Sunday, September 27, 2009

going deeper... back on the boat

My first imaginative prayer involving a boat took me to this deep place. But my spiritual director kept insisting I take what was happening and go deeper. She desired that what was happening on this retreat would be deeply rooted, so she sent me back to a boat, to Jesus.
Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is preaching, "when he caught sight of two boats."
Simon/Peter says, "Leave me Lord I am a sinful man."

Simon is on one of the boats and his response comes when he receives a great gift, by going deep. Throw those nets into the deep water. What will you find? Will your calling be found? Will your name be changed? Will you tell the giver to leave you alone?

The meditation read... "I ask the Lord to show me where he is calling me to put out anew; to go deeper into my calling"
So I ask God, is it this, is it that, is it here, is it there. When I pause, I get an answer... two words: stained glass.

So I say, but I have gone deeper God, I blog, cut, facebook, design, flickr, solder, twitter, foil, grind, newsletter, craft show ... where else can I go?

Peter says, "there are no fish in this sea"
God says, "but what underlies this business, go deeper, throw in the nets, look at the pile of thank you notes piling up on your desk. Go deeper and think about how I have called you to bring joy, peace, and hope into the lives of those you come upon in your life. Go deeper. Where does your love for design, color and glass come from? Go deeper, what are you going to do with this gift? When you go into your studio, do you give thanks for these talents? Do you accept the fact that your art can touch lives? Go deeper."
I say, "Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man."
God says, "Be quite fool. Listen. This is why I told you to bring stained glass to Wernersville. This is why I gave you the strength to make over 60 cards. Make stained glass."
a few hours later, I unwrap a new eraser, which I had bought 4 hours before leaving on the retreat, and pick up a pencil. I imagine a design in my head. After not designing stained glass patterns all week, I will leave the retreat with one...


Friday, September 25, 2009

sometimes one is surprised... absense and light

First surprise... I just noticed I had not blogged since last Saturday. Work has been a bit demanding these first weeks. And my nights have been spent preparing for my physics and zoology class and cutting glass.

so inspired by Kathryn's favorite colors let me show you the last project I did before I left on the retreat. A new design ... abstract log cabin quilt.

This is how it looked as I pieced it together...

Then I let light shine through, and maybe never before was I so pleasantly surprised by a finished project...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Drawing cards at Wernersville--- the aftermath

As the cards flowed out into the hands of the silent folk, things began to flow back...
some of the highlights:
  1. returning from meeting with my spiritual director I see a piece of paper hanging on my door. I assume the first thank you note has floated my way. And it is, but one I would never had imagined. I pluck it off my door and there in my hand is one of my cards. First thought is to run down the hall, knock on the door of the priest and say, "NO, this is for you, it is not for me!" I sit on my bed and breathe. On the back of my/his card he has written a blessing and I am amused that there is no need for him to sign it, because I wrote his name for him. I rip off a piece of tape and put it next to the first card I had drawn, the only one I had decided was for me.

  2. While no one else will return a card, I will leave Wernersville with many many many thank you notes. Some with drawings, some with long notes, some with two words. One is from a woman who writes about looking day after day and how happy she was when a card showed up with her name. On another the woman, who had gotten one last year, writes joyfully about now having a collection of my art.

  3. I finish the last of the cards on Tuesday morning which makes my afternoon massage timed perfectly. After the massage I head to fill my mug with water. Inside the kitchen, a woman breaks silence. She is holding two books. She says, "I was not going to buy any books on this retreat, but your gift inspired me to buy this Joyce Rupp book. It will help me with my work with cancer survivors." I am still in awe of what I heard. To think that my art could help the world in such a way.

I take the rest of the day off from doing art work and spend some time outside looking at the blue sky. Have you listened to my Blue in the title jazz tunes ?



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

finally... I am about to teach

after one travel day in which all my residential students were absent;

after two days of explaining science in general;

after one day of no classes as students learned about a new initiative;

I leap into physics and zoology tomorrow.

inspired by the physics book, I explained things this way to both classes...

Science is the human attempt to understand the order of nature. Religion is the human attempt to understand the purpose of nature. They are not the same. However, they are not polar opposites of which you have to pick one. A scientist who spends much energy trying to disprove the truths of a religion is as wrong in my book as a religious person who fights against what science has taught us.

