Holy MOLY!

Our Journeys to Galilee

By now we are halfway through the Lenten season. So how are you doing? Have you kept your Lenten promises? For me, the discipline and sacrifice is a daily struggle. Some days are better than others. I guess that’s why it’s called sacrifice. Sacrifice leads us closer to God. Lent is a journey to the celebration of the Resurrection. It is movement not to the past, but forward to God’s divine plan for each of us. The past – the events of our suffering and our challenges –are part of this sojourn. We look to the Resurrection as our reason for living. Read more ›

Posted in Kaky

Spring Break Prayer

I am ready for Spring Break!

I am behind. I need some rest. I need to find a new Lenten discipline since the first one hasn’t worked out that well. I went looking for resources for a Prayer for Spring Break, and probably because of my browsing history and “mom of young children” data trail, all I uncovered were prayers for strength written by mothers facing 9½ days full time while their kids are out of school and prayers that they could just go back already.

Here are my sendoff prayers for Spring Break:

  • Protector God, watch over every member of our community these next days as we are apart. Protect those who are traveling, particularly those traveling abroad and those driving on the highways. Keep our community safe from incident and harm.
  • Great Healer, many use this break for medical procedures and treatments. May outcomes be good. May bodies and lives be restored to health. May caregivers have patience and practitioners share their healing gifts.
  • God of Wisdom, watch over the work of our scholars this week. We pray for those who are behind that they may have motivation and inspiration. For those who are applying for next adventures we pray for opportunities to materialize. We pray for those who are grading, calculating, and researching. May all the diverse scholarship in this community serve to advance understanding of the world we have been given.
  • God of Renewal, help us in this week of different rhythms find time for rest and self-care. Ease our stress and allow us moments of insight and deeper focus. Let there be time to spend with family and friends and to celebrate the opportunity for play.
  • God in our community, some will work different jobs to pay for their education. Some will remain on campus. Some will travel. Gather us back, safe and sound to this campus, refreshed and renewed and ready to continue our life journey as a community that serves you. AMEN

Blessings for Spring Break and the return,

Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Keeping Lent Simple

From today through Easter Sunday on April 16th, Christians all over the world will be observing the season of Lent. In the early church, those contemplating baptism into Christianity observed a three year period of preparation which involved the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving or acts of charity and service before being baptized. Those first followers of Jesus took their commitment very seriously! Fast forward 2000 plus years and Christians today continue the Lenten tradition by practicing the same spiritual disciplines, though certainly not to the extent of our foremothers and forefathers in faith.

Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are a bit like New Year’s resolutions. If we take on too much, we are likely to end up disappointed and disgruntled when we fall short of the spiritual goals we have set. And ultimately the goal is not for us to be frustrated and upset with ourselves. The ultimate goal is for each of us to draw nearer to God. The more we allow ourselves to feel and experience the unconditional, loving embrace of God, the more we will be enabled to extend that same love and grace to those around us.

My wish for each of us this Lent is that we might keep it simple. In prayer, perhaps speak less to God and listen more. In almsgiving, seek out one person or one organization that needs your time, talent, and treasure. Focus your energy in one place over these forty days rather than spreading yourself too thin. And in fasting, choose one theme adapted from Pope Francis to guide you on your spiritual path.

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from frustration and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from pessimisms and be filled with hope.
  • Fast from worries and have trust in God.
  • Fast from complaints and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

May you find this season to be blessed with a renewed sense of God’s amazing and overflowing love for you and for all of creation as we await the Easter celebration that is to come.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Be Humble Day

Today is “Be Humble” day! It is a day to stop and practice humility and kindness. The definition of humble is, “subdued or brought low in condition or status, meek, mild, modest or humble in spirit or manner.” (www.thefreedictionary.com)

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less,” according to C.S. Lewis.

This is so challenging and counter-cultural in the “survival of the fittest” and “only the strong survive” culture we experience each day. We live in a culture that at times values the “rich and famous” over the humble and gracious. This culture is sometimes impressed by the most offensive noise makers.

According to Huffington Post, humble people are better leaders and most successful in the workplace because of their ability to put others first and work collaboratively. Humble people are also more pleasant to be around and to be in relationship with. Narcissists are just no fun for anyone! Huffington post writes that there are seven ways to tell if you are a humble person:

  1. You focus your energy on others.
  2. You’re conscientious and act on your compassion.
  3. Your moral compass guides your decision making.
  4. You see happiness as a journey.
  5. You excel as a leader.
  6. You know good things lie ahead and you are okay with waiting for them.
  7. You have strong and lasting relationships.

