when our relating rocks and ripples

One of my favorite TV shows is Joan of Arcadia.

I became hooked on the show and realized its profundity when I was part of a canonical novitiate community five years ago. We watched the entire series from start to finish together.  I remember how we would frequently be impressed with how the themes and lessons of the shows would reinforce what we were learning about God’s loving, relational ways in the classroom, ministry and communal living.

Now I continue to learn over-and-over again how the point of all this Gospel living is not piety, nor service, nor any great accomplishment.  Rather, relationship is the core of this messy Jesus business.  Yup, building God’s kingdom requires a lot while we increase and deepen our relational connections.

We are made to be together, grow closer to God and unite in love. In fact, the Holy Trinity models for us how to be in a constant, selfless, flowing, creative communion.  In our community, we give and receive, we share, we listen, we help, heal, teach- just like God does.

The thing is, it takes a lot of work to build up relationships that are good and strong.  We must be vulnerable, open, honest, trusting and compassionate.  If I don’t take the risk of being genuine and admitting my inadequacies with my students, could I ever expect them to be real with me?  If I don’t reveal my weakness to my superiors, can I really count on them to support me when I fall and fail?  Can I expect others to listen lovingly to me if I don’t take the time to lovingly listen to them?  There’s a lot of give and take; it’s rocky and unstable.  Yet the hard work creates a rock solid foundation that can survive any tumultuous crisis, misunderstanding or mistake.  I count on my relationships with people being rocky.

Truly, my worse sins are those that rock the relationships that I hold most dear.  I can tear myself apart with sorrow that I may have hurt my path to union with God or my connectedness to other people.  Sin is, in fact, any thing that hurts or destroys one’s relationship with God, others and oneself.  I am glad God heals, forgives and mends my mistakes!

Ah yes, the great God relationship!  Back when I was a novice, my life was focused on the hard work of building a more solid foundation of prayer and contemplation in my relationship with God.  Amazingly, I began to realize that my conversations with God were beginning to be influenced by how Joan related to God in the Joan of Arcadia series that my community was watching together.  I became more genuine and real.  I went through all my moods with God’s steadiness serving as my rock.  I’d get ecstatic; I’d argue; I’d pout; I’d complain; I’d say no and then yes. I never held back what I was thinking and feeling in my getting to know God better. And, I kept on listening and loving without fear of how it might change me.  I realized my realness was a gift that only I could give God and I became more happy to give it, because well, God rocks, right?!

Lately though, my relationships have magnified the meaning of rocks. In fact, I am in awe of how rocks, when thrown into water, create ripples.

This contemplation is also influenced by the Joan of Arcadia series! I keep thinking about this segment from when Joan’s boyfriend, Adam, hears the suicide note his mother read aloud:

Helen Girardi: [reading Adam’s mom’s suicide note] “Dearest boy, my Adam. I dreamed a dream, you and I facing each other in a tiny yellow boat on green water under a blue sky. Me and my son and a yellow boat. And we laugh, and the boat rocks and the ripples spread from the boat to pond to sea to sky and nothing can stop them, and nothing ever will. When you think of me, Adam, know that in a world of pain, you were, and always will be my joy. Love, Mom.” -From “Joan of Arcadia: Jump (#1.12)” (2004)

As I love, minister, and relate to many, I continue to be astounded with how God’s graces send ripples of love and joy throughout all the webs of my relationships.  It’s like networks, I suppose, but that just seems like too much of an institutional or corporate word for the messy, rocky, wavy way of the Gospel.

It’s true, though, one little loving touch on the web of relationships can send ripples of goodness all over.

One of the greatest ways I have witnessed the ways that relational love can ripple is by what I have witnessed happen to Tubman House in the past six weeks.  Praise God! Many, many people and groups of people who I know have responded generously to my plea to help save Tubman House.  I have been surprised with how my Truth-telling has multiplied blessings and miracles.  I have been impressed with how people I barely know (and others I only know by the 2nd or 3rd degree!) have given their time, talent and resources all to help keep the non-profit going.

