little bluebird of happiness

I’ve been posting a lot of pictures lately. I’ve enjoyed the Daily Post picture challenge of the week, and then got excited about posting daily with a photo lent reflection. Both challenges have been fun, and they’ve made me look at things with an eye for the camera lens. Unfortunately, that default almost resulted in my missing a delightful scene this morning.

I was doing some cleaning up in the kitchen after my breakfast, and I happened to look through the small pass-through window above my sink and out through the large window in the next room. I have a perfect view of our garden which includes a birdbath at the end of a little path out to the yard. I noticed there was a lot of activity in the bird bath, so I grabbed my cup of coffee and stood at the window to watch for a moment.

A big fat bluebird was perched on the edge of the bird bath. I’d never seen bluebirds come so close to the house, so I stood for a moment watching closely to make sure it was, in fact, a bluebird. Sure enough, it was!

I got so excited! I have a running joke about bluebirds with a friend, and it was like a little gift — to think of her and send up a brief prayer of thanksgiving for our friendship. I was tempted to look for my camera to capture the bird.

And then I stopped myself. Did I really want to walk away from this delightful little moment? What if the bird left while I was looking for a camera or my phone?

WHY AM I LIVING MY LIFE IN CAPTURED PHOTO OPS INSTEAD OF LIVING IN THE MOMENT?

It took an effort to stay, but I’m so glad I did. I finished my cup of coffee while the bluebird repeatedly dunked iteself into the water. It was so sweet. Dive, pop up, shake the feathers, dive again.

I would have missed it if I hadn’t come to my senses.

7 Last Words of Christ

 Last night at our parish I had the honor of giving one of the reflections for the 7 Last Words of Christ service. It’s usually my experience that when I do something like this, I benefit much more from it than what I think I can contribute. I mean, I certainly hope, trust actually, that the Holy Spirit used me as a vehicle to touch the hearts and minds of the persons in attendance. Nevertheless, my preparations, whether in prayer or reading scripture and some of Mother Teresa’s writings, impacted me in wondrous ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my gifts of teaching and communication with an audience. I’m more grateful that when I do, it brings me closer to Christ. Here’s some of what I said:

Jesus said, “I thirst.” (Jn 19:28)

“I thirst.”

Christ’s words from the cross fulfill the Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst” (Psalm 69:21).

Jesus Christ, both God and man, humiliated, beaten, dragged through the streets and nailed to a cross, now utters — not a plea for drink, but rather, a simple statement of fact.

It isn’t a command or an exclamation. It isn’t a request.

It’s a simple declarative sentence.

A sentence that states a fact and ends with a period. A full stop.

It is in that long pause that we can reflect and find deep meaning.

“I thirst.”

In these words, Christ reminds us of his shared humanity with us. He thirsts. His body, broken, needs water to quench his immense dehydration after sweating and bleeding through the horrifying experience of crucifixion.

It’s a basic physical need we have as human beings, to yearn for drink when we are thirsty, and here, in his final moments, we are reminded that our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, is also Man, a man.

Surely, Jesus thirsted for water. But for what more?

In the Gospel of John we hear the story of the woman at the well, where Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and then reveals that he is the source of living water. She stands before him, as we do, sinful… yet worthy of his love. In that story, we see Jesus seek the woman, and we also see that she finds him, her Savior.

Where Christ may thirst for us to seek him, we, too thirst for him, for his Saving Grace — for the living water that only he can provide.

A few years ago I completed a consecration to Jesus through Mary. In this contemporary consecration, I read some of the writings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. It was Mother Teresa’s writings, her reflection on what it means to thirst that drew me deeper into the consecration.

Mother Teresa stated that the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Christ. In a letter to all the sisters, Mother Teresa reminds them, exhorts them that Christ’s thirst “ was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, ‘I thirst,’ instead of ‘Give Me your love’… ‘I thirst.’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.

Mother Teresa explained to the sisters that this was not an open, general statement, but rather, an invitation to personal encounter with Christ. He speaks directly to us. He tells us that he thirsts for us.

How do we respond? Do we thirst for him? Do we live to satiate his thirst?

When I hear, “I thirst,” I want to come to Jesus’ side. I want to offer him, not vinegar, but fresh, cool water.

I want to give him my best.

I want to give Jesus what he desires — me. My unconditional love. My time…my presence. Jesus thirsts for my surrender to him, to his will. To his love.

My response is to go to him. To thirst, in turn, for him.

For, I, too, thirst.

surprised by a smile: a commute made better

This morning I was caught in that nasty rainy-ish weather that makes everybody forget how to drive. I grumbled for miles, put out by the misery of red lights reminding me that my 25 minute commute was going to be more like 45 minutes.

And then, this at a red light:

smile

I didn’t even care that the truck’s owner was looking at me in the rear view mirror while I took picture after picture — trying to get a good shot. He probably thought I was trying to get his tag instead of the best bumper sticker ever.

The message changed my mood immediately.

