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First World problems and simple pleasures

About one week ago, our dishwasher died. Well, it didn’t die completely; it just shut down mid-cycle no matter how many times we tried to make it work. And, boy, did we try. We spent a ridiculous amount of time running the normal cycle, hearing the telltale ding of an error and then re-running cycles — sometimes four or five in a row — in an effort to get the dishes clean, if not dry. Finally, we surrendered, accepting the fact that for the foreseeable future we had no dishwasher, thanks to a dearth of appointments with our warranty company. And so, this weekend, Dennis headed to the store to buy a drain rack so we could start doing dishes the old-fashioned way.

One of our three children marveled at this strange contraption, wondering how it “worked.” Another saw me with my hands in sudsy water and asked if she might try since it looked so “fun.” I flashed back to my own young childhood, when our home had no dishwasher at all, and I was the nightly dryer of dishes, standing beside my mother begrudgingly with towel in hand.

But, as I soaked the dishes, up to my elbows in warmth and bubbles, looking out the kitchen window at the lush green of our slightly-out-of-control backyard plants, I felt…what was it? Peace. Maybe even joy. Definitely satisfaction. This long-lost simple pleasure, this chore, was, in reality, a welcome break from the chaos of life, giving me reason to pause, to stand in one place with nowhere to go and to meditatively move my hands in circles as I scrubbed the plates and pots.

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, in Peace Is Every Step: “The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles! If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert.”

In my own book, Everyday Divine, I recommend turning everyday chores into prayers: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, CEO, teacher, plumber, student, or retiree, certain things simply have to be done: washing dishes, making beds, mowing lawns, wiping counters. This is the most logical place to begin adding everyday prayer into your life. Why not make the most of all that time spent doing necessary tasks?”

It took the inconvenience of a broken dishwasher to remind me of my own instructions. As it turns out, St. Teresa of Avila was right: “God moves among the pots and pans.” Especially when warm, soapy water is involved.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us

My reflection on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene in the July issue of Give Us This Day:

St. Mary Magdalene has a feast! A new addition to the Church’s liturgical calendar as of only last year, our first reaction to the celebration might be, “What took them so long?” How is it possible that the “Apostle to the Apostles” was last in line when it came to official recognition of key witnesses to the resurrection? It’s a good question, because clearly Jesus Christ saw fit to put Mary Magdalene first. While the others were locked away in fear, she was at the tomb looking for the Lord, and she was not disappointed. Shocked? Certainly. Confused? At first. But disappointed? Never. Because she trusted in the Lord from day one and did not waver. Not once. Read more

Taking a vacation from technology

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this week when a headline made me pause—and click: “I almost let my journalism job destroy my marriage. Don’t make the same mistake,” it read. Although I’m no longer a journalist and I don’t think my marriage is on the verge of destruction due to my job, I do think my joy, my spiritual health and my life in general are teetering close to the brink because of the always-connected mentality of the modern world. And I know I’m not alone. Read more

Christmas in July. Sort of.

My newest book of spiritual reflections is now available from Liturgical Press. It’s never too early to start planning for Christmas, right? You can get Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2017-18  for only $2 per copy at the Liturgical Press site, even cheaper ($1) if you buy in bulk, as many parishes do. There is also a large-print edition, which is only $5.95 and is not only larger print but a larger book for those who don’t want a pocket-size book, as well as an e-edition for 99 cents. The booklet  is also available on Amazon for $2 per copy, if you prefer to go the Prime route. Read more

My Merton Fourth-and-Walnut Moment

Tonight I had my Thomas Merton Fourth & Walnut moment. I watched this crowd dancing in the plaza on Atwells in Providence while we ate dinner, and all I could feel was love for all of them, and joy. This is the best of who are. All together. No differences. Strangers dancing as partners in the middle of an open square. #hope

The art of life, and the life of art

When I was young, I bought into the notion that I was not good at art, that we were not good at art, as if it were possible to classify an entire gene pool as bad at any particular thing. But the truth is that I was writing songs and my own version of poetry long before I hit high school. And although I didn’t think of it as such at the time, it was art, even if it was not the still-life-on-canvas type of art we might imagine when we hear the word. Read more

Take a weekend to nourish body, mind, and spirit

I’m guessing you could use a few days of peace and quiet, maybe in a gorgeous spot, where you have nothing to do but stare out a lake and let someone else do the cooking. Sound about right? If so, mark your calendars. I’ll be leading a retreat — Stillpoint: Creating Calm amid Life’s Chaos — at Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, New York, over the weekend of Sept. 8-10, 2017. Your spiritual getaway will include collage-as-prayer, journaling, silent breakfasts, meditation in motion, and prayer practices to help you discover the divine in the everyday, the miracles in the mundane. Plus, you’ll get delicious meals and free time to rest or hike or paddle a kayak across a crystal clear lake. I’ll provide the program; Pyramid will provide the spectacular setting, and you can do as much or as little as you want. The goal is to nourish yourself — body, mind, and spirit. Read more

Alleluia, Alleluia. He is risen: Knowing with our hearts what our heads can’t comprehend

“For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” I take such comfort in these closing words of today’s Gospel. Because even amid the joy and celebration — the Alleluias sung at full volume and the flowers so fragrant I could swoon from the scent — there is a little piece of me that still doesn’t understand, that probably will never understand the resurrection, at least not this side of heaven.
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Finding grace, even in the shadow of the cross

I’ve been in desperate need of some grace these days. So much so, that I pulled a tarnished silver necklace bearing the word “GRACE” out of my jewelry box and looked up a DIY silver cleaning recipe that verged on chemistry experiment to polish it up. It was as if that tangible, visible sign of grace hanging from around my neck might get me the real deal, or at least a little closer to it. Read more

Finding the blessing in a toilet in need of scrubbing

Most weekends I don’t look forward to the long list of things that need to get done. After a busy week at work and nights spent driving to and from appointments and classes and more, I want to do nothing. Plain and simple. And so I procrastinate and grumble and eventually do my chores begrudgingly, always thinking that as soon as I’m done — if only that magic moment would get here sooner – or ever! — I will finally have a few minutes to really enjoy my weekend.  Read more