Shut Up and Listen

Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat CenterLast Friday afternoon I was tearing around the house like a bat out of hell, tossing things in a suitcase helter-skelter and keeping one eye on the clock.  I had an appointment with God in western Tennessee.  In a moment of weakness, I’d signed up for a guided silent retreat at a convent somewhere on the way to Memphis.  All I knew is that it was two and a half hours from Franklin and it didn’t take second grade math to figure out that I was leaving too late to arrive on time.  Sigh! Not the best way to begin my weekend of retreat from manic modernity to silent listening.

Welcome to my world.  Too much to do – good things, most of them – and simply not enough time to get them done.  Was I nuts to waste two perfectly good days doingnothing? It made no sense (or maybe all the sense in the world) to intentionally carve out forty-eight hours – three days really – of a precious weekend to go away and just be still.  That is, to shut up and listen to God. Continue reading

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Me Too

It is December 31, 2010, and the world is hovering between the old and the new. Our New Year’s Eve plans were cancelled at the last minute when the hostess was hit with a nasty case of the flu. So here we are at home waiting for the guitar to drop on Lower Broadway, and reminiscing about the highs and lows of the past three hundred and sixty five days. I won’t bore you with the details of the upheaval and trauma that our family experienced last year. You probably had your own, maybe more so.

Over time, bad memories soften and fade. But these past twelve months will probably live on as one of the best/worst years of my life. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. Charles Dickens wrote those words in 1860 but he could have been describing my life in 2010. Unlike Great Expectations, however, it was the spring of despair that turned into the winter of hope. For that, I’m very grateful – not that the year is finally over, but more that it came at all, and even more thankful that when it came, there were friends offering a hand to pull me up, a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, or a thoughtful word. Continue reading


Welcoming Advent

I don’t go to the mall much. It’s not that I don’t enjoy shopping for Free People Anthropologie Uggs and massage gift certificates, (yes, dear this is a hint) but maybe like yours, our disposable income is a little harder to come by this year and honestly we’ve accumulated enough stuff over the past two decades to warrant a break from buying more of it.  So the last time I really hit the mall was October sometime. The Mr. and I were there for a big Friday night out with our girls. (Read: no good movies to be found and we couldn’t come up with anything more exciting to do.)

We opted for fine dining at the food court, a bit of strolling and a pleasant but firm no thank you to the Chinese massage guys in the red shirts before a final stop at Auntie Anne’s. As we headed down the hallway we couldn’t help noticing that the holiday decorations were already coming out, shiny big red Christmas balls hanging from the ceiling and press-on window decals proclaiming Share the Season! Give Heaps Get Happy! Lowest Prices of the Holiday Season! There was piped-in music pointing out that it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (No, it wasn’t!) Just a whole big bunch of tacky reminders that retailers were breathlessly awaiting the arrival of their holiest day of the year, Black Friday. Continue reading


Finding Center

One of my Facebook friends is known for his thoughtful status updates. No political rhetoric or cheesy humor; you can count on him to be insightful and profound. Last week he posted something that hit dead center for me and it got an interesting online conversation going back and forth between the two of us.

He wondered if I’d read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. Well, I had no idea who the heck he was talking about, but Google saved the day. (How did we ever survive before the Internet?)

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 –1926) is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the [sacred] in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety… (Wikipedia)

My friend offered up the first letter, written by Rilke to a young man who sought him out for literary criticism and career advice. I saved it for a bedtime read, curious but not expecting anything extraordinary (although I should have known better, this is the guy with intelligent status updates, remember?) Continue reading


Questioning the Answers

A year or so ago, I found myself in a bit of a rough patch, trying to make sense of a jumble of thoughts that refused to go away. There were a couple of pointed conversations with God about this, but mostly it involved just laying awake in the dark and staring up at the ceiling. I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud, even to my husband – who was on his own (wonderful, he said) spiritual journey.

Those may have been the good old days (if you measure “good” by the lack of existential angst.) Because all I was doing was wrestling with someone else’s journey. Can what he believes actually be true? Really? Hmmm. That’s a new angle on the Bible…

This place I’m in now – and it more or less snuck up on me – is intensely personal. I’m wondering about the basics: God, faith, the afterlife… the meaning of life. I have to tell you that this mostly feels like I’m digging through the proverbial giant pile of horse poop, but there’s no pony to be found, if you know what I mean. Continue reading