I’ve been working on a brief talk for my parish this week, and I’ve been reading Mother Teresa’s writings in preparation for delivering a 5-minute reflection. It’s all there, in the smile, and the message. I love that pop culture swipes its copy from the Saints.

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
Mother Teresa

Texting with Jesus

My new iPhone 6 has been acting up a bit lately. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the phone, and yet…I’m a little hesitant to say that I think Jesus is sending me messages.

I know. I know. I just drifted into that weird place occupied by church ladies and crazed wingnuts on TV.

It isn’t like that. Really. And I don’t think I’m crazy. It’s just…I realize that God can use everything, everywhere, at his disposal to shake me up. To speak to me.

It has been my prayer, to hear what He has to say. And now that I seem to have a direct line, well…I’m kind of stepping back and discounting it.

For years I’ve heard people say how they hear the Lord speak to them. I’ve often said the same thing, not because I heard the words, but because circumstances have lined up in such a way that I was able to discern meaning from it. Perhaps that’s because I don’t really think in words, but in pictures. I tend to sense rather that see/hear communication. In fact, I’d rather have a warm hug than hear the words “I love you.” Ok, I’ll take both, but my default setting is for the hug.

So, it’s always made sense to me that God’s voice was probably not going to come on over the PA system.

And yet…I’ve told Him on more than one occasion that I’d like a memo detailing what He wants me to do. Recently, sitting before the Blessed Sacrament during a much needed break in my busy week, I realized that I could talk to Jesus, should talk to Jesus, about as often as I sent a text message in my day. Or played Words with Friends.

It was a funny thought, but I ran with it. I actually think it’s a pretty sound approach to spontaneous prayer. Why not reach out to Him with a little love note in the day. A request for an intention. A note to just say hi.

Why not indeed? I do it all the time with my friends and family. I’ll send a random note with a smile to just say hello or I’m thinking of you. I’ve sent out an S.O.S. in this way, too. Or just taken a break in my schedule to connect with someone who is far away.

So I started to do this. I started to text with Jesus.

I was not prepared to have Him respond. Literally.

Since switching over to my new phone, an app I purchased a while ago has randomly opened. What the name of the app? Words with Jesus. I kid you not. In fact, here’s today’s entry:

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That popped open in my pocket while I was walking across campus. Seriously.

Last week, on a busy day that was getting busier by the minute, I thought I heard a voice and pulled my phone out of my pocket. It was Fr. Gaitley’s voice, reciting the Rosary. I hadn’t prayed the Rosary that day.

Yesterday, my phone was sitting on my desk as I worked, and the screen opened up to reveal yesterday’s Gospel. It’s not easy for Laudate to just open to the Gospel reading. The reading blew me away a little, too.

Look. I don’t know what to make of this. It could just be a series of coincidences. I have the Words with Jesus app set to send me the entry at a specific time. I use the Marian’s Rosary app almost every day on my commute. Laudate is one of my go to apps in the morning. There’s a logical explanation, probably stemming from the fact that I never, ever, close out my apps until one of my kids grabs my phone and does it, accompanied by their judgy shaking heads. So. Technology.

But I’d rather think I’m texting with Jesus, and He texts back.

my personal reading challenge

read

There was a time in my life when I was reading 2-3 books a week. For pleasure.

That didn’t include the reading I had to do for work or school, which was often pleasurable, but not necessarily.

And then something happened, and I quit reading for pleasure. Other things required my attention, and I still had to read for work, so I kind of let that go. I’m knocking that out right now. I still have a lot of reading to do for work, some of it is good and fun, but most is very dry and academic.

I’m reclaiming my love of literature!

Right here! Right now!

I plan to read 25 books in what remains of 2015. That’s about a book every couple of weeks or so. Very do-able. In fact, some of you might think I’m low-balling based on my previous habits. Nope. I’m setting a goal I can handle, but there’s a twist. I’m going to qualify the books.

1. A totally gratuitous and vapid book that I’ll forget the moment I set it down after finishing it.
2. A biography.
3. A history book. Preferably American history because I’m weak there.
4. A book about music. The Inextinguishable Symphony by Martin Goldsmith
5. A book about an artist.
6. A book of poetry.
7. A book about prayer.
8. A science-fiction novel. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
9. A book about Catholic theology.
10. A book about writing.
11. A classic.
12. A New York Times best-seller.
13. A book in Spanish.
14. A romance.
15. A murder mystery.
16. A book about a Saint.
17. A book BY a Saint.
18. A book by a friend. A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac by Margaret Rose Really
19. A book about photography.
20. A book about science. Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man Who Invented the 20th Century by Sean Patrick
21. A book with a pretty cover. Yes, I’m going to judge it.
22. A book with an ugly cover. I’ll stay open minded.
23. A banned book. Hey. It’s me we’re talking about here.
24. A book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for years.
25. A book you recommend.

I’ll come back here and review the book, and cross it off the list. Let’s see how far I can get. :-)

Don’t forget to leave me recommendations in the comments. And of course, you’re invited to play along with me!