Last Day of Advent: Mary

We each have a fingerprint;
a distinctive mark of presence
a lasting impression of the labyrinth of loving and living
a map of the history we hold and the hope we build

Mary's fingerprint

From a long line of mystery-bearers,
"Women of the Incarnation:
Elizabeth, the mother of John
Anna, the mother of Samuel
the nameless mother of Samson
Eve, the mother of all the living
The Hebrew Scriptures heroines 
who were the types of Mary:
the Queen of Sheeba" 
(from a talk given by Madeleine Sophie Cooney, RSCJ)

They each left their fingerprint on the history of Incarnation.
Each one, 
a story of becoming
a story of listening to the whisper of God
a story of responding, despite the costs
a story of the time of gestation -- 
totally turned to the Mystery within--
a story of the being present while this child of wonder
left their fingerprint on the story --
our story of the world.

This is the day of the fingerprint of Mary--
This is the day of coming to term --
with who we are and 
how we are.
This is the day of letting the
contractions of our lives
lead us to the 
fingerprint that we 
contribute to the story--
our story of the world.

Mary's fingerprint --
to be held in the empty manger of our hearts.

We have arrived in Bethlehem
...this Bethlehem.
The Advent of Now.

Two Days of Advent: Joseph

A lost art 
A lost commodity
defining the experience of the tribe of Joseph

man of confidence, integrity and resilience
standing in the face of popular judgement
and righteous indignation at his moral courage.
Invisible witness?
Passive participant?
Illusive and invisible?
For we know that it is those of distinction
with the courage to act while others speak
who change the course of history.
It is not merely the notable record-holders 
on whose shoulders we stand

It is the men of the tribe of Joseph
Those who know the anguish 
of standing against the politic 
in lieu of the need to stand your ground.
Those who know what it means to reverence --
to define the future by honoring 
what you know deep inside your gut
 is the only right answer.
To give honor to the one you 
have pledged to love -- 
which doesn't mean tolerance..
To reverence
is to see God's action in the other
and to be the one who 
honors the space in another where 
God's action thrives
with the care of another.

To reverence

Man of Vision
Knowing scarcity
he lived from abundance
Knowing social rejection
he created community
Knowing the cost
he acted with fierce intention
Knowing the options
he chose reverence
Knowing ...
he chose love


Fourth Week of Advent around the Wreath

Fourth Sunday of Advent -- Around our Wreath

Light one candle for Hope
Hope for those who gather with us
Hope for those without hope
Hope for those alone
Hope for those who battle illness 
of body, mind or spirit
Hope for ourselves that our faith 
might be greater than our fear
Light one candle for Peace
Peace in our hearts
Peace in our homes
Peace in our cities
Peace in our church
Peace in our world
Light one candle for Joy
Joy-hearts open to receive
Joy-hands ready to share 
Joy-bearers ready to be the stained glass
window through whom the Grace-light shines
Joy-holders that we might see the darkness
in another and hold the candle towards the light
Joy-watchers as we await
"God With Us"
Light one candle for Love

In this week of Love
Let us be
good news for those 
in need of 
love in-deed
right action
justice for those forgotten
family for those alone
hope for those who despair
food for those who hunger
in body
Let us be 
And light the 
candle of 
for all God's people

Let us light a candle
for peace
and be the peace
in the lives of others
Let us light a candle
for hope
and bear the hope
in a world yearning
Let us light a candle
for joy
that we might bring

Let us light a candle
for love
that we might
be those 
about whom others say,
"See how they
love one another"
That we will be a 
beacon of light
for others to follow

Bless us, O Lord
and these Thy Advent gifts
which we are about to receive
Amen.  So Be It!

Three Days of Advent: Empty Manger

"When they rolled back the stone, 
they found that the tomb was empty" began with an empty manger...

It begins and ends in emptiness. --
and yet, we spend so much time filling the void
instead of seeing the void as the space where 
what matters is born 
and lives in our midst in ways that we could 
have never imagined...
in the breaking of the bread
and the sharing of the cup of life.

