Giving and Receiving

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

For it is in giving that we receive

I went for a walk around town yesterday with Heidi. No matter what street we were on, we were surrounded by flowers – irises, rhododendrons, chives, pansies, azaleas, and dozens more un-named. Lilacs and wisteria scented the breeze, and flocks of clouds chased the sun. Today I stepped downtown with Deena and Jeanne to enjoy eggs, fruit, and coffee at Riverside Cafe. Hanging planters decorated shop doors with living reds, blues, greens, and yellows. In our own yards, vegetables and herbs are thriving, lovely to taste and see. It’s a typical end-of-May in Southcoast, Massachusetts – the everyday miracle I call home.

Giving and receiving are all mixed up together for me. I can’t say which is more fun: giving a present in love or receiving one in love. Each have their unique joy. I aspire to be a grateful giver and a grateful receiver both.

Walking around this morning, it dawned on me that at its best, giving and receiving are garden variety experiences. The seeds I give to the world in love grow beyond themselves, bringing beauty and nourishment in ways I can’t even imagine. The seeds I receive in love (when I’m mature enough to accept them with thanks) just need a little attention to transform my life into Eden.

Everyday Love

to be loved, as to love.

My friend Patti once told me that it only takes one person to love you to make all the difference in the world. Just one. It could be a mother or father, grandparent, or cousin; a neighbor or teacher, maybe. If just one person loves you, really loves you, it’s enough to keep you grounded and give you a chance for a good life.

My friend Jeanne says that some people don’t hold onto love the same as others. In her words, “Loving is like pouring water into a bucket. Some people have holes in their buckets; no matter how much love you pour in, you can’t fill their bucket.”

Love can’t be explained easily or completely, but it’s everywhere and easy to spot. It’s at the mall, even if it can’t be bought. It’s in schools and libraries, Dunkin’ Donuts and baseball fields; you can find it on the train and in the airport.

Lack of love can’t be explained easily or completely, but it’s everywhere and easy to spot – in school hallways and locker rooms, at the dinner table and in the car, at the beach and birthday parties.

I know two things about love: 1) there’s never been a moment in my entire life when I haven’t been loved, and 2) there’s never been a moment in your entire life when you haven’t been loved. We have been loved by God from the beginning, and will be loved from life into death and beyond. If we are lucky, we’ve been loved from the moment we first drew breath by our family and friends, both human and animal.

So many have loved me so well, and my bucket is full. I ask for the great favor of loving others as I have been loved, to make a difference this day and evermore. Amen.

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life devoted to God and neighbor, human and animal. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

Worlds of Understanding

to be understood, as to understand;

Graduate school meant reading a lot of books with countless facts and no pictures. Theories everywhere, agreeing and disagreeing on paper; grad students everywhere, agreeing and disagreeing in the flesh. For many of my friends, getting information out of reading and then figuring out how it related to every other piece of information was a trudge across gravel wearing someone else’s stilettos: painful, slow, and designed with someone else in mind.

I loved the reading because I knew the secret: these books were worlds, the best vision of reality that the author could give. Fall through the pages, enter the world, see it as the writer did, and it all makes sense. Non fiction just meant the author believed the story was about the living world. Seeing whole worlds, moving those worlds into alignment – that’s what understanding dusty old textbooks really is. Well written or not, every book and every world a gift.

Each person is a living world, God created and God loved. Through word and action, touch and tone, I am invited into the worlds of everyone I meet. To see a whole new world, moving my world into alignment – that’s what understanding someone is.

to be understood, as to understand…I’m not asking for strength to settle for less: I’m asking God for so much more: a whole new world.

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

Consolation

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

When grief comes, life is never the same (the same is true of joy, but no one seems to spend much time dwelling on that profound truth…).

Consolation isn’t saying “everything will be all right,” or “someday, everything will get back to what it was.” It won’t. Staying put while a friend cries, bringing silence instead of platitudes, putting on hold all the usual activities – recognitions of loss, not feeble attempts to avoid it.

God doesn’t erase pain and grief, or cover a gaping wound with a band-aid. Instead, God holds it all in love.

O God, give me the strength and wisdom to do the same.

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

Joy

and where there is sadness, joy.

I’ve found joy at funerals and weddings, in McDonald’s and on Mount Washington. It’s the same with sadness; sometimes there’s an obvious reason, but many times it seems to come without one. Yesterday, it came to church.

A son preached about his mother. She suffers from dementia these days. He talked about how she kept and still keeps a spotless house, and how she prepared beautiful meals that she couldn’t enjoy if it didn’t look like the picture in the cookbook. He talked about how she loved her sons, and how she never saw herself as worthy of love as a gift rather than something earned. He talked about her talents and her faults, and how God loved her because of her faults – not in spite of them. With a few dozen words, a son shared joy with the hundred or so people gathered there.

Joy isn’t earned and it doesn’t cost a thing. It can find us at church, on the beach, at the bus stop, and at home. It comes through words and silence, work and play. For reasons known to God alone, it can grow out of our saddest moments.

With Francis, I pray that God brings joy through me today.

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

Around the corner, into the dark

where there is darkness, light;

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When the sun’s down but it’s still light, I walk to the library to water the learning garden. It takes some time because the hose is in the front yard and the garden is in the back. So I bring my watering can and make ten trips from front to back, bringing water to the hostas, chives, and just sprouting purple beans. Each day, something new appears in the beds – lettuce and spinach shoots, the dahlia unfolding its purple leaves, and weeds appearing fully grown out of nowhere. Peaceful.

But Wednesday got away from me. It was past eight o’clock when I got to the library, and it was dark. The lights in the front made it easy to find the hose, but when I went around the corner I entered full darkness. My feet remembered the path to the back, but it was too dark to see the garden beds, much less the plants in them. I had decided to turn back when the light came on. Triggered when I walked into the back yard, it lit the way for my ten trips. It snapped off right when I left, no longer needed.

Sowing light in the darkness to help others find their way to the garden, to do the work they’ve set out to do. It’s indirect and necessary – not doing the work of others, just providing enough light to avoid the roots and stones that might prevent them from doing it.

Many have shed light for me. With God’s help, may I do the same.

More or Less

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

where there is despair, hope;

Imagine More – the “I” in the ABC’s of Life plaque my friend Susan gave me a couple of years back. It means envisioning something deeper. When everything falls apart and the world is a small cell, see with the eyes of the soul something holy beyond the present circumstance. This isn’t optimism – that’s having a cheery vision of the future based on a good present. This is hope: trusting a gracious reality beyond what today indicates.

Despair is seeing nothing beyond today’s meaningless void. It comes on the gray wings of depression for some, through violence and neglect for others, and for no apparent reason for a few. Despair seeps into the lives of the poor and the wealthy, the famous and forgotten, and everyone in between. Despair thrives where Imagine More is missing.

I can’t always see the despair around me, and the despair I can see I cannot change. Only God can lift the veil of despair. Today I pray that my hands act as God’s, sowing hope. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart lead those in despair to imagine more. May my words and deeds never lead anyone to imagine less. Amen.