Category Archives: Nature

“Laudato Si”

butterflyPope Francis’ Encyclical  “Laudato Si, (Praise Be): On Care for Our Common Home” has generated a lot of publicity.  As is common with many media reports involving our dear Pope Francis, I am certain many things will be twisted and portions will be taken out to suit specific agendas.  I decided to give it a read myself and highly recommend it to everyone!  It is a wonderful document filled with praise for our Creator and an urgent pleading for the greater care of all His creation.  I encourage you to read it for yourself to truly appreciate all the Pope has to say instead of just the bits and pieces the media might pull out.  You can read the full encyclical here.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the document (it was so hard to choose just a few!):

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection.

The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.

In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings.

Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances?

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.

The Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways.

Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all. In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast.

Lessons from an Adventurous Pup

800px-Whipps_LedgesThis past weekend my husband and I took our little puggle pup Amber for an adventure to a beautiful park with tons of gorgeous and fascinating cliffs, rocks, ledges, and more. Amber is about 18 pounds and full of energy. The combination of beagle determination and pug goofiness makes her a crazy ball of fun in any situation but is heightened when surrounded by new smells and exciting trails to explore.

While my husband and I were careful to watch exactly where we were going, little Amber was not so cautious. She ran up ahead as far as her leash would allow her to. She pranced around and jumped from rock to rock without a care, occasionally glancing back at us as if to say “Come on!” She was happy as could be without a care in the world. She couldn’t see the path ahead through all the rocks, but she trusted that we were right there behind her, holding onto her leash and ready to stop her from going too far ahead or too close to the edge.

At one particularly adventurous moment, she took a leap onto a large slanted rock to the side of our intended path, much too steep for her to climb up.  She started to slide back down and my husband quickly picked her up, placing her back on the ground in the direction we had been heading.  Still she wasn’t scared or cautious as we came to the rocks again.  Her tail was wagging in its curly pug fashion as she happily continued along.

As Amber proved to be quite the trooper on our hike, she also knew when it was time for a rest.  The discovery of a small babbling stream through the rocks caused her to slow her step and take a few moments to drink up and cool off.  The sight of a little toad hopping along the path made her stop in her tracks to see just what this new creature was up to.  The lush green grass that grew in clusters along the trail provided more opportunities for breaks as Amber paused to munch on a blade here and there.  Despite her adventurous spirit, even Amber knew when to take a break and just relax.  She knew when to stop and enjoy the treasures she found.

As I carefully watched her to make sure she would be safe, it occurred to me that this is how I should be on my own adventure through life.  To go through life enjoying all the things we have been given and willing to try new adventures without fear.  To be able to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit guiding me even when I can’t quite see the path ahead.  To go forward knowing that if I start to wander in the wrong direction, to get too close to the edge, to attempt a climb too steep and dangerous, God will be there the whole time to gently pull me back to safety and help me find my way again.   And in the midst of it all, to be able to stop, rest, and enjoy the blessings that surround me.

I wish I could see the exact plan all laid out ahead of me with little signs telling me which way to go, what decisions to make, and so on.   But I can’t.   The best I can do is pray for guidance and keep going forward with my full trust in God.  When I feel myself beginning to stress over which way to go next or worrying over what might be ahead in life, I am going to take a cue from my pup and keep moving forward with the plans God has for me, stopping to rest and listen to His voice, and continuing on my journey with faith, hope, and excitement at the wonders God has in store.

image credit

Lives Filled With Wonder

images

Get up, eat breakfast, walk the dog, go to work, come home, walk the dog make dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, go to bed.  Repeat.

Everyone has a daily routine.  Of course from day to day little things happen here and there that change it up a bit.  But for many, the same basic routine day after day begins to feel monotonous.  Sometimes it seems like you get to the end of the week only to look back and think…what did I do this week?   Where did the time go?

Even though our routines may be the same, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of just going through the daily motions.  Each day, no matter what we accomplish, where we go, who we see, is filled with wonder! We only have to open our eyes to see it all around us.

imagesOur morning routine might seem fairly boring.  It may not seem like there is any wonder in these tiny, seemingly insignificant tasks.  But that is not the case!  The food we have to eat, the toaster we use to make our morning bagels, the refrigerator that keeps our food cold, these are all wonders!  The nature outside, the pets we love so dear, the sun shining, the rain watering, each one of these tiny moments is wonder filled.  Even the simple act of getting out of bed, of having a bed and a roof over our heads.  These wondrous blessings we often take for granted.  But if we look further we can see that even the most boring days are filled with good and wondrous things.

In our lives we have moments where we search for meaning.  We fill our days with tasks and activities to try and give meaning to our lives.  But the truth is, the meaning is life!  The life we have been given and the gifts we have to offer others, that is what gives meaning to the daily routines we have.  Whether you are the head of five different volunteer committees, the head of a major company, or the head of your family. We all have our own individual calling.  One person’s call is not more or less than another person’s.  When we follow the Lord, it is not just the tasks we partake in, is the very way we live our lives!  That is what keeps our daily routine from becoming a boring, monotonous way to eat up time and transforms it into a wonder filled life of adventure in the Lord!

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”  James 1:17

imagesOur lives are filled with good things.  Even in the tough times, there are countless blessings surrounding us always.  From the tiny petals on a flower, to the shape of the clouds as they move across the sky.  From the smile on your husband’s face when he greets you after a long day at work, to the smile of a stranger on the sidewalk.  Each of these is a perfect gift from God.

God is not hiding from us.  He is surrounding us at every moment of every day!  He did not create us to walk this earth as robots.  He created us to truly live!  To take notice of His love poured out all around us.  To see the blessings He has bestowed upon us and to be filled with the love and joy that comes from them!  He created us to life lived filled with wonder!

We all have a calling.  And with those callings some responsibilities.  We have daily routines we must fulfill.  But as we go through our typical to-do lists, let’s all challenge ourselves to find more in our lives.  Each day, with each seemingly boring task, let us pray that we will take notice of a blessing within that task and use it as a moment to grow closer to God. Open our eyes to the beauty and awe that surrounds us.

Our lived are filled with wonder.  It’s time we start seeing it.

Spring Will Come

Yesterday when I got home from work I checked the weather forecast for today: 52 and sunny!  Oh how wonderful that sounded!  I laid out my clothes to wear for work today with spring weather in mind.  This morning I awoke and hurried to get ready.  I grabbed my spring jacket and ran out the door only to discover frost on my windshield and tiny snowflakes beginning to fall.  By the time I got to work it was snowing in earnest and within a few hours we had easily accumulated an inch of snow to cover the ground once again in a blanket of white.  We all looked out the windows shaking our heads.  Where was the 50 degree sunshine we were expecting?  And as usual, we blamed the weatherman who gave us such an erroneous forecast to begin with.  But it wasn’t his fault.  

We become so fixed on our human plans, interpretations, and explanations.  We see the logic in the scientific radar and the weather forecast and so we take it as fact.  We plan accordingly based on what human reasoning tells us is appropriate.  And when our plans are foiled, we are left frustrated.  We look at the calendar telling us it is the first day of spring and we “decide” that the weather should follow along.  With the wealth of information available thanks to the internet, we feel that we have the knowledge to plan out every part of our lives. 

But the truth is we cannot tell the future.  We can plan and prepare all we like but sometimes when you least expect it, despite all contradictory information, it snows.  And somehow, though it happens time and time again, we are always surprised when our plans do not work out the way we had hoped.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

It is fine to plan.  It is good to prepare.  It is even better to pray.  Although we do not know what the future holds, we know that God is there.  His thoughts, His plans, His ways are far greater than our own.  Praying for His will does not mean we will suddenly have all the answers. Nor does it mean that we will always know exactly what to do next.   But by keeping God at the center of our decisions and prayerfully opening our lives up to what He has in store for us, we know we are in the best possible hands.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God’s plans for us are the best possible plans there could be!  Because regardless of what we may face, we know that His plan is filled with the hope of eternity in Heaven with Him.  His wonderful plans for us lead to salvation!  

We may not know what the weather will be like tomorrow, but we know that spring will come eventually.  And you know what?  Maybe those weathermen weren’t too far off in their forecast.  The sun is again shining and has melted the snow from this morning.  Perhaps spring is here after all.  We just need to be patient and wait with hope in the plans of the Lord that the sun will shine, the flowers will bloom, and spring will come again.

Spring Cleaning

Despite the fact that snow is once again falling outside, it was 50 degrees yesterday and the tease of warm weather made it feel like spring is truly just around the corner. The warm sunny day allowed us to take a nice walk outside with our pup and the fresh air was wonderful. Both my husband and I were fighting small colds this week and decided to use our “spring” weather as an inspiration for some premature spring cleaning. We spent the morning cleaning our home and even decided it was time to hang the spring wreath up on our front door. After a few hours of hard work, the house is spotless and ready for spring, even if the cold snowy weather reminds us that winter is not quite through with us yet.

This winter has been the coldest and snowiest we have had in several years and it is starting to take its toll on everyone. Where the snow used to appear magical and glistening it now looks bleak and dreary. The cold temperatures that we use for an excuse to cuddle up with a nice cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket are now just a way of keeping us indoors as we longingly wait for sunny days again. We are just about desperate for spring to arrive and taking part in some early spring cleaning made it feel like we were closer to those warm days and April showers that we know will eventually come our way.

As we clean out our homes and prepare ourselves for spring, it occurred to me that this being the Lenten season, is it not also the perfect time to clean out our hearts? During Lent we wait in our own sort of winter. We know that Easter Sunday and the celebration of the Resurrection are ahead, but first we have to go through the season of Lent. We fast, we pray, we help others, we clean out our hearts for the Lord.

“A clean heart create for me God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.” Psalm 51:12

When the winter weather seems like it has gone on forever, we turn our thoughts towards spring. We move our focus to the sunny days ahead. We dream of blossoming tulips and chirping birds. We clean out our homes to prepare for the start of a new exciting season. Just as the long winter months can drag us down, sometimes we face moments in life that weigh on us and try to crush our spirits.

When we feel the weight of the world pulling us down, we need to turn our focus to what lies ahead. We need to think instead on the love of Christ and the hope we have in Him. We pray for God to create clean hearts within us. We ask Him to clear out the dreariness, the worries, the troubles that we face. We ask God to fill our hearts with the steadfast spirit that is filled not with dreary long winter days but that is alive with the faith and hope of the spring that is coming!

Jesus has risen from the dead! He has conquered death and saved us from sin so that we may be with Him forever in His kingdom! As we go forward this Lent and remember the sacrifice our Lord made for us, let us also remember that the love of God fills us with hope and joy even in the midst of a seemingly endless winter. No matter what trials we face, even when all seems bleak and hope seems lost, we know that spring is coming. As we put away winter boots and clean out our homes for spring, let us pray that this season of Lent we will spend time with The Lord and allow Him to create clean hearts within us that are filled with the hope and joy of the Risen Christ.

The Beauty of Creation

Winter is not letting up just yet! As we are in the midst of another snowstorm it can be easy to complain about the weather. Instead, I decided to re-blog a post I had written two years ago to invite all of us to look for the beauty in God’s creation. God’s wondrous works can be seen even in the icy weather that surrounds us. Let us all take a moment today to see His glory surrounding us.

roses near running waters

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence;  see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~Blessed Mother Theresa

The beauty of creation surrounds us everywhere.  In the trees, flowers, rivers, waterfalls, animals, mountains, deserts, jungles…the list goes on and on.  For me, I find that being in nature always makes me feel closer to God.  It’s hard to walk through the woods on a beautiful crisp fall day with the sun shining through the colorful leaves without thinking of the Creator.  When you look out at the sun rising over the ocean with water and sky merging in glorious colors as far as the eye can see, how can you not marvel at what our God has created?    In the midst of these gorgeous…

View original post 731 more words

The Peace of Winter

Snowfall

Snowfall (Photo credit: Ollie T.)

Yesterday as I left work and began to brush the snow off my car, I found myself marveling at the shimmer coming from the flakes.  It was only about 18 degrees (F) and it was what I refer to as sparkly snow.  The kind of snow that stays light and fluffy and sparkles in so many places it looks magical.  I looked on my coat and could see the perfectly shaped snow crystals still holding their individual beauty even once they had come to rest.  The sun was setting and the gray sky had a faint touch of pink to it as the tiny sparkly snow fell to the ground.  As I sat in my car waiting for it to warm up a tad before beginning the drive home, I felt such peace.

Our winters have much in common with the season of Advent.   There is the excitement of the freshly fallen snow,  sledding, making snowmen and snow angels.  But, like Advent, it is also a time of waiting.  Waiting for spring.  For new plants to come to life, for warmer weather, for sunnier days.

Many times we wait through winter rather impatiently.  We long for the days when you don’t need to bundle up just to get the mail.  We whine and complain about shoveling, slippery roads, high heating bills, and the gray gloomy skies.  We wait and we wait for spring!

But once spring arrives, it isn’t long before we begin to complain about the rain and yearn for the full warmth of summer.  And once the summer is fully upon us?  We complain about the heat and are desperate for fall!  We are constantly waiting for the next season to come.  And it is not only the weather that brings this out in us.  In all aspects of our lives, we seem to be constantly looking forward to the “next thing.” 

In high school and can’t wait to move out and go to college.  In college we can’t wait to graduate and get a job.  We “can’t wait” for marriage, then babies, then a house, more money, better cars, vacations, retirement…and on and on it goes.

The only thing that can keep us content as we wait through winter, through Advent, or through anything in life, is peace.  The 2nd week of Advent focuses on peace.  We need the peace of Christ in our lives.  It is the only thing that gives us rest, that allows us to enjoy the moment rather than rush into what’s next.  The peace of Christ allows our hearts to become still amidst the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season or of any time in our lives.  His peace enters into our hearts and quiets our thoughts.  It opens our eyes to the glorious beauty and wonder around us and lets us soak in God’s goodness without worrying about what lies ahead.

As I look out at the Frosty Footpath - winter snowsnow, I feel at peace.  The snow covered ground silences the noise as the perfect little flakes quietly come down to earth.  The sparkling, glistening snow is so serene, so perfect.  It is a beautiful visual of Christ’s peace in this hectic world we live in.

This Advent season, let us pray that the peace of Christ fill our hearts and souls so that we may be able to simply stop and wait, enjoy the moments we have and see God’s grace and beauty surrounding us.