Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Flight of the Goose

This past week the trees burst forth in color as Autumn flourishes before our eyes. Change is happening and there is nothing we can do to stop it. So much the case through every aspect of life, and yet as the seasons shift the reality always brings about new thoughts.

Autumn is a dramatic experience as we move from green, to many-colored to leafless trees. I spent time praying in our cemetery yesterday while contemplating questions about changes. These questions are daunting at times and this time of year brings about many.  So, I stood before the grave of Mother Agnes who was responsible for bringing us to Fond du Lac and reflected for a bit about changing realities. And, just when I was there for like thirty seconds the same thing that often happens--and is so not about the spiritual journey--happened. Somehow, I became very aware of being in the graveyard visible to potential others. This completely blew the zen moment out of the water. It reminds me of being a candidate and going into a church with one of the sisters to pray the stations together. I was so concerned that somebody would see me walking in there I wanted to turn and run away. It makes me laugh when I get embarrassed about that edgy, silly feeling of exposure. There is a quote that I always mess-up, yet it was on my mind yesterday and Mother Theresa had a similar one so I offer this, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." I may not move mountains, yet the work before me can be done with presence of mind and heart and that will assist in answering the questions that arise with the seasons in life and throughout the year.

Yesterday afternoon I was driving to Milwaukee and was completely taken up by several V-formations of geese flying in what appeared to be slow motion. It was so captivating I almost lost my focus for the road. My eyes were drawn to this scene and it was surreal. For just a moment it was like everything was stopping and it felt like I could experience the stillness at 72 mph in a car. Hard to explain the experience, yet it was amazing, frightening, and illusory. It all slipped by and before you know it I was at my destination and all was forgotten. Today, it came back to me as again I was in the car driving and observing the beauty of the trees along the roads (no birds in slow motion this time). There is great beauty at this time of year. I know that the days are getting shorter, and some do not do well with the darkness. For me it Autumn does bring about chaos with the changes, and it is disconcerting as we move from Summer's activity to this transitional space. Yet, something about the smell of the dying leaves, and the sound of them as I walk in the grass helps me ease through the changes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Contending with Time

Last night we celebrated my friend Donna's birthday and every year we do it is like the summer close-out sale. Glad for the experience and now waiting for what is next. It was a good time in the midst of the whirlwind of these days. Life has just been moving so fast it seems and for whatever reason I am not keeping on top of my work in the way I would like. The semester doesn't seem to be offering relief as the days roll out. Every Sunday I think this is the week that my commitments will slow down. And, then I get hit with the insane reality of the calendar.

So, yesterday there was this meeting and I decided not to volunteer for anything. Something opened up while we sat together with the need for people to step forward as I fought the urge to offer assistance. I realized that sometimes there is this nagging voice that tells me I need to be more responsible. This little voice would be like choking on nails if it were solid and real. The break through was interesting as I struggled to keep my hand down. What is that compulsory need to serve? It is obvious that I am not the only one who suffers from over commitment when I look at many of the people I know. Whatever it is this runs counter to how I planned to create more balance this year (there is some movement....minimal at best).

This week will be another fresh start as I begin re-thinking a project for Qualitative Research and searching for data regarding Adult Development. My goal for the week is to do one thing at a time and not allow the reading and correcting papers bog me down, or even worse, overwhelm to the point of inactivity. I offer a blast from the past for a song tonight, just to bring in some smiles. I played it last night for a moment and it has been in my head all day, a continuation of the birthday celebration it seems.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pondering Leadership

Tonight I am reading The Case for Servant Leadership by Kent Keith and thinking about how he contrasts a power-model of leadership (a model described as getting people to follow, strategizing for winning, and getting what you want) with a servant model of leadership (following our natural desire to serve for the betterment of others, whether it is washing dishes or leading out of poverty the focus is leader as servant). Studying leadership has some challenges in regard to how we move toward what is good for the many, in place of what is good for me. I remember as a child I was hyper-focused on what felt good for me. Not sure how else to say it. Yet, there are times when this still happens in my life. There are times I want to shut out the world and just focus on feeling good.