It begins and ends in emptiness
and yet, we find ways to escape the void
and numb the pain of not knowing --
not being sure -- not being enough--
instead of seeing the empty tomb and the empty manger --
in the forgiveness;
in the not reciting the hurts of the past
or the absence of presence in presents--
in the invisibility of wanting to escape
and the desire to compare instead of compassion--
in the illusion that the present measures
instead of the presence

It begins and ends in emptiness
or is it fullness?
the fullness of a heart on fire
the manger ready to hold the one whose spark
ignites something that we can't find on social media
the manger of our lives, the one built in our hearts
with the steady plywood of daily living in love
and pounded together to hold something new.
for in the empty manger of our hearts
will arrive the promise of God.

The manger is empty 
and so is the tomb.

Something new is about to rise up
To arrive
in our Bethlehem hearts...
if there is room

The empty manger

Is there room?

Four Days of Advent: The Star and the Solstice

Today, the shortest hours of daylight
Tonight, the brightest stars at night
From the well of darkness, looking up, 
the stars are brightest.  
It requires the night to see the light.

"Help me be Your Brightness, Lord"  Ps 60:19

I have a star that guides me...

I still don't know how it happened...
That I became 'Brightness' and he became 'Lite'
But, it just was that way.  
Together, we forged a way of walking together through the dark.
I was there when the top of the corporate mountain left him empty and
searching for the light.  
Not the child of youthful dreams and eager expectation, 
I was the child of the elder years -- where dark and light co-mingle into real.
He was there when the Way that became my Way was through the dark instead of around it.

Father and daughter, but partners in the quest for what matters.
In the presence of others, always a banter and a debate.
But when it was just Brightness and Lite, there was sacred silence.
Long car rides in silence of presence. 
Lingering afternoons on Woolworth Ave in Omaha, 
my knowing he was on a journey towards the light.
And this journey was one that I could not be in the drivers seat.
Knowing my mother was there already, made it the Bethlehem of new life.
I lingered in the silence of searching and he became the Star of Light.

After he died, I discovered what Brightness means and the Star that leads.
It's the crisp moment when glaring, glistening sun emerges in blinding light.
There is my star of Bethlehem, 
the Brightness of Light that leads me --
that leads each of us.

"Help me be Your Brightness, Lord"  Ps 60:19  

Finding the solstice Star to Bethlehem of the heart.
This is the Advent of Now.


I am the star
we followed you, Star
we, the shepherds who
saw something we could not ignore
the pull of gravitational certitude
in the face of despairing economy 
and unyielding governmental force.

I am the star
we followed you, Star
we, the astronomers
of both lore and history
To see what would be revealed
by what cannot be understood
with reason alone
but with the open heart
changed in the simple act of friendship with 
those who were in enemy camps.

I am the star.
We followed you, Star
we, the animals --
the lamb, the oxen, the donkey
who live from the instinct
of knowing
rather than the 
complexity of understanding.
We followed what we 
could feel to the place
where hope rests

I am the star.
We followed you, Star
through the valleys of time,
leaving behind what we knew
to be counted
and to count on one another
in this journey of 
listening to dreams
following calls 
being willing to discover
what lies ahead in the heart of Bethlehem
and Bethlehem of the heart.

I am the star.
Up in the sky
and deep in the heart
the Brightness
that awakens you
in this Advent of now.

Look up.
Look Within.
Look around.

I am the Star.
Your Star
for your safe
journey to the stable.

I am the Star.

Star lite, Star bright
First star I see tonight... 

Five Days of Advent: The Angel

Steadfast Love

"Behold, I bring you good news"

I am the angel
I go before you
I am there before you arrive.
I am not the fear
I am the peace.
I am not the anxiety
I am the calm.
I am not the one 
you run from.
I am the one 
you stay close to.
Steadfast Love
I am the angel

"For Nothing will be impossible"

I am the angel
In my presence
you stay.
In the presence of
the spirit of 
you run away.
I go before you
so that when you arrive
you are not alone.
I walk the walk.
Grace defines me
Confidence upholds me
Truth surrounds me
Conscience emanates through me
Steadfast Love
I am the angel

"Do Not Be Afraid"

I am the angel
I close the deal.
I open the door.
I direct the way unknown.
I walk in when others walk out.
I push you through
when the reserves are gone.
I show up 
and you know that I am there.
I speak 
and your heart believes
while your mind deliberates
and leaves you doubting.
But you know better.
I am the kindness that 
you didn't expect.
I am the truth that
you didn't know you had forgotten
I am the tenderness that
you didn't know you needed.
I am the love
you can't do without.
Steadfast Love
I am the angel.

