work, housing and his alcohol addiction. He is not really in the mood to chat so I continue on my walk to work and he starts to peddle away. But then he stops me.

“What is the beginning of 1st John all about?” he asks.

Confused and surprised, I respond, “What William?”

“I was reading my Bible last night, and I was reading John and it did not make sense. I could not sleep because it did not make sense,” he responded quickly.

“William, are you talking about the Book or the Gospel?” I ask, secretly hoping he is asking about the Gospel.

“The Gospel. What is all this talk about the Word, and God, and light about?”

So I sit down. He sets his bike down and sits with me. I pull my Bible out of my bag. And together on the corner of 12th Ave. and Jefferson we have a Bible study. In the part of town where drug dealers, prostitution, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens exist. In the part of town people try to avoid. Here we are sitting on the corner having an impromptu Bible study.

Street signs for 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came to be through him,

and without him nothing came to be.

What came to be through him was life,

and this light was the light of the human race;

The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.  –John 1:1-5

We talk through each verse. We take each line and individually look at its meaning. We discuss the passage as a whole.

It’s simple. We do not use the word exegesis or talk about homoiousios vs. homoousios. It’s beautiful. Two people are caught in a moment; two people are finding God; two people are drawn together by grace.

“So really, it’s all about Jesus. Jesus and God. And Jesus saved us. And Jesus is still the Light. That’s it?”

 “Yep, William, it really is that simple.”

the power of paradox

Our world is a mess and in need of redemption.  Christ is coming to save us.  Yet, Christ the Light has already come to save us and we are redeemed now. The Kingdom of God is now and not yet.  There’s a power in the paradox that teaches us how to hold out hope.

Yesterday I was attempting to explain the spirituality of paradox to my advanced sophomores as we lit the third candle on our classroom Advent wreathe.  Since we are all about Gaudete this week, things shift a bit. I told the students that we continue to prepare for the coming of Light into the world, yet rejoice over the fact that Christ is with us now.  How can two things that seem contradictory both fit together so well?  With God it works this way, since with God all things are possible.

To help my students grapple with the power of paradox, I found myself on a tangent about light years.  We calculated the actual distance of a light year and became overwhelmed with our smallness.  It is possible, I told them, to see starlight from a star that is actually already dead right now.  How is that possible?  Science and spiritual paradox tell us a lot about the Truth of God’s Light.

It’s advent, the hope season. Good news and good actions help us gain hope in humanity and the coming of Christ.  Even though it’s not yet Christmas, we can celebrate how Light keeps glowing despite death and darkness.

True, there’s a litany of injustice, oppression, sin and suffering that is wider than the world we know.  We know wars are raging and Earth is crying and people are dying. Economic inequality is ridiculous. (Did you know that if you earn more than $34,000 a year you are the global 1%!?)  It doesn’t take much for us to be overwhelmed and want to give up and just face the doom.  We’re responsible for making a difference, but how can we?  It’s a big job to be good like God made us.

Fortunately, with God, all things are possible.  We know that the rich and powerful nations and individuals have a big influence.  Globally and economically speaking, the ways that we consume creates systems and structures that influence lives elsewhere. All we do matters and has power to share hope.  These days, people know that there are problems, they’re talking about the problems and structures are improving.  Our world is changing and things are getting better, because God is already here.  We can celebrate the Light of increased awareness and converted conversations which permit joyous transformation and systemic change.

To really believe–to really have hope– we sometimes need to hear a story.  Have you heard of how the Dodd-Frank act has influenced people in Congo?  It’s wild and wonderful.  The major Wall Street reforms that became law in the summer of 2010 had a tiny stipulation that said that the minerals in the electronics of Americans can no longer be mined in a conflict. In other words, the minerals used to manufacture our cell phones and laptops now have to be certified conflict-free.  A story on The World impressed me.  Evidently this new American law is challenging the government in Congo to become more just about their labor practices so that they can again trade their mined minerals with manufacturers in the U.S.A.  Fewer children are being forced to work in the mines at gun-point because some good social awareness influenced trade practices and ultimately shifted an economic paradigm.  It’s a great response to the discouraged questions of “can I really make a difference? Can we really have hope?”