(then having a plant or two handy)... I can look at this plant and wonder about how it grows and do an experiment to understand it better as a scientist. I can also look at this plant and be inspired by its beauty in a spiritual way. Neither way is wrong. Just two ways to witness the world. This class is about science, it is not about bashing religion.

of course the horticulture classes leaped into the garden instantaneously

... will get back to my retreat posts soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going deeper, imagining myself on the boat

So I am one who would rather be in the shadows of the crowd, not in the spotlight of the boat.

When I returned to Matthew 14: 13-21 in the evening, I followed the meditation I had been given by my spiritual director, so instead of being fed by the disciples, I became a distributor of the food.

A few years back I spent a retreat asking for a some direction in my life. Should I focus on horticulture, teaching, stained glass, spirituality? So for a week of silence I asked and asked and asked. And didn't hear the answer. so I probably asked again.

I once sent out an e-mail at work in which I signed off Hope, Peace, and Joy. A friend wrote back and said that Hope had left town a long time ago.

I can't seem to walk with God and believe my friend is correct. And if my friend is correct and despair runs rampant, then maybe I need to continue to live out what may just be my calling. Except for all those moments when I do not help to bring forth the amazing gifts of the spirit... hope, peace, and joy.... and I see amazing challenges looming at work.

So the answer I did not hear when I kept asking was.... , "Yes, feel free to do all those things."

as I read Matthew these words said by Jesus resonated, "Give them something to eat themselves."

If the desire is there, the hungry can be fed. My students can feel joy inside a classroom. My colleagues can feel a bit more peace at work. My donations can bring hope to those in need.

here is a path I didn't take (fear of ticks) and my favorite from a series trying to photograph fish...

thanks for visiting, you are more than welcomed to comment.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

just plain baffled...

now I am baffled, because... Last Sunday I sang a hymn.

Well, I have a memory of singing a hymn, so I took Red's advice and went to the band and asked them what the closing hymn was the previous week. They showed me. I said, "That's not it. It started with a line about falling to one's knees and at the bottom of the music it said it was based on the third chapter of Ephesians." They pulled out their play list and we went through the whole service. Nothing.

was I dreaming? mystical experience? elaborate conspiracy to drive me loopy. I came home and talked to Mosaic Woman about the experience, and did one more quick google search for the hymn. I walked up stairs to my studio, pulled out a cassette from my past and this was the first song. and yes, this did happen and yes, I will let the mystery be. Mosaic Woman asked if I had chosen this song to play because of my experience at church. I hadn't.

Maybe an answer will arrive to explain what happened last Sunday. maybe it was a way to walk up the stairs at church and have someone in the band ask, "What instrument do you play?" Twelve hours earlier I had been talking to Mosaic Woman about how listening to an old guy play piano had yet again rekindled my desire to create music.
The song also took me back to a movie. A movie in which the song was used much to my delight. The beginning of Little Buddha...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

stained glass, part 2... a sacrificial gift for the Temple????

As I said here, I felt a strong urge, calling, message, desire... to take a stained glass design on my retreat this year. I said, "Sure," to whatever it was. I figured it would be nice to look at while on retreat. so simpleminded am I.
But when I arrived the message grew, "Leave the glass here." It was quite similar in some ways to the message that inspired me to draw 68 cards in five days. (see my answers to Kathryn at the end of the post for some clarification on the drawing of the cards).
Anyway, I woke up this morning transformed back into a human (got home well after the midnight deadline of not turning into a pumpkin) and my mind came back to telling the story of my retreat. I saw my stained glass as a sacrificial offering. Instead of taking a goat or dove or part of my garden bounty to the temple, I took stained glass to Wernersville.

It was one thing to be told not to take something home, it is another to be told directly where to leave it. I pondered leaving it in my room as a gift for all those who seek silence and end up in room 185. I thought about hanging it in a public window at the Jesuit Retreat Center. Then I took the low road, I decided it wasn't my job to decide and figured I could dump it off on someone else to decide.
And that felt right, until I did it. The eyes of my spiritual director told me where it belonged. But I could not get beyond telling her to keep it for 27.25 days (inside joke) and during which time SHE could ponder where it belongs. Back in my room, it didn't feel right. It still does not feel right, so chances are it is not right.

So I begin to reflect on words... did God to tell me that the stained glass was to stay at Wernersville meaning not to come home with me or stay at Wernersville meaning it stays in the retreat center?

