Constant Contact

Zoe Photo: D Slotto

Zoe
Photo: D Slotto

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to don, once again, my nursing persona. My husband has had major surgery that leaves him in need of pretty constant attention–ergo, the scarcity with which I’ve been present in the blogosphere.

My responsibilities include our dogs–that means 3-4 walks daily as our home borders on a golf course without a yard. Zoe, a Jack Russell mix, is deaf, and true to the spirit of her breed, excitable (understatement). That gives me a lot of opportunity to practice patience–not exactly my forte.

A while back, I began asking for help during my morning prayer time, and sometimes more often. To some extent it helped. At first it seemed like she ignored joggers and golf carts and other distractions that typically set her off or even that these kinds of events diminished in number. But was short-lived. The reality is, being deaf, she startles easily and is afraid. So I pick her up and hold her close.

A couple of days ago, I happened to view an ad for the social media website, Constant Contact. That was when I realized that a quick prayer in the morning isn’t going to cut it, but rather, I need to maintain a constant contact with the Source of strength. Not only that,  it’s not about Zoe and her overreaction, but about me and my  learning and accepting the gift of patience in such situations.

I’ve got a long way to go–both in terms of patience and in remembering to ask for that help, to plug into the Divine Healer, in order to become all He wants me to be. Oh, and that Constant Contact applies to so much more than this tiny problem.

Image: bridgepointchurch.org

Image: bridgepointchurch.org

Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant

Sacred Vocabulary
eight modes of prayer
minor and major
moods to match mine
joy and pain.

Sacred Living
unfolding in hours
cast upon a staff
etched on vellum
etched in flesh.

Sacred Thought
echo through the years
rendered in music
rendered in breath.
Sacred poetry.

Gregorian chant or plainchant is a form of music used in Monastic Communities and Religious Orders for the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is also an age-old tradition for many liturgical ceremonies in the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian communities. Its style is reminiscent of ancient Hebrew chanting.

It is composed in eight modes or scales in major or minor tones. The minor modes are usually associated with the more serious or penitential times of the liturgical year, while the major tones for celebration and joyful events. In general, true Gregorian chant is recited without accompaniment or harmonization. In more recent years, Gregorian chant has caught the attention of popular culture and has on occasion merged with popular songs. The music of Enigma is an example of this.

The Liturgy of the Hours, along with the celebration of the Eucharist, constitute part of the official public prayer of the Church (including Anglicanism and Greek Orthodoxy). Also known as the Divine Office or Breviary, this prayer is recited eight times throughout the twenty-four hour day. In strict monastic settings, the monks arise during the night to recite one of the “hours.” While the hours may be recited privately, the ideal is to do so in community, preferable chanted. The Psalms make up a major part of the liturgical hours.

gregorian

Power-Up a Prayer

 

Image: bridgepointchurch.org

Image: bridgepointchurch.org

Last night, at a Super Bowl party, I had a chance to talk to a woman with whom I have golfed. We had never really gotten to know each other—the golf course isn’t a place for in-depth conversation. I relished the opportunity to share faith, even though cheers and boo’s in the background sometimes drowned us out.

Our conversation turned to prayer. We spoke of a mutual golfer-friend who is battling pancreatic cancer and, surprisingly, seems to be beating the odds. She has the attitude and the will to win the fight but Eileen told me of the battalion of prayer-warriors she had enlisted to come to our friend’s aid.

More examples of significant prayer-needs and responses came up, but eventually, morphed into the more mundane ways in which the weapon of prayer has helped. I want to give just two samples of almost-trivial instances in which I have recently experienced the help of our ever-present God.

After remodeling our kitchen, I was responsible for putting everything away. My husband is a gourmet cook so that the tools of his “trade” were stored in boxes that filled the living room. At one point, I became almost desperate looking for glass cleaner in the midst of this mass of boxes and packaging material. Finally, I asked God to help me find it and in that very instance I spotted it (in a most unlikely place, of course.)

The second—an on-going challenge—is our sweet Jack Russell Terrier who is totally deaf. Now, this is normally a hyperactive breed. When I walk her, she goes ballistic whenever a bike, jogger or car goes by. Because of her inability to hear them approaching, she is scared. She also has a degenerative spinal disorder and we need to protect her from injuring herself in that crazed, reactive state. WHEN I remember to ask God’s help before we go for a walk, it seems to go so much easier—less traffic, perhaps. But more often, I am more relaxed, less impatient and she can sense that. When I forget…well, we won’t go there!