I was at dinner tonight and we were discussing community leadership. This is a subject that will likely become quite popular in the next months as we (CSA) prepare for the election of new leadership (Chapter of Election) after creating our community direction for the next four years, what we refer to as the Chapter of Affairs. We will spend nine days together tossing it all around and the days are both stimulating and long. As we discern our future together we will ask the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions and then hope we listen. Ideally we want leaders who are not functioning out of the power-model. This is not set-up to be a political rivalry between parties and we hope to maintain our commitment to CSA's mission as we discern. It is difficult to talk about leadership when we don't know what will be needed so I am always interested in how these conversations go as we surface names. The good news is there is not PAC money involved, nor are the lobbyists. We have only to open our hearts to the needs of our times. This is the servant piece as the sorting begins. I think it might be good to re-gather the group and discuss what we need as a community and what is being called forth from us at this time in history from society and the church. These questions seem to be pertinent to any conversation about leadership. I have ideas about this and did not think to bring it up tonight. Maybe it is time to shift the conversation a bit, shake-it-up some and dream big. After all it does seem that when we dream we find the seeds that God somehow planted in our hearts. I think of that quote, "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" --Robert Schuller

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What happened to Sunday?

Wow, I spent the week slipping around and completely spaced out blogging. I ran out of time on Sunday evening and then it was gone. As the week has rolled out many things have happened. And, although most of it was good we are all haunted by the uprising on Tuesday and the claim it took on people's lives.

The uprising Libya and the loss of ambassador to the U.S. Christ Stevens has inundated the airwaves. Today's gospel reading was Luke 6:27-38 which is Jesus' treatise on love and it is one of the most challenging accounts to live out. I used it Monday in the Theology of Leadership class I am co-teaching as an indicator for a Spirituality of Liberation (taken from the work of Jon Sobrino). The mandates of love are not easy, yet they are real and they call us to step outside of ourselves into the stream of hatred that may face us. The violence we experience is not easy to deal with through love. It is much easier to write people off as whack-jobs, or fundamental extremists than to attempt to understand what is not free in them. While also recognizing their suffering is real and the attacks outward may be misplaced and cruel, yet they demand a response in compassion. This is difficult for me. I think of people who have wronged me in the past and know there are some wounds that still fester with a toxic hint of hatred. It is not easy to admit, and it is even harder to attempt to heal those places. This journey, as follower of the Gospels, has brought me to realize that today I must heal these areas. I must look at those who betray and figure out how to love them. I have not lost a loved one to violence in the way that we have lost Chris Stevens. I pray that those who knew him find solace in love and no matter how they experience the pain of his loss can experience humanity in the lives of those who killed him. As I reflect on this I also know that many other people's lives came to a tragic end on Tuesday and hope that their families find the support and love they need to move through it, as well. This is the only thing I can offer out of  Jesus' words of love.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Tomorrow the Sisters of St. Agnes celebrates our Founders Day. Today at mass I kept thinking about what it means to be in this community. We were started to assist German immigrants in this area of the country and things have shifted much over the years. Ever since my novitiate I have wondered about our relevance as a community and continue to be challenged in serving others through that concern. My guess is any one of us, sister or not, could afford to look into our lives and check whether we are relevant. Does my life mean something outside of my limited scope of existence? That is the question I sit with. My hope is to be of service. I also hope to practice prayer and silence in order to be relevant. I feel this need to connect to the people I minister with and to, and recognize that at times it is not easy to live out the risk of exposing myself as vulnerable in the spiritual life. I wonder what it was like for the founders of my community. Whether they had the desire to put on a false face when they felt most vulnerable. What were the fears that they lived with every day? In my head the ministry was clear for them, yet they were living with serious issues of survival. Would they have enough food to offer themselves and share with others? This week I was worried about my broken computer and how I was going to get power points together for teaching. It is a luxury to have such a worry and sometimes in the panic of the moment that is easy to forget. Now, this is not an easy realization when it is easier to get all up in arms and circle about like a crazy woman who is dependent on technology to survive and minister. Life is much more complex than it was in previous centuries. And, it seems that this is a choice not a mandate. It seems that relevance is grounded in awareness and that slowing perpetual the only thing that can help to live it out authentically. Maybe I need to re-think this. Anyway, have a great week and happy day!