Living a life of humility is also Christian in nature. The scriptures are filled with reminders: “Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient; bearing with one another in Love” (Ephesians 4:2). The beatitudes are very specific about a life of humility as shown in Matthew 5:3-10. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These are beautiful words of encouragement and wisdom that apply every day of our lives to guide us in a humble approach to life.

So today celebrate that beautiful core of your soul that always thinks of “the other” first. Be blessed by the inner peace that comes from loving unconditionally and forgiving those who wrong you. Know that your compassion is a gift from God. Enjoy a day of practicing random acts of kindness and the comfort that brings. Be humble . . . be blessed . . . .

Posted in Kay

Canine Inspiration

I saw part of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this past weekend—the Super Bowl of well-bred dogs. I am always drawn to the whippets, the Italian greyhounds and the miniature pinschers, as well as the large Russian wolfhounds. Apparently I like the small and chic as well as the big and shaggy.

The Westminster Kennel Club “pre-dates the invention of the light bulb, the automobile, and the zipper.” The show was started as a way for hunting enthusiasts to show off the dogs that they bred for sport. The show led to the founding of the AKC and the writing of the “breed standards.” The breed standards are the ideal against which all dogs of a certain breed are measured . . . . The standards help those in the know determine which fox hound is the best fox hound and which golden retriever is the best golden retriever. These standards are what make well-bred dogs so exclusive and expensive. The standards are very strict and very specific, listing details about bone structure, temperament, color, coat styles and even eye shape. No mutt has a chance.  Read more ›

Posted in Stephanie

Restoring Through Intentional Rest

I live with a chronic disease. Some days are spectacular. Other days not so much. On any given morning I take several pills and have to monitor things like food, water intake, exercise and rest. If the weather is out of sorts, so am I. If any of the things I monitor are out of sorts, so am I.

When I was first diagnosed with this autoimmune disease four years ago, my world fell apart. My mind jumped ahead to “worst case scenarios” and for awhile I was paralyzed by “what ifs.” Read more ›

Posted in Katrina

Common Ground

I have watched with great interest the many marches that have been held around the country the last few weeks. I am encouraged that hundreds of thousands of citizens have invested their time, energy, and resources in order to exercise their right to free speech and to speak their own truth to power. I have had several family members and friends participate in these gatherings and they have my full support. For a variety of reasons I have been unable to join them but feel present in solidarity and in spirit.

Two marches of particular note have been the Women’s March on January 21st and the Right to Life March held on January 27th. I am so disheartened that some observers and media outlets have reported that these gatherings are diametrically opposed to each other and that one cannot be supportive of both efforts at the same time. Contrary to popular belief not every person who identifies as pro-life stops caring about children after they are born. Similarly, not every person who identifies as pro-choice supports abortion unconditionally or without reservation. Rather than identify the two camps as enemies of one another, I firmly believe we need opportunities to share the values that are held in common.  Read more ›

Posted in Anne

The Biology of Stress

In one of the white privilege discussion groups last semester, I learned from Dean Jablonski that there is a connection between prolonged or chronic stress and changes that occur in our cells. I have been fascinated by this concept and doing some reading. It makes perfect sense. Chronic stress actually alters our brains at the cellular level. Stress, and the anxiety, depression, anger and other emotions that travel with us in times of stress, affect us and our descendants far longer than I ever expected.

Stress changes the ratio of grey matter (the higher functioning and thinking part of our brain) and white matter (the connectivity and communication part of the brain). In other words, the brain becomes less predisposed to learning and memory, and more sensitive to anxiety and depression. The brain becomes less likely to contemplate and more wired for “fight or flight” basic responses. Not being a brain scientist, I will stop there before I get corrective emails or show more of my ignorance.

As I listen to the conversations on poverty that we are having in Lynchburg and hear about the overwhelming burden of generational poverty, I can’t help think about the biological effect of generational poverty. Twenty percent of Lynchburg lives below the poverty line, and that excludes the college students who increase that figure. Thirty-seven percent of our Lynchburg workforce lives in poverty. One in five children live in poverty –which means 20 % of our city’s children are having their biology affected by the chronic stress of living without food and housing security. When I ponder how alcoholism and abuse run in families, I wonder about the generational biological changes that occur in high stress environments.