Would God lead the glass, which matched my director's home decor and brought light to her eyes, to my director, if it was not meant to go to her house? I doubt it. Take it home. God and I think it belongs there. (the comment button leads you into this discussion)...

best of the not so great photos...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

time consideration... the Wernersville 2009 retreat

Tonight I had my first meeting with a spiritual director. In 80 minutes I managed to talk about the retreat which I began blogging about many days ago when I wrote about the last morning.

more this weekend.

school and jazz rule the day till then, but here is a thought...

Sunday I spent much of worship feeling out of sorts as I was getting used to the Episcopal service after 8 straight days with the Jesuits. Then the opening line of the final hymn had these words... I fell to my knees.

I thought that is familiar and I saw it was from Ephesians, the verse I shared on the first post about the retreat (see link above). Wonderful choice of a closing hymn if you ask me, but I forgot the name. feel free to help me out Holy Trinity folk.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Drawing cards, part 3... distribution

OK, by Sunday I had a nice big pile of cards (over 40). How to distribute?
There is a message board where I tacked them last year, but there didn't seem to be room to put nine or more out at a time. The table underneath the board seemed to be the way to go. I wrote a blessing, which mentioned a few of the following words... Hope, Joy, Peace, Love, and Wisdom. On the backside I placed a name.

I also decided to use my real name this year (last year I did STRATOZ), though I would like to have been in the shadows of the crowd...
One day my director gave me a meditation on Jesus feeding the 5000. I read the passage before the meditation. My imagination took off and I was firmly placed in the crowd rushing to meet Jesus, not in the boat with Jesus. I was willing to show up to be taught and healed, but I didn't want to picture myself as one who actually fed folk for Jesus, which is of course where the meditation wanted me to go. I resisted in the morning, which worked out nicely for about 30 minutes before mass I imagined myself being fed bread by a disciple of Christ. Later in the evening I would go deeper by imagining myself on the boat and helping Jesus.
So I tried to be shadow boy as I walked from my room with a stack of cards hidden in my journal. As the cards disappeared, I placed a few more down. I only once saw someone looking at the table where eventually 61 cards would be placed. The last few days of production I was making a dozen or so a day. Praying, drawing, and listening to jazz in my room. Emerging to eat, to be directed, to worship, and to say hello to the bluebirds.
shadow boy at Wernersville with his floppy hat...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Going Deeper, the fourth day --- Tanner and Mary and the blue Sky

After the first dinner of the retreat, you have a social activity, of sorts. All who are going to be companioned by a director show up at her/his office. I was the last to arrive and I was guided by a gesture to a chair. The chair offered quite a view.
But first this... I have been going to the Jesuit Center in Wernersville for about ten years. During that time you get to recognize the staff, from the maintenance folk, to the chef, to the woman who used to serve food but now cleans my room before and after I leave, to the office staff. One of these good folk would always pop up at mass and I was quite covetous of a job where you not only get a coffee break but you can get a Jesuit homily and the holy Eucharist while you were at it. And there she was guiding me to a chair in her office.I never knew she was also a spiritual director.
The chair had me facing a wall and on that wall was a painting. A highly favored painting by Henry Tanner. I live just north of the museum that own it. Prints and images of it seem to follow me.
By our fourth meeting a routine is set. My director gives me a meditation which I use as morning and evening prayer, I fall into a favored passage for my afternoon prayer. She is off making a copy of a meditation and I am staring at Mary. I decide I will do the Magnificat this afternoon. She walks in with a meditation on Mary's trip to Elizabeth and the Magnificat (Luke 1: 39-56).
She says, "When you speak of your friend, I think of Mary and Elizabeth." An hour later my imagination takes off once again and I am guiding Mary by hand to the Honda Fit and we hit the PA turnpike driving west. Mary changes from a teen to a woman my age mourning a son. I need both for this trip. A trip that takes me to a door step I have never seen and to my childhood. For days I have been wondering what to say when I write my friend. Now the letter takes form and I draw another card to fit inside that envelope.
after listening to those jazz tunes about Blue Skies... oh my, cool crisp Canadian air arrives and there it is...

deeper places, part 2 falling into silence, search for a calling

a friend reading this post, asks...
So this was a completely silent retreat? 8 days?

I arrived in time to unpack before dinner, send out one last facebook status, then went to eat. The dinner does not require silence so you have one opportunity to discern a friend or two before you stop talking. Then the silence begins... for next seven full days the only sustained conversation is a daily meeting with your director. A handful of times a day, I will break silence to say something profound like... Good Morning or Thank You. The daily mass allows for liturgical speech and singing, and you do get to pass the peace out loud.