Yes you CAN make a difference and you do!  You are part of a global community.  You are a child of God, you are the Light of the world.  God is with you, using you as an instrument in your ordinary acts of life.  We are instruments of Word and action.  In word, we tell good news. I am sure you know your own stories about the goodness of God at work in us now. Good news holds hope out to the despairing.  Get ready for Christmas: tell the good news, let light shine on the hopeful happenings in humanity.  In action, you can be the good news and therefore a beacon of hope.  Make Advent choices that empower others. Thoughtfully give gifts, serve, create, or be generous.   As you hold out hope to others through word and deed, you truly help prepare the way of the Lord!

Christ who is coming and Christ who is here now is the Light. Bright beams glow through the darkness.  With this Light all things are possible, even glory out of our sinful lives.  Gaudete!


all watch

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”   -Mark 13:33-37

With wonder, I gaze at a horizon hoping for a Light that fills me in a whole new way.  This time, may Christ come closer to me in my service, my teaching, my loving, my prayer.

May I stay awake and be alert.  May I pay attention and know what is mine to do, and then have the strength to do it.  May my heart and mind be open so Christ can find a home in me.  May I be quiet and calm so I can recognize Peace when it reigns on Earth.

This Advent, may we all watch for the ways we are to be ready.  To really be watchful, we must slow down and look and listen.  We must look and listen in and around.

May we be attentive to Christ’s invitations to be united through acts of service, generosity, celebration and prayer. Let’s all watch.

Advent has arrived.

the prayer box

Guest blogger Liz Diedrich

Praying is hard. It is hard to find time to pray. It is hard to stay focused. It is hard to quiet one’s mind and listen for the subtle movements of God. It is hard when we feel far from God, and it is hard when God asks things of us that we do not want to hear.

I wish a prayer upon my little sister Molly. She has become an alcoholic. I love her. Amen

At André House one the most important things we do is pray for our guests. In the main dining room of the hospitality center we have a prayer table. Here we have paper, pens, and a prayer box where guests (and volunteers and staff) can write their prayer intentions. At our noontime prayer we pray the intercessions from the prayer table.

"Jesus of the Electrical Boxes" (In the main dining room at Andre House)

I pray Lord, please help me know where to live, where to start the journey, where to end the journey. Thanks. Amen.

It is very intimate to share the prayer intentions. A person’s prayers come from the silent longing of their hearts and are raw expressions of their deepest desires. We see prayers of hope, despair, joy, and thanksgiving.

I’m such a sucker. I get paid and throw it away on others. I am so tired. Death would be a welcome relief. Lord, help me learn to help me. Amen. -Nick

Sometimes, I find the hardest part of prayer is honesty with God. In prayer we are called to let go of the walls we put around ourselves and let go of our worldly self-consciousness. We are called to authentically and completely open ourselves to the grace of God.

Help, God, I am begging, I need to stay clean. Amen.

In prayer we are called to continually deeper our relationship with God and to become self aware of our shortcomings and our needs. We are called to honestly look at ourselves and humbly ask God for the grace to lead us according to God’s dream for our lives.

Dear most gracious father God I ask in your son Jesus name that my children come home to me and papa. Amen.

As we discover the areas of our lives where we fall short, prayer is an occasion to bring these things before God and ask for help.

I ask the Lord for a special anointing – the kind of anointing that whatsoever I touch or whomsoever I walk by, they would be blessed. Please also pray that God humbles me and makes me like Christ through and through. Amen.

Often when I am having a hard time with prayer, when I cannot stay focused or I am frustrated by my day, I turn my prayer into a prayer of thanksgiving. At the end of the day I work to quiet my mind by recalling the moments throughout the day that I am thankful for, the moments where God was present in my day.

Thank you God for everything, even the things I don’t see and help the little girl I saw on the bus today. Amen.

It is a blessing and privilege to share these prayers with our guests and in our community. This last prayer was a prayer left on the prayer table in thanksgiving for André House for all of those who pass help with our ministries.

A prayer for André House – may God find you in his mercy and his grace for all you have done for everyone. Amen.