I trust that God is just waiting for us to come to him for help—no matter how banal the request may be. After all, he is our refuge, our stronghold, our God in whom we trust.

Meet Zoe--our JRT Photo: David Slotto 2014

Meet Zoe–our JRT
Photo: David Slotto
2014

The Family That Prays Together

When I was young, the radio and TV commanded an equal amount of attention. I recall that we used to watch a weekly TV show that featured Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Even though I don’t remember most of what he said, a few tidbits–important ones–have stuck with me. One has even entered popular culture though with significant, if important, alterations. “The family that prays together, stays together.”

Time Magazine

Time Magazine

And we did. Grace, of course, at meals but also the rosary. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Sheen himself who led it on a radio station–broadcasted even in Los Angeles County. Not every night and not compulsively, my sister and I would be stretched out in our side-by-side twin beds and Mom and Dad would squeeze in between us for this bedtime ritual.

Family prayer is most likely rare in today’s busy culture. So many families can’t even gather for communal meals. Too bad. The family that prays together has been supplanted by the family that plays together in our increasing secularized society. Not that play is a bad thing. But think how different life could be if we could etch out a few moments for prayer and/or for a gathering and sharing of the day at the dinner table.

Last Advent, David and I re-initiated the practice of the Advent wreath and that has led into a new nighttime ritual–a short reflection from a meditation book by Max Lucado and a few moments of quiet reflection…it’s our dogs, this time, who snuggle up in between us.

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

I had to share this photo of Sparky taken last year. Both of our dogs join me each morning when I say to them–come on, let’s pray. This is what happened once, post-prayer.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!

Here I stand, knocking at the door.
If anyone hears me calling and opens the door,
I will enter his house and have supper with him,
and he with me.

Revelation 3: 20 (NAB)

Photo: icraftblog.blogspot.com

Photo: icraftblog.blogspot.com

Advent is here–a time of waiting, of anticipation for the coming of God-with-us, Emmanuel. I have always relished this season of the liturgical cycle and embrace it as characterizing my own personal spirituality–that sense of emptiness waiting for completion.

Right now, I’m muddling my way through the book of Revelation, the apocalyptic book that is the least read and least understood book of the New Testament. This morning I read Chapter Three and the thought occurred to me–what use is study if it’s purpose is anything but to bring us into communion with Christ.

And what better verse to savor, to sit back and absorb, than the one above–one of the few from this book that has held meaning for me in the past. For me, today, on this Sabbath, this is an invitation to remember the presence of God in whatever I do. God was with/in me as ate breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, checked e-mail, cared for the dogs. Here he is, now, as I write this post. (Actually his Spirit is the inspiration behind it.)

In my prayer, I’ve never been good at the type of meditation recommended by St. Ignatius Loyola where he has you plop yourself down in the middle of a gospel scene and allow your senses to experience everything going on in it. Just not my style, though many find it helpful. But today, it is making a lot of sense to me to visualize him here with me, leaning over my shoulder as I write. Hmmm! I wonder if he would enjoy watching a little football later today.

Isn’t Advent about just this? The coming of God in our midst–Jesus’ willingness to take on humanity and experience that which we experience–physically, emotionally, and intellectually?

I wish you a blessed Advent. Let’s invite Emmanuel in to share everything. Everything.

Photo: Victoria Slotto Our Advent Wreath 2014

Photo: Victoria Slotto
Our Advent Wreath, 2014

Martha or Mary? Mary Moments

Image: goodsalt.com

Image: goodsalt.com

All my life I’ve fancied myself a “Mary”–a deep, contemplative spirit, lounging at the feet of Jesus–a sort-of mystic. But recently, a different sort of awareness has been edging me into reality.

These past two plus months have been incredibly busy. My husband was away, working on a major remodel of a place we go to in the winter to escape winter cold. During his absence, I assumed all the chores he does for us (I won’t elaborate). Oh, I knew what they were, but had no idea of the time he spent making our life better. And these don’t include the ones we share–for example, caring for the dogs. He was home for a few days, then we swapped places and I came down here to clean up the carnage and unpack myriads of boxes. In the midst of all this busyness, I completed a number of edits and finally published my second novel, The Sin of His Father, on CreateSpace…a fun, though time-intensive process.