Wow, there’s great beauty in the ripples of our love.   Often it’s a beauty we never get to see.  See it or not, we can have joy and then send more ripples of goodness moving!

“peace rain” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

3 simple ways to honor St. Francis today

Happy St. Francis Day!!!

I love this guy.

Today, I invite you to do three simple and important things to honor St. Francis and his legacy that continues to inspire people, like me, to follow Jesus in messy, authentic ways.  The three actions I propose are totally Franciscan things to do.

Join my Franciscan family and me in celebrating the goodness of God and praising him for the gift of our founder!

Help us try to build the kingdom of God through our actions, ministry, simple lifestyle and prayer.

1.) Help the Poor.  There are a lot of ways you can help those less fortunate. I really, really would like you to help me with one cause that is near and dear to my heart and causing me to have a hard week.  The people who I know at Tubman House in California are in desperate need for help right now.  Unless they get enough donations quickly they’ll have to close this weekend or at the end of the month. If Tubman closes, some amazing parents and their children will go back to being homeless and the organization will be forced to stop doing all the amazing work they doRead all about the details and make a donation here.  Sign up to become a regular donor here.

2.) Protect the Environment. Just like helping the poor, there are many, many ways you can protect the environment.  I’d love it if you checked out all the awesome work that the good people at Catholic Climate Covenant are up to. And, then, I hope you’ll sign The St. Francis Pledge!

3.) Pray and Work for Peace. I had trouble coming up with a suggestion for this one– because there are so many issue specific peace organizations- -but being a nonviolent peacemaker is totally important.  Perhaps we can all pause for at least 30 quiet minutes in solitude and silence today to pray for peace in our hearts, our homes, our communities, our country and our world.

The great thing is that if we do these three simple actions we won’t just honor Francis, we’ll honor Jesus too.  That’s the great thing about saints!

Thanks for your participation and Happy St. Francis Day!

like the flowers

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”      –Mt 6:24-34

One of my greatest sins is to be full of worry.  At times my mind can obsess about all that I am concerned about: people, tasks and upcoming events.  My body stresses and thoughts keep me away from relaxing into the arms of Jesus.

Jesus’ words humble me. It’s not all up to me. I am not in charge. God’s got this. I can trust, and I need to. I can let go and let God handle everything.  Sometimes all I really need to do is show up with a heart full of love and then amazing graces flow.  I’ve experienced this, and it is incredibly awesome.

Yet I have been trained to be responsible.  I need to work hard, be prepared and organized.  I need to set goals and plan for the future. I need to practical and careful.  I train my students in the same ideals now while I wonder if they are developing faith in God’s power.

Certainly there is a certain amount of balance that is healthy and important.  While we work to build the reign of God, we remember over and over that it is not about us; we are very small and God is huge.  When things don’t run smoothly the temptations to worry flow around us.  It can be confusing and overwhelming. At times the challenges can be so extreme and painful that our doubts can stall us on the path of faithfulness. Still, we know that it is important to be faithful in the great times and the ordinary times, so we are in the habit of trusting in the hard times.

Many people I know who have lived through violence and poverty have the strongest faith.

A few years ago I had the profound privilege of working with young adults who were transitioning from the chaos of homelessness to the stability and security of having their own place, savings, a solid job and a good education.  One of the youth was bright and bold, but life had spun her in circles.  While she was a resident in the community she taught me how to work hard and make the world a better place while pausing and trusting in the beauty of life.

“All I wanted since I was a little girl was to stand still and grow like flowers do.  At Tubman, they are passionate about the growth of each individual entering these doors. I can finally say I have a place to stand still and grow.” –Sharniece, Tubman Resident

As we all turn away from worry toward faith in God’s beauty, I hope and pray we can all find a place to stand still and grow like flowers do. Amen.

"standing still" By Julia Walsh, FSPA