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth, peace to those on whom favor rests"

I am the angel
the gift of now
the Advent of this time
with gifts to be unwrapped
in the people
and places of this moment.
Even the cranky ones
and the traffic jam
and the crowd at the airport monastery
and the over-excited child
and the frenzy of
"not enough"
I am the angel
of the inside peace
the calm in the midst of the storm
the halt to traffic in your head
the heart that opens
I am the miracle
that is waiting to remind you
"Do Not Be Afraid"
I am here
I am the angel.

"Do not be afraid.
Your prayer has been heard"

I am the angel

I'll go ahead of you
and meet you there.

I am the angel.

Six Days of Advent: The Lamb

I am the lamb…


I was a cat, impersonating the lamb

On Woods Avenue in Lincoln, Nebraska in a house way too small for seven people, but full of the stories that make a house a home.

Christmas Eve, where as a blended family (both my grandfathers had been raised Protestant — one converted and one resisted) — traditions on the farm ran strong from first generation cultures of preservation and remembrance.  Never quite so evident as Christmas Eve. Suet Pudding, Carols, Chili for supper and Midnight Mass —

Gifts exchanged between each member of the family, one by one to savor the few in number and the deliberate action of things made by hand and those purchased with the hard work of labor done with diligence, sweat and often tears.

Before gifts, a Christmas pageant where every child had a part and the day of the Eve was spent in practice upon practice — to tell the story of the manger.

Youngest and least stage ready, I was assigned to the role of the docile lamb.

Resistance to compliance was early fashioned in me, as I initiated my emergence from the box of the expectations of others.

“I don’t know anything about being a lamb” I told the four older directors “and there isn’t a good outfit” (it’s all about the outfit) — “but I know about cats.  I will be a cat” (I had a ‘super cute’ cat outfit from Halloween).  

Knowing the slim likelihood of molding me into something I perceived was illogical and unworthy, they relented, but clearly defined my role, “Then you will have to be a cat that acts like a lamb. Lay there and listen — don’t move or say anything”

That’s how I learned the story of the lamb.

I learned to be a lamb by being a cat.
Showered in the silence of being a lamb
the little lamb of Bethlehem

I am the lamb
I am the little one.
I am not the sheep
following the shepherd by voice and smell.
I am the lamb
small, vulnerable, needy and hungry.
I am the lamb
creeping softly, 
almost without knowledge
under the hay 
following something inside of me
that keeps leading me towards
a magnetic force 
that both directs me
and leaves me free

I am the lamb
soft, gentle, newly born and unknowing
I am the lamb
eyes closed and trusting the light from within
to lead me in a direction
that I cannot see
and yet I have the vision
that can be valued more than gold
and trusted more than the wisdom of the stars.
I am the lamb 
seeking my way to the center of things
in the middle of the mess
in the circumference 
of simultaneous chaos and peace.

I am the lamb
showered in the silence of something
magnificent that draws me here
with clarity and courage
in the midst of my fragile start-up state.
I am the lamb
here in this stable
beneath this empty manger
surrounded by the hay
listening to the lilt of the oxen
the voice of the shepherd and the distant
sound of a donkey laboring beneath a load.

I am the lamb
drawn here in this time
in this place
waiting for what I cannot see.
Believing what I do not know.
I am keeping watch
warming the place for 
I am doing something 
that without me
would be left undone.
I am here now.
I will wait.
I will warm.
Showered with Silence
I will love
I am the lamb.

