Ignatian Spirituality Inspiration Prayer

God’s Well Tended Flock

“For this is our God,

whose people we are,

God’s well-tended flock.”  Psalm 95:7

I know they might be a bit hard to make out, but there eight little ducklings in the photo above. They were really small, about half the size of my fist.  I want to share with you the story behind the photo.  I think it’s a good one.

On the last day of my retreat last week, I drove over to Patapsco State Park, about a ten minute drive from the retreat center.  I’ve been to the park and was impressed with its size and the fact that, during the week, there’s hardly anyone there.

As I walked the trails, trying to get my thoughts together about my retreat, I saw a trail sign pointing to McKeldin Rapids.  It looked like the trail wasn’t especially arduous, so I decided to take it.  It was a good call.

The trail led to the rapids, which fed into a large pool of water.  The rapids weren’t especially large, but there was a lot of water flowing through them.  As I started climbing the rocks leading to the top of the rapids, an adult female duck took flight and flew just above the water, landing in the pool some distance down river.  The duck seemed out of sorts to me, and I was thinking maybe it was injured.  As I turned to look back up-stream, I saw the coolest thing.

In front of me was a little group of ducklings trying to go up the rapids, and, due to their size, they were having a very hard time of it.  As they struggled, the force of the water kept tossing them back down.  One by one, however, they made it up, much to my amazement.

As I settled down on a rock, I began thinking/praying, and writing in my journal.  After about five minutes, I heard all this quacking coming upstream.  I stood up just in time to see the eight little ducklings who had struggled so greatly to get away from me, begin to race down the swift water.

It was really pretty awesome to see them try to make it down.  I’ve been whitewater rafting several times, and it can be pretty scary at times.  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be a little duckling tumbling down, some getting caught up in the turbulent, swirling water.  In the end, they all made it to the peaceful pool at the end of the rapids, and I watched them wade out one by one on the opposite bank.

As soon as this experience was over, I began to ask God what He wanted to teach me in this.  I just happened upon this scene, and I knew there was something God wanted to say to me in it. Here’s what I figured out:

We’re living in some pretty turbulent times right now.  Personally, the transfer of my pastor at the church where I work will force us to go through some major changes soon.  Change is never easy.  This will be major for me and my parish community.    Other people reading this might be going through health problems, unemployment concerns, relationship or financial problems.

I think God allowed me to watch this scene unfold because He wanted to remind me that there was no need to be afraid.  I’m part of a well-tended flock, and although we might be very apprehensive about what the future might hold, He’s in control and has a plan.

The future might include some turbulent times,and I might have a sense of being tossed about like one of those little ducklings.  But we, like them, will make it through.  The trip might not be easy, but we’ll reach the prize, just as St. Paul reminds us.

If you’re worried about something today, say a quick prayer, asking God to give you some wisdom and peace.  Ask God to show you the way.  Remember that you are special in His eyes, and you are part of His well-tended flock.

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 Mind Prayer

Why Can’t We Stop It?

I generally try to stay out of politics.  Everyone has an opinion, and they’re entitled to them.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that things are in a real mess, with no end in sight.

But, for the life of me, I simply can’t understand how the politicians can’t get their act together and resolve this oil spill in the Gulf Coast.  At this point, weeks after it began, who really cares exactly who is to blame and what went wrong?  They’re going to figure that out in the courts anyway, probably for decades to come.

This is such a catastrophe, it seems to me that we should be putting everything we’ve got on this.  Why is it important that the evening news shows tape from a congressional hearing today showing newly released video of oil and gas gushing out of the pipe?  Doesn’t the entire world already know that’s happening?

Maybe the politicians are too afraid that, if they did take over the task of resolving this crisis, somehow a part of the blame will fall on them.  In the meantime, the oil continues to gush up, at the rate of something like 70,000 barrels a day, according to one estimate.

If there was any issue we could come together and resolve, you would think this would be it.

Will the real leaders please step up soon?