Like I said, sometimes it ain't no vacation. The 8th morning you can converse at 7:30.
The first two passages given to me for reflection were callings, Isaiah 43: 1-7. and Jeremiah 1: 4-19. A couple years back I asked God if there was a calling in my life and if so I would pursue it with my whole heart. I didn't get an answer.
In Isaiah's passage God says he is honored to know the man. The word honored flew out at me, well not the first, or second, or third time I read it, but when I returned to it in the evening. I have thought of being loved, healed, taught, redeemed... by God. But is God honored to know me? This was something new. How could an all powerful knowing loving God be honored to know a lowly fool human like myself?

The next day I woke up with this thought, "May I live out this day in such a way that you will be honored to know me." I thought... "OK, that is good enough, I can pack my bags and go home." and then I said (silently of course),
"and feel free to tell me what you are calling me to do?"

That day my director gave me Jeremiah, one of my favorite passages. "I will put words into your mouth" and "As you prepare yourself for action..."


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Drawing cards, part 2---- losing spirit, being lifted up

As I reported in cards part 1, there were quite a few cards to draw. So as a warm up I drew one for myself, taped it to my wall, drew another card, sent it to Mosaic Woman, who would also have a card sent on Friday morning and another sent on Saturday.
By Saturday afternoon I was fading. I was closing in on thirty cards. It was feeling forced. Then I went to dinner.

There is something about 21 straight silent meals with the same group of people. For some the meals are an invasion into their solitude, for me it is a glorious reminder that I am far from traveling this path alone. Some folk tell me they wish they could one day go on an 8 days retreat. I wish they all can experience one. It is not always easy and one needs to get lifted up along the way, even when you are feeling connected to God. The days can be long. Way long. It is not a vacation from what you left behind, it is a journey into yourself where all that stuff has been lost and examined while you live your busy life.

That Saturday dinner did the trick. I sat in the dining room making eye contact with as many folk as I could and watching those who were being private with their eyes. I so wanted to thank them for coming to dinner with me. I imagined 21 straight meals in an empty dining hall; then headed back into my room and the callous on my thumb grew larger.

Sunday proved to be a greater challenge, much greater than drawing the cards. Especially the three for Margaret:

deeper places 1- a dream of a diner takes me to staff meetings

Never since my first 8 day retreat have I entered so quickly into feeling connected with God. I give credit to all who sent me off with their prayers, and maybe my desire.

"Use your imagination," spoken early by my director, leads to a week long colloquy... well that's what the priest in the parking lot called it, when I was having my unexpected last experience of the retreat.
I realized how rare it is has become for me to imagine God's voice when I start a conversation in prayer. It can be exhausting. It can lead to awe.
The first morning I woke up hearing a shower and thought, "Wow, Mosaic Woman is up early." I then realized I had started a retreat. The next night I actually experienced a dream, well the strange part was remembering it... We are in a diner. We tire of waiting and go outside. We come back in and discover they thought we had left and have thrown our food out. I hear the distress of the waitress as we leave.
My director asks if this could be related to my work, could you be someone other than yourself in the dream.
Later in prayer I think of two meetings in which a program and reps of that program were being treated in ways that were not filled with hope, peace, joy, and love. I spoke, but not much and not early. Often I don't speak at all. I saw myself as the waitress who wants to bring nourishment but is late. If I want a world filled with hope, joy, peace, and love.... then I guess I am going to have to nourish and defend those who are trying to do the same. The next day I say, "I don't want to be thrown in a cistern like Jeremiah."
two hours later I hear the Gospel... the beheading of John the Baptist. Given the choice I will go with the cistern and find out who my friends are.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

stained glass part 1---- before I left

(side note on temptations... not one moment on the computer after silence began, not one potato chip, infinite rambling thoughts)

Last night as I sat to do my examen, I was grateful for the joy of human conversation. I also wrote about how I was avoiding my glass studio. And when I thought about the next day I wanted to get into the studio. There were things to be taken into the studio. Amazing gifts from the retreat.
Weeks before I left on the retreat I had a thought. I keep talking about thoughts and because I am back in the land of the doubts, I am not saying what so amazed me as the retreat occurred. How many thoughts did I have leading up to that retreat and yet, the thought and the decision to take this...

took me to a deeper place, where I got to know myself and God.