I am the lamb
who started out as a cat

Thank you for letting me be a cat

Seven Days of Advent: The Oxen

It is the law of the prairie homesteader
the lessons learned by our family of the land
from the plains of South Dakota and Nebraska
to the rolling orchard of Oregon

the land was never worked alone
"take my yoke upon your shoulders"
the yoke that broke the land 
always had room for two...
the oxen shared the load
broke the land
carried the burden 
and never held the yoke alone
from then...
until now
we learn the lessons of the journey
into the Advent of Now.

I am the oxen.
the yoke has room for two
sharing the load
the impossible becomes possible
Grace enters
and the work becomes lighter
the load becomes bear-able
the journey is shortened
I am the oxen

I am the oxen
who was not summoned
to the stable by angelic tone
but to give witness to
the power of travelling together:
to be and act as one
sharing both the load and the harvest
as we discover new frontiers
on our way
to the stable ahead of us.
I am the oxen.

I am the oxen
I am here on the road
to the stable 
to remind you
not to walk alone.
For this is
the road where the new
the road where the old
Walk together
to the stable
Share the load of love
to the stable.
Expect the Miracle.

It's just a matter of love
and love that matters.

I will meet you 
in the stable of love.

I am the oxen.

Eight Days of Advent: The Shepherd

The Shepherd

It's just what I do.
I travel
Alone, perhaps 
more connected than those 
who never leave home

It's just what I do.
Some people call it a job
I call it my life
Keeping track of
the heart of the matter
and where the matters
of my heart are wandering

It's just what I do.
looking out for the ones given to me
and caring where they are
because they listen for the sound of my voice -
they follow by smell and sound.
I keep watch
over the labyrinth of life

It's just what I do.
the twists and the turns
what's around the next bend
and remembering the way home.
Is it following or leading?
Is it giving or receiving?
Is it my meaning or theirs?
I keep watch
over the labyrinth of hope

It's just what I do.
no compass
no GPS
no cell tower
no commercials
"Can you hear me now?"
"I can hear You now"
I follow the whispers of 
the intellect sheltered in instinct
I hear the heartbeat 
of the Earth
I follow the invitation 
that you only hear
in the silence of 
I keep watch
over the labyrinth of love.

And there,
if you listen...
You will hear what I hear...
the gut that tells 
you which turn to make
the faith that overtakes
the fear
the hope that dispels
the front page despair
the trust to take them
where they do not want 
to go...
they arrive
to exactly where they have 
been longing to be --
what they have been searching for.
I keep watch.

There is room for you
on this labyrinth
of love.

I am the shepherd

Nine Days of Advent: The Donkey

Advent is neither past nor present; Advent is now
Advent is the experience of being here now, 
ready to be open to what is --
not trying to rearrange the facts of now 
to fit our expectation of what should be.

In these last days of Advent, 
I invite you to join me in the midst of an empty stable
and to use nine symbols (one for each day) 
in the spirit of the traditional Novena--
a series of prayers traditionally done for nine days.

In the nine days ahead, 
we will step inside the empty stable of the heart 
and fill it with the gifts given to us in this year -- 
this time --
 this Advent of now.
Let us receive the gifts of love given to us in REAL time:
the donkey, the shepherd, the sheep, the empty manger, 
Mary, the lamb, Joseph, the oxen, the star...

Let the journey begin

The Donkey

You don't think I look like much

Maybe you have run into me
I'm just the ordinary one
You honked at me when you were on vacation
in the Black Hills of South Dakota
and you would never have seen the
bottom of the Grand Canyon without me
But you never even looked at me

I'm just the ordinary one
Not the mystic camel
or the learned oxen
I am not the one who leads the pack
I am the worker
The one who carries the load
and does the job
and is nondescript and invisible
I'm just the ordinary one.

But I am the one chosen
to carry the load
to bear the hope
to steady the fear
to hold the promise
to take a step forward
from where we are
on the road to
where we need to be.

Not the strong-minded thoroughbred
or the cart carrying oxen
I am the one chosen
to take the next right step
to remain undaunted in the face of ambiguity
to carry the hope
through rugged terrain and lonely territory
to be chosen
to carry the load and walk beside.

I have room for you
I will carry
what you cannot hold
I will take you
to the stable
where the new life
waits for you.

I am the donkey.