Giving Thanks Through it All

27 Nov


The world is crying. Yet we are called to continue, from the depth of sorrow, to give thanks.

Lord, hear my prayer;
listen to my plea for mercy.
I call on You in the day of my distress,
for You will answer me.

-Psalm 86:6-7

Thank goodness for the Psalms. There are as many psalms as there are human emotions. A psalm for every season, every combination of sentiments we have inside of us. The psalms give us words to pray and pray and pray again even when we can barely speak, even when we’re not sure if we believe every word, even when we are close to losing hope.

The psalms reflect the wonderful paradox in our faith. We see a broken world. We sit in the hurt of the attacks in Paris. We look for our place in support of innocent Syrian refugees. We know that sin, sickness and death will always exist. Yet we believe in a God who comes into this broken world, who lives with us, walks with us. And we have faith that this God will conquer sin and death. So in the midst of brokenness, we believe in and respond with hope.

This Thanksgiving, in the muck of horrible news and a world in pain, we find words in the Psalms to help us continue to give thanks.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he
is good,
for his steadfast love endures

-Psalm 136:1

This life is Bountiful. And as the singer-songwriter Peter Mayer so joyously puts it:

You don’t just say grace
Before you dig in
You stand and dance and sway
Around the kitchen
And feast your eyes, astounded by
What you’ve been given
Before you even
Sit down
In Bountiful

I am thankful. I cry with the world. I give thanks. I sit down in bountiful.

Happy Thanksgiving From Us To You!

26 Nov

We’ve written a Thanksgiving Grace for you to use at Thanksgiving dinner, or whenever you eat with friends and family.


Living The Gospel Today: Gratitude

25 Nov



Gospel Reflection for November 29, 2015, 1st Sunday of Advent

24 Nov

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 33.14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2; Luke 21.25-28, 34-36

“Stay watchful.”

(Luke 21.36)

Advent begins with a gospel that imagines Jesus coming in glory. The gospel fairly froths with frightening images. Scary gospels can hardly worry us more than our everyday headlines and breaking news. Refugees swarm north across border after border, seeking a safe future for their families. Climate change threatens our planet.

Beginning next Sunday in Paris the United Nations sponsors the 21st meeting among nations to negotiate a limit on global warming to 2 degrees celsius. We are inextricable bound together on our home planet. We are all neighbors profoundly called to cooperate and survive together. What we know we want for our own families is what refugees and immigrants are seeking – safety, education, a future. Jesus insists that the loving actions he teaches and lives will get us through not only every day but any day.

Who do you see as a source of hope we humans can help build a world in which all can thrive?

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20 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

–Gen 32:24-30

Jacob has been through a lot by this point in the story. He’s scared, yet he is brave enough to know he must send his family away and be alone. And then the struggle.

Sometimes the struggle is so real we think we might have an idea what Jacob felt. Indeed, the struggle feels like wrestling. It comes with real, physical consequences. We are stuck with a limp to remind us of our humanity.

Yet Jacob prevailed. He saw God face to face. He only realized it, he only saw that it was God, after being utterly alone. After a physical confrontation. After injury. And after demanding to be blessed.

I marvel at Jacob’s audacity. I am a true Minnesotan. I hate putting other people out, inconveniencing them. In his spot, I probably would have missed out on the blessing because I would have been too reticent to demand it. It makes me wonder who, if anyone, I would be brave enough to hold hostage until I received a proper blessing.

Bruce Kramer, in his powerful blog Dis Ease Diary, wrote about going to a lecture by the Dalai Lama. At the time, he was living with ALS and was so afraid his body wouldn’t let him go. This is where his audacity comes in. His community rallied around him:

It takes a lot of energy for me to go anywhere, and left to my own devices, my own energy, my own abilities, I probably would not have gone. My family rallied around me, driving both the van and my chair, the six of us together and me feeling the love. My friend created a path of no resistance, placing me on the front row, making the lines to get in and security checks melt away.

Attending the lecture was not the end of the blessing, however:

At the end of the question-and-answer, his Holiness was asked if he would bless us. In reply, he stated that as a Buddhist he was skeptical about blessings, for blessings come from individual action and motivation…And then, he did something extraordinary….And he came to the edge of the stage in front of me, and when I realized he was coming to greet me, I began to cry. One of the Tibetan musicians behind me gave my daughter-in-law a scarf and he took the scarf and held it to his forehead and then said, “Meanwhile, my blessing,” and he gave it to me. Namaste….And his blessing was a message, that all blessing comes from intentional action, and cannot be conserved if it is to remain a blessing. To be a blessing it must be paid forward 100 and 100 and 100 times over, so that each blessing invites us to further realize the beauty and complexity and messiness of our sprawling humanity.

So I have been thinking a lot about blessing, and asking for blessing, and the individual action of blessing and how that act should automatically spur a rush of more good, individual action. I have been thinking about Jacob and Bruce, what they went through to get to the moment when the blessing happened. And how when that moment came, that beautiful, powerful, personal moment, they were ripe and ready to receive it fully.


