Facing Loneliness

The writings of Henri Nouwen have been filling my meditation and challenging me to consider how we can spiritually survive our journey today.

“Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. … When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch or no record to play, and when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again.”
-Henri J. M. Nouwen
Reaching Out (first published 1975)

Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love — unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
-Henri Nouwen
With Open Hands (first published 1972)

When I put down my phone,
When I turn off the news,
When I take a break from the Netflix show I am binging,
When I try to get quiet inside,

My hands twitch towards my pocket or bag
As I try to find that smooth device that keeps me tethered to …

What is it I’m yearning to be tethered to:
Reality? Busyness? The avoidance of pain or fear?
What is it that I’m seeking to fill up the emptiness inside of me?

They say God created us with a God-shaped hole inside of us.
And then I put everything I can into that place
So that I don’t have to feel lonely or anxious or empty.

God is calling me to reclaim the disciplines that I have forgotten.
For me, they are sabbath, silence, and breathing.

What are the disciplines to which you’re being called?

To Death

Death,
We come into this world
With you on the horizon.

Sometimes you are close.
Sometimes you are so far away that we cannot see you.

But you are there – always.
Why is it such a surprise
When we see you at our neighbor’s door?
When we watch you walk down the hallway toward us?

There are those who have met you and found peace in your presence.
Those who seem to befriend you,
Not afraid of you or what you bring.
I want to be like one of them.

Help me, God of Life, to walk the path you have for me.
I am yours.

The Little Things

I left a small tip in my room for the housekeeping staff. And then, coming “home,” I met Gloria finishing up 215.

“Hello” and “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for my tip,” she said.

And then we talked, strangers together, listening through the beautiful dance of too little of each others’ languages (my too-little Spanish and her too-little English.)

She told me that they moved here from Texas because the services are better for her son with autism. He is eleven years old , but his mental level is six. The tips are his — money for Christmas.

Her friendly sharing and her gracious gratitude stopped me in my busyness. A sacred encounter of strangers on a journey, separate and together. May I have eyes to see and ears to hear the stories of those whose paths I cross.

Feast Day of Colmcille

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Colmcille, the Irish monk who lived and walked in Ireland and then went across the sea and founded Iona.

Last year in July, we walked the Turas Cholmcille in County Donegal that people will walk today.

Let me bless almighty God, whose power extends over sea and land, whose angels watch over all. Let me study sacred books to calm my soul; I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates. Let me do my daily work, gathering seaweed, catching fish, giving food to the poor. Let me say my daily prayers, sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God. Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell, serving the King of kings.
Columba Celtic Fire: The Passionate Religious Vision of Ancient Britain and Ireland edited by Robert Van de Weyer

Easter Blessing

Bless this day
When light returns,
Love astounds,
Life prevails.

Bless the grieving,
The lonely,
The hungry.
Hope is reborn.

Bless the young ones
And the old.
Bless the enemies
And those despised.

Bless this world,
Gripped by violence.
Peace returns.

God makes a way
Where there was no way.
Christ has risen.
Alleluia.

From my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings. Copyright © 2016 by Beth A. Richardson.