Friday, September 4, 2009

drawing cards, part 1... seeing the list

Before I left for Wernersville (as I was facing the temptations)...

I decided I would once again draw cards for all those who were joining me for a week of silence. When I entered the house, I experienced this...
  1. a warm greeting from the Jesuit who guided me on my 2008 retreat (talk about exuberant folk!)
  2. a glance at an extremely long list.

I walked down to the message board and started counting... 64 folk including myself, plus a few cards for Margaret, a card for a friend, another for a past director, who is always booked by the time I register, but who always guides me to a wonderful director, and something for the director for 2009...

I thought maybe it was not possible.
Then as I unpacked, I thought of the feeding of the 5000. The message was loud and clear...

"Hey Stratoz quit looking for an excuse and listening to the wrong voice. The 5000+ didn't get fed at the same instant. Pace yourself, Be aware, You can do this...
"after all," the message went on, "you brought enough supplies and you have bandages to protect your thumb."


The five best jazz tunes for a silent retreat-- thoughts on music

I am walking down this hallway...
and there is music. I lean against the wall and listen. There is a bit of a struggle going on. The melody is there, but it stops and starts. I think of Thelonious Monk. I think of someone learning a new song. I walk by the door and glance in. My heart leaps.
I am in the dining room looking for an exuberant face to lift me through these days. I thought there were none. I find one. It was hidden behind a body twice as old as mine, hunched over, belonging to a priest who walks so slowly he takes you back to Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett show. His face glows.
It is that face that is peering down at the piano keys. Later you learn that he is teaching himself to play piano. Yes, exuberance.
Yesterday I started visiting blogs and at one I skipped over some links. I went back this morning all intent to watch a scene from a show I have never watched, but instead listened to the song I have heard many times. I hear these words "But you don't really care for music, do you?" and my heart breaks open.
My friend had asked me to think of her on two specific days... truth be told, I did, but not as much as I had the days leading up to those days. The retreat was in wind down time and I passed on my prayers to St Therese of Lisieux. Maybe I needed the line of music and it was not with me.
But I am grateful for what was there...
  1. Blue Skies by Dinah Washington. So lets say you want to go into the dining room with a bounce to your step and a joyful swinging heart (some of lack exuberance). This will do the trick.
  2. Sky Blue by Maria Schneider and her Jazz Orchestra. no link. If one needs 8 minutes to quiet one self to enter prayer, then buy this CD by the same name.
  3. Blue in Green by Miles Davis. Fell in love with this most wonderful color combination while doing art at a retreat a few years back.
  4. Blue Train by John Coltrane. when a friend who knows Wernersivlle suggests Coltrane, listen to her. If you have been there, you know about the trains.
  5. Blue Gardenia by Ahmad Jamal. Ok, yes there was a theme developing, so I went searching for tunes with Blue in the title. not all gifts arrive randomly by clicking on "shuffle"
Though I did have Thelonious on my IPOD, sadly, I did not have Blue Monk .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to Start the Last Day of a Silent Retreat

You wake up before the sun, grab your IPOD and it tells you it is 5:00 a.m. Weigh options. Sleep late and scramble or B) greet the day.

Make some tea. Consider packing. Grab the much much used drawing table, your dirty clothes and your slightly used bottle of porto and head west to the car. Enjoy the chill. Be aware, the sun is rising as you walk back the the retreat center.

Consider your options. Pack or what you will choose to do... Take your tea and head to the third floor, walk east and be amazed by the view. By God. By Yourself. By the music you chosen to listen to, Maria Schneider's Jazz Orchestra.

Pull a slip of paper out of your pocket. You have looked at this paper several times since it was handed to you 20 hours ago. It was given to you by a woman who has been your companion for seven days. Think this: "but not an 8th day, it is nearly time to leave."

Be aware and you will see your mistake.

You see your name written on the top left corner. As you read it again, her voice reads it to you.


Watch the sunrise. Be amazed. Don't stop being amazed.

Pull the slip out again. You never know what will happen. and something does.

Now for the first time, it is your voice you hear and you are calling out to your friends. You desire for them to feel what you are feeling.

So go home. And when the doubts arise that what you experienced was not revelation, fight them off and start sharing what you experienced.

Find that piece of paper. Think of your companions and feel free to let your heart be amazed...

"When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God--- some of them already in Heaven and some down here on Earth--- that out of his glorious unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God's children should, how his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself." Ephesians 3:14-21