Refugees Are Dear Neighbors

19 Nov

Good Ground Press is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  Our congregation has published the following public statement in regard to Syrian refugees:

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are heartbroken and outraged by the recent violence perpetrated around the world in places like Paris, Beirut, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

As we join the world in grieving those killed and injured in these attacks, we refuse to allow the actions of radical groups to push us to respond with anything but love and mercy. We urge people around the world and their governments to embrace the refugees fleeing violence and hatred and welcome them into the sanctuary of our countries. Syrian refugees, fleeing a brutal civil war, are themselves victims of ISIS.

Certainly, preventing any future attacks is of utmost importance, but refusing the deserving, carefully-vetted Syrian refugees who are in the process of being resettled in the United States is not the answer. These refugees go through multiple layers of interviews and rigorous security checks. These measures ensure that we can both welcome these refugees and ensure our national security.

We were challenged by Pope Francis in his address to Congress on September 24: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. … We must not be taken aback by their numbers but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation in ways that are always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

Our charism calls us to love God and love the Dear Neighbor without distinction. We will not distinguish people by religion, color or creed when they cry out for mercy. Let us all respond to our Dear Neighbors with love in their hour of greatest need.

The sadness of so many killed in the terrorist attacks spreads through families and coworkers and touches us all.  In response to our expression of solidarity with our French colleagues at Bayard-Presse in Paris, we heard today:
“Thank you for your message which provides warm thoughts.  The week has been quite chaotic.  One of our freelance editors has been killed in the concert hall Bataclan.  We keep hope that peace will recover but the middle east is fully at war and we pay a very high price in front of this situation.”

War brings with it so much to mourn on every side.

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ
Good Ground Press

Gospel Reflection for November 22, 2015, Christ the King

17 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Sapphire Dream Photography

Photo via Flickr user Sapphire Dream Photography

Sunday Scripture Readings: Daniel 7.13-14; Revelation 1.5-8; John 18.33-37

Jesus tells Pilate, ” My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would be fighting to save me from being handed over. My kingdom is not from here.”

(John 18.36)

The final Sunday of the Church year, the Feast of Christ the King, holds up in Jesus an alternative vision of power for leaders in the world. Jesus testifies to truth that is not armed and ready to fight but to the truth he demonstrates in feeding the hungry, giving sight tot he blind, raising Lazarus. Jesus reveals God’s power is love that heals and gives life. To follow Jesus we must testify to the truth within us, in the gospels, and in our tradition that recognizes the sacredness of every person.

This week as we lament with the people of France who have experienced terrorist attacks, we need also to ask how we can build up the kingdom Jesus is talking about — the unarmed work of building world community. The representative from our district is the only Muslim in Congress. Yesterday he stood on the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, urging people to extend their hands and introduce ourselves to the followers of Islam among our neighbors.

How can you be an instrument of peace where you live?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
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Year of Mercy

17 Nov

Our Year of Mercy begins December 8th!


Pope Francis wants each of us to be “an oasis of mercy.” Keep his wish alive in your home, school, or parish with this beautiful poster. Together we can bring Jesus’ spirit of love to our world.

Click here to download your FREE poster and forward it to a friend. Help the oasis creep into the desert.


Handpicked God

13 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Mark Grapengater

Photo via Flickr user Mark Grapengater

“I’m sidestepping the Rachel and Leah story today in the children’s sermon,” the senior pastor said to me. “I’m talking about Veteran’s Day instead.”

“Smart move,” I answered, laughing.

“Is it though?” I asked myself later. I think so. The Rachel and Leah story is a complicated one to address with children. As adults, we do have to decide what children are ready to hear. It is also easy, however, to keep focusing on only the Bible stories that work for us. Like handpicking the Bible stories we think are appropriate for children, adults tend to continue to side step the messy stories that create cognitive dissonance with the idea of God or Jesus that has taken root in our minds and hearts. There is so much to choose from, and it seems to be human nature to project our own needs onto these faith stories.

Our handpicked views of God can differ greatly. Do you want a vengeful God? A kind God? A legalistic God? An empathetic God? It’s all in there if you look long enough.

The trouble comes when we, as adults, are not wiling to put the stories in conversation with each other. When we decide who we think God is and only look at the stories that support our limited image.

Every verse is not equal. Some verses, passages and books of the Bible are simply more helpful and accessible and relevant than others. Over time, some parts of the Bible have more successfully inspired art and action, worship and ceremony. Some parts more than others get at the root of God’s Spirit. It is okay to pass over some passages of the Bible for small children. It is also okay for adults to have a canon within a canon, I think. The trick is to being open to the parts that are not our favorite and may not serve our existing images of God. It’s good, also, to look outside of the Bible for supplemental material when seeking truth, to remember that God is bigger than any book. Open it back up. Be willing to be confused. Let the idea of God in our minds breathe a little bit.

For indeed, God is bigger, more complex and more beautiful than our limited human minds could imagine.


Social Action Has Two Feet!

12 Nov



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