Photo: sosaje.com

Photo: sosaje.com

Now I sit down at my laptop, look around me at a space that was utter chaos a few weeks ago, and know the joy and satisfaction of completion. I’m ready to return home (a two-day drive) and resume a routine that is so much more balanced. It scares me!

Now what do I do, how do I spend my time? I know that I need to do something to promote my book (a task I abhor) but aside from my blogs and poetry, I have no huge projects to distract me from the art of grace-filled living.

Yesterday, in my morning prayer time, my perusal of Luke brought me to the story of Martha and Mary (Lk. 10, 38-42)–you know the one. Mary, sitting at the Master’s feet, loving, while she left her sister Martha busting her tush preparing dinner for the Lord. A bit of resentment stoked Martha’s fires and she had her say about it.

Mary has chosen the better part. That was Jesus’ message. I wonder how Martha felt about that?

In this reading of an oh-so-familiar gospel, it dawned on me, after fooling myself for so many decades, that I am no Mary, I’m really a Martha. Sometimes reality comes crashing in on us, and this was one of those moments. Now I’m trying to figure out how to reconcile the myth with the reality.

Since reading that, although I’ve been busy, I’ve tried a bit harder to grasp at Mary Moments. One of the ways I’ve done that is to black out TV and radio completely. I had been listening to grim news and Teaching Company CD’s non-stop in the background, while working. What a great way that was to silence the Spirit!

The experience wasn’t easy. Quiet allows all those thoughts we lock up to escape and haunt us. Some of them–unkind thoughts, anger–need to be faced and dealt with using prayer and forgiveness…oh yeah, and self-acceptance.

As I face a two-day drive through the Mojave Desert and the breath-taking Eastern Sierra, I promise you, I will be listening to some CD’s. I really don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel. But, in the meantime, I do hope to create space for silence…those blessed Mary-Moments.

easternwalllink

A Humble Prayer in Time of Old Age

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock
and my fortress.

Psalm 71, 3

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto

My Bible gives the title of this post to Psalm 71. As I face the reality of old age, it’s so easy to fall into worry-traps. Already prone to that weakness, I fill the pages of my journal with “What if’s.” What if there is no one to care for me? What if we run out of money? What if my husband needs care and I am no longer able to care for him? What if, what if, what if…?

In Psalm 71, the psalmist deals with his aging by calling on God for protection.

In my more sane moments, I look back on my life and celebrate God’s constant care. When I made a move, a significant life changing decision, God put my husband in my life to help me navigate a complicated world. When I needed a kidney transplant, a co-worker offered one of her’s to me. This list could go on and on.

Aging is a time to focus on our relationship with the Divine, It is a time to live in the present moment, a time to trust that all shall be well because our God is in charge.

Clearly, I need to return, time and again, to the prayer that is Psalm 71. Worry is not an option.

Photo: The Telegraph, UK

Photo: The Telegraph, UK

Where Am I Going–the First Post

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

Good morning and welcome.

I created the skeleton of this blog a while back and have been struggling to write this first post. Where am I going with this effort? What is God asking of me?

This morning, I realized I just need to jump in and let the Holy Spirit do the work, and so I share with you a simple prayer that I keep in my Bible and pray as a jump-start to my day:

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Oh Holy Spirit, give me stillness of soul in you.
Calm the turmoil within with the gentleness of your peace.
Quiet the anxiety within with a deep trust in you.
Heal the wounds of sin within with the joy of your forgiveness.
Strengthen the faith within with the nearness of your presence.
Confirm the hope within with the knowledge of your strength.
Give fullness to the love within with an outpouring of your love.

Oh Holy Spirit, be to me a source of light, strength and courage
so that I may hear your call ever more clearly
and follow it more generously.

Amen.

Please take a moment to read the Welcome and About pages so that we may get to know each other. In the same manner, I look forward to visiting you and gaining insight and strength for the journey.

Additional links:

My Writing Blog

My Website

Thank you for your visit.

“Be still, and know that I Am God.” Ps. 46, 10