I know many of you experience significant stress just in daily life. The car needs to be repaired. Homework needs to be supervised and dinner made. A family member is ill. A large medical bill needs to be paid. There has been a death in the family, or a divorce, or a loss of a job. And if it isn’t the “little” stresses of daily life, our country is in the midst of so much change. There is change, calls for more change, and rallying for different types of change. The divides between us politically are as wide as ever, and at the same time we try to be more welcoming of diversity. Many feel like their basic rights are at stake and that their own families are threatened.

In my biology reading I have also been reminded that the two practices that overcome stress are exercise and mindfulness. In other words, Body and Soul balance the Mind. This seems to be the challenge of modern living. I don’t have all of the secrets, and I am certainly not the posterchild for success at balance, but I needed to be reminded.

Prayers for a good semester and less stress in your living.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Love Remains the Greatest Gift

Years ago my spouse served on a church staff with Jay Hurd. It was Jay’s first staff position and second career. In his heart Jay was a poet and one year he penned these words:

Not richly wrapped; no foil or paper bright, in an unobtrusive corner, almost out of sight; lay a tiny package under the orphanage Christmas tree; when finally it was found, was the only one left for me. My heart fell with sadness; it was not fair at all. The others grabbed the large gifts, while mine was so very small.

Retreating to a corner, tears welling in my eyes, I didn’t want the others to see me as I began to cry. The paper was so crumpled, the ribbon seemed so old, but through the tear stained wrapping shone the glint of gold. Beautiful golden locket shaped into a dove, the note inside said, “For you child the gift today is love. For several years I’ve come to watch to find a child like you. One that didn’t push and shove the way the others do; Now you need to know me, the mystery to unfold, I wear a golden locket just like the one you hold.”

My eyes flew to the visitors who often brought us goods, a chain of gold around her neck, so elegantly she stood. Years it’s been since she took me home, but the lesson I recall; love remains the greatest gift, but it’s often packaged small.

One Christmas Jay blessed us with the invitation to share his poem with those we met along our journey. Over the years we have done that many times. This year, as my Hornet Family, ones I am grateful to tarry with along this journey, I share with you his poem as a reminder, regardless of how you celebrate this holiday season and whatever ways/traditions you bring to life during these days, of these words:

Love remains the greatest gift, but it’s often packaged small.

Joyous holidays, Hornet Nation!

Katrina

Posted in Katrina

Into the Darkest Hour

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss-
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight-
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

by Madeleine L’Engle

Normally I love the season of Advent, a time of prayerful preparation leading up to Christmas. Unlike the more secular emphasis on consumerism and spectacle this time of year, Advent invites us into a period of reflection, a time for contemplation and personal introspection. We light simple candles on a wreath, read daily devotions and meditations, and practice acts of charity and kindness. What’s there not to love about such a season.

However, this particular Advent I find myself struggling mightily to keep the spirit of the season.  I am saddened reading the news each day as tragedy and catastrophe fill the headlines.

I listen to students who carry deep and heavy burdens and for whom going home for the holidays is dreaded rather than embraced. I recognize within my own heart a tendency to be petty and critical, judgmental and cynical rather than open and loving, caring and forgiving.

And yet, and yet . . . something within me refuses to let the darkness of this time overshadow the light that still flickers within. Like the two candles currently lit on the Advent wreath on our kitchen table, there are still signs of hope around me. To borrow the image from Madeleine L’Engle’s poem, I see that many people are creating a stable within their hearts in order to welcome the Prince of Peace once again into their lives and into our world.

For me, some recent signs of hope include the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to stop construction of an oil pipeline on the sacred ground of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation after months of peaceful protests. Veterans groups joined the movement and asked forgiveness of the indigenous people for crimes committed against them throughout history. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/12/05/photos-standing-rock-native-americans-veterans/

Closer to home I find hope as I witness students serving those in need during one of the most busy and stressful times of the semester. I am inspired by Resident Assistants waking up before dawn to serve breakfast at the Salvation Army. I am encouraged by Bonner Leaders who presented a Christmas show with Puppets Alamode to allow individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities the opportunity to be creative through music and the arts.

I challenge all of us to not only look for flickers of hope around us during this time of year, but to be those flames of hope and encouragement for those around us. In thought, word and deed may we recognize that the stable waiting for the Prince of Peace to arrive can be found within each human heart.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne