Ignatian Spirituality Inspiration Spirit

Post Retreat I

There’s a lot of thoughts floating through my head today, having just made an eight day silent retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  I’m planning one writing about several key insights over the next couple of weeks, and I thought I just as well might start today.

During the past three retreats, my director has been a man named Stephen.  On the surface, one might assume that he and I would approach things differently.  The main reason is that Stephen is a retired Episcopal priest.  As I filled out the questionnaire for my first retreat, I had four options to choose from for director.  The first was a Jesuit priest, the second was a laywoman from Georgetown University,  the third was Stephen, and the fourth was whoever was available.

Those who know me well would never have guessed that I would have checked off the box marked “whoever was available.” I like to be in more control than that, but on that particular day, I had the sense that I needed to be more Spirit-led, so, that’s what I checked.  I ended up with Stephen, and it turned out that God knew what He was doing.  It was also a great validation of my instinct to trust more.    Now when we get together, it’s as if I’m greeting an old friend.  All the groundwork has been laid in the previous years. Each session now leads me deeper into my friendship with not only Stephen, but more importantly, God.

Sometimes, we have to think outside the box, be a bit more trusting, a little more prayerful.  It would not have been the end of the world had I gotten one of the other folks leading that first silent retreat. But I’m glad I ended up with Stephen, who although he is from a different denomination, loves the Spiritual Exercises in a very deep and rich way, and he wants to share his wisdom with others.  He’s helped me learn a wonderful new way to pray, and the ability to embrace a spirituality that reminds each of us  to “find God in all things.”  How can those not be great things?  Where have you found God today?  Have you looked?

Inspiration Mind Spirit

Holes in the Fence

Well, I’m back from my retreat.  It was a good one, and I’ll be sharing some of the experiences with you over the next couple of weeks. I came across this little story while I was away, and I thought I’d share it with you.  I hope it has as much meaning for you as it did me.

There was once a boy with a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

On the first day the boy drove 39 nails into the fence.  Over the next several weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails he hammered daily gradually diminished.

He discovered that it was easier to hold his temper than to drive nails into the fence.  Finally, a day came when he didn’t need the hammer and nails at all.  Proudly, he went to tell his father.  This time the father suggested that each day he kept his temper, the boy should pull out a nail from the fence.

The days passed, until eventually the boy was able to tell his father that the last nails were gone.  The father took the boy by the hand and led him to the fence.  “You have done well- but look at all the holes in the fence!  It will never be the same again.  When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, but it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”

Inspiration Mind Spirit

Not quite time

I was craving some real food today, so I went to the grocery store after Mass.  The produce department was just beyond the front doors, and I immediately came upon a big display of one of my favorite fruits, the white peach.    I had never even heard of this type of tasty fruit until I saw one of the funniest Seinfeld episodes of all time, where Kramer was going crazy for “mackinaw” peaches from Oregon. 

 According to Kramer, these were simply the world’s best peaches, and were only available for two weeks a year.   Like most people who like peaches, it got me thinking about heading out to get some myself.  Except, in usual Seinfeld fashion, there’s no such thing as a “mackinaw” peach.  They made it up.  But white peaches are fantastic, and I’ve loved them ever since tasting my first  several years back. 

Where is this all going, you ask?  Well, the peaches I got today were pretty lousy.  I bought a whole pound of them, thinking that I’d have one or two for dessert each day while I’m on retreat.  The thing is, it’s still too early around here for peaches, and I knew it.  We’re several weeks away from great local peaches, and I should have waited. 

In our world today, we can get just about anything, any time we want.  But some things are worth waiting for, so that you can savor them all the more when the proper time finally comes.    I used to think it was just little kids that wanted everything NOW.  Today, I guess it’s safe to say that we’re partly in the mess we’re in because most everyone took on a kind of NOW mentality. It’s going to take us years to undo the damage.  

Lately, I’ve been trying to take a  slower approach to things, finally realizing that there’s a time for everything.  I messed up today with the peaches, so I haven’t quite learned my lesson. Old habits die hard. 

When the right time for white peaches finally comes, you can bet I’ll be buying another pound or two .  They are worth waiting for.   


Ignatian Spirituality Inspiration Prayer Spirit

Three Minute Retreat

I’m an early riser, and have been since I was a kid.  Praying first thing in the morning comes easily to me, and it’s part of my daily rhythm.  But some days, it’s hard to focus, even with my cup of coffee, so I began visiting Loyola Press’ website and using their three minute retreat.  Is that all it takes?  Yes, and I’ve actually found that on some crazy days, I have to slow myself down or I would have it done in two.  Of course, you could also stretch it out to, say, five minutes if you wanted to.

Following Ignatian Spirituality, these short refections begin with a beautiful image.  With some instrumental music if you like, you’ll scroll through a Scripture passage, a brief reflection, and them some challenging questions. The retreat ends with a short prayer that generally asks the Lord’s help in integrating the day’s theme into our daily lives.

You can do your retreat in the morning, like I do, or at any other time that suits you.  So many of us don’t find time for God in the business of our daily living.  If that sounds like you, why don’t you try doing these little retreats for the next week.  See what a difference it can make.

Ignatian Spirituality Prayer Spirit

Retreat Day Four

Well, my retreat is half-way over.  It’s hard to believe how fast time flies.  Last year, my retreat director told me an interesting statistic.  Steve said that a survey had been given to a large group  of those who direct eight day Ignatian retreats. While there were lots of insights to be gleaned from the results, one jumped out.  On average, it’s taking people four to five days to unwind enough to fully engage in the retreat.  Imagine.

We are so stressed out that we spend half our retreat time just calming down enough to hear what God wants to say to us.  The funny thing is, I know a lot of people who think they are too busy to go on retreat 🙂

So far, my retreat has been good.  Right before I left, my pastor (and good friend of fifteen years) announced that he was leaving our parish to become the Rector of the Basilica in downtown Baltimore.  This major change has given me a lot to think/pray about while I’m away.

Having a new employee starting tomorrow is high on my list too.  And this blog. And then there’s….  Maybe the fifth day will be the charm for me this year.

Please know that I’m praying for you while I’m away.  One of the best ways to become less distracted with your own life is to focus on the needs of others.  There are many, many needs. Let’s lift one another up during these days, and become a blessing to each other.

Ignatian Spirituality Inspiration Prayer Spirit

Retreat in Silence

This afternoon, I’ll be heading out for my annual silent retreat.  The retreat center where I go generally has these Ignatian retreats in August, but this year, it was moved to the middle of June. As I noted in my post yesterday, I know that God always has a plan.  I’m wondering if He knew how much I would need a retreat at the beginning of the summer, instead of at the end.  Maybe it will be made clear to me. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

Usually, I bring a ton of spiritual reading with me, most of which I carry back home unread.  I tend to try and “fill” the silence, but not this year.  I’m only bringing a couple of things to read, along with my journal.  I want to really be able to “hear.”

My traveling companions this year will be Chris Lowney, who wrote Heroic Living.  St. Ignatius will be joining us, along with St. Phillip Neri, who has only recently come back on my radar.  Together, we’ll be walking, thinking, praying, and relaxing.  Together, we’ll be traveling along the path that leads to the One who calls our name, reminding us that we are His, and all is well.

Inspiration Spirit

The Unfolding Mystery

I had the chance to visit one of my good friends today.  I wanted to talk with him a bit before I went on retreat, to seek some guidance about what I should focus on.  We spent some time talking about several of the key things that have been going on with me over the last few months. Nothing bad, mostly good.

As I finished up filling him in, he said the image he got was a kind of unfolding of a story. How it will end is still a mystery, with new chapters being written with each passing day.  I really liked this image, and it resonated with me.

Life really is a mystery, isn’t it?  Although many of us try to figure it out, in the end that approach seems a bit futile.  We get frustrated when we think that everything is up to us, that we are fully in control.   In the end, I know that God has a plan for each of us, and for the world.

I can’t say for sure what tomorrow will bring.  That’s part of the mystery unfolding before us. This unfolding started long before our present generation, and will probably end long after we’re gone.  Our own unique stories are woven into a larger one that continues to be written.

I can’t wait to see how this story plays out.  I think it will all make sense in the end, like most good mysteries.   Maybe we’ll scratch our heads and think to ourselves, “I should have figured it out so much sooner. The Author put signs and hints on nearly every page.”

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.  When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot.

Jeremiah 29:11-14


Dealing with Disappointment

I loved this plant.  You have to baby trailing begonias, and I worked hard for the past two years at turning this one into, as my mother put it, a “show stopper.” 

She asked me about it the other day, and I had to tell her how I killed it.  At the end of the season last year, I did everything I was supposed to do with this begonia, one of my favorite plants. 

After the first frost, I brought the plant in, put the very ugly tuber into a contain filled with peat moss, then placed the whole thing into a dark closet.  Come spring, I brought it out, put it in a sunny window, and was supposed to lightly water it. 

My problem was I put way too much water on the darn thing, and it rotted.  By the time I realized it, Whiteflower Farms had sold out of all their stock, so I’m doing without my Orange Cascade this year. 

Now all this may sound trivial,  and in the big picture, it is, but I was really disappointed in myself for not following the growing instructions and killing a $30 plant. 

It seems like we deal with some disappointment just about every day.  Some relate to very serious and important things, and others are about minor issues.  The question is, how to we get over them?

I think the key is perspective.  If we suffer a minor setback, we can pick ourselves up and keep moving.  Figure out what went wrong and develop ways to keep from being in the same situation again.

For the more serious issues, it might take time to get over it.  Praying about it will help.  Talking it over with a good friend might ease the pain.  Realizing that there are many other people in far worse situations could help you understand that, in the grand scheme of things, your situation is a blip on the screen.  You’ll deal with it and move on.

Life is too short to be trapped in negative thinking.  Tomorrow, God will give us all the chance to turn things around and make things right.  Give it a try.

Blogging Body Inspiration Mind Spirit Vegetarian

Sacred Feasts

(Assisi, 2007)

In his cookbook, Sacred Feasts, Brother Victor-Antione D’Avila-Latourrette (what a name for a monk) wrote that he hoped his readers would discover an affinity for the monastic (vegetarian) approach to cooking.  Brother Victor (much better ;)) wrote ,

this style of cooking is characterized by simplicity, tastefulness and resilient frugality.  It’s also imbued with the innumerable joys and ways of praising God daily through the practice of food spirituality in the humble sanctuary of the kitchen. (pg. vii) 

When I first purchased this great cookbook, I didn’t know that for centuries, monks ate an almost exclusively vegetarian diet.  As I read through the recipe commentaries, I began to understand not only the rhythm of monastery life, but also how simply the monks ate.  Brother Victor presented the monk’s favorite recipes with the hope that everyday cooks would recreate and experiment with the dishes, which he called authentic food for the body and soul.

Being an everyday cook, I did just that, and through trying the recipes, I became hooked on vegetarian food.  I loved the line about authentic food for the body and soul.  Yes, that’s what I think we need to do.  Link our physical and spiritual nourishment together to improve our overall health.

 If we eat only junk food, which we know is not the best for us, do we also not pay much attention to what we consume for our spiritual growth?  It’s a pretty good question to ask yourself.  When I look back to the time that I was eating very poorly, I can now see that I wasn’t taking care of myself spiritually either.  Today,  I’ve got both in sync, along with positive mental growth, and I’m in the best overall shape I’ve ever been.

All this got me thinking, and I decided to begin inviting friends over to my house for simple vegetarian meals.  I wanted the food to be really good and easy to prepare.  I had my first sacred feast a few months ago, and all of the recipes can be viewed in the recipes section on the right.  Everyone loved the food, and it was a great experience for me. 

My goal now is to start having these dinners every month.  I’m encouraging you to try some of the recipes, and then host your own sacred feast.  So many people are looking to get healthy, not only physically but also spiritually.  I think hosting a sacred feast is a really cool  way to help those we love to take care of themselves a bit better. 

In the next week, look for a Sacred Feasts tab to the right.  I’m going to get some menu ideas posted, along with some new recipes for you to try out (I have to test them first!).

Thanks to everyone who continues to follow this blog.  It has taken a life of its own on, and I’m still learning.  For those who have subscribed and get the blog through email, I have a tip for you.  

When you open the email, click on the title of the blog entry (using today’s  for example, Sacred Feasts).  This will take you from the email to my actual blog, Making All Things New.  You’ll be able to see everything the way I’m intending it to be viewed, which I think will make it a more meaningful experience for you.

Spirit Travel



In my area, the schools let out this week, and summer officially begins.  I know the kids are really excited, just like we were when we were children. 

Actually, I’m pretty excited too.  Summer is supposed to be about relaxation and rejuvenation.  Just about now, I need both, and so do most of the folks I know.  Maybe it’s because we had such a fierce winter, but we were already dreaming of walks on the beach and food on the grill in March.  It’s taken awhile to get here, but we sure are ready for long and lazy days of doing nothing important.

Over Memorial Day, I began reading a spy novel, which I finished this past weekend.  Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci was a good read.   My mother got me hooked on this type of  suspense novel years ago, and they make their rounds through our family.  The book I’m really looking forward to is Brad Thor’s newest novel, Foreign Influence, due out at the end of this month.  I have read everything he’s written, and I guess Thor has become one of my favorite authors.    He’s a master at drawing you into the lives of his characters and the adventures they have.

Anyway, whatever it is you do in the summer, start making plans.  It’s here :).  What are you most looking forward to?