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Never Saw It Coming

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

This morning I awoke early. This isn’t uncommon lately with so much to do before we move.  I try not to let my thoughts get away from me when I wake before dawn in the hopes I can drift off to sleep again. Alas, this morning I could not so I got out of bed and began to get ready for an early breakfast appointment. Part of my morning routine is checking email and when I opened one today I was blindsided by grace.

The message was simple but it included an incredible gift to me and my wife. It was a profound and generous act that took an enormous burden off of our shoulders. It was both unexpected and deeply appreciated and we are very thankful!

At times we can become so focused on a task, an occurring or upcoming event that grace must come out of nowhere and jolt us out of our myopic state so we are able to see the incredible love and compassion that surrounds us.




When Iams Hungry

Last weekend I opened a bag of Iams dog food for the pooches. Chances are it was the last bag of dog food I will buy at our local PetSmart store.

Scooping some out for the dog’s dinner Monday night it hit me that the next time I buy a bag of dog food I will be living in a new place, doing a new thing. Each evening, every serving gets me closer to the unknown and a new normal. Like sand slipping from the top of an hourglass so the bite size bits are disappearing and when the bottom is reached I will need to find a new place to shop for sustenance and nutrients for my furry ones.

As I begin my sabbatical next week I also wonder where my sustenance, nutrients will come from, who/what will feed, inspire, heal and help me.

Reflecting on this yesterday I observed that the dogs aren’t worried about the food running out. They have a lifetime of being taken care of, provided for and have never gone hungry.

Maybe a lesson can be learned as I scoop away the past, embrace an uncertain present and unknown future. Wisdom teaches me to live with open-handed mindfulness, approaching every moment, each experience, ready to receive and release.

So I will trust, and remember that even though I will soon reach the bottom of the bag, I too have never gone hungry.



Passing Through…


There are times in life when instability happens, an event we didn’t plan for, a choice with unexpected consequences, a season which blows winds of transition into our lives and we become blinded by the debris of change.

When we encounter these sections on the path of life it can be difficult to get our bearings and we wonder if we are wandering aimlessly. Will the way ever be clear again? Yes. Seasons come and go, the unknown soon becomes the new normal. The passing of time has a way of revealing what was once hidden.

Patience is required. A waiting for the path to reveal itself again and trusting the path maker watches over our steps.



Getting Into Hot Water


Great quote by one of the Inklings. As a person who gets into hot water frequently I often wonder if this is a result of wisdom or rebellion.

As a wannabe saint/contemplative/wise person you’d think trouble would be one of those things I avoided easily and yet I tend to find myself in tough conversations and situations. Mostly these result from asking too many questions and refusing to believing something to be true just because someone says it is…for some reason this makes people irritated and sometimes gives the impression I’m hard to get along with or have malcontent tendencies.

Maybe this is true. Maybe I enjoy rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe people need to think more and presume less? After all, hot water is the best way to cleanse ourselves of illusions and assumptions.



Selling Out


The Master said; “One day a man found a treasure in a field. He was so happy that he went and sold everything he owned to buy that field. Another man went looking for fine pearls. When he found a very valuable pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.”

To sell everything one has takes certainty in what is being purchased. To know treasure when one sees it, an object of great value amidst the dirt and grime which surrounds it, takes a trained eye. If we aren’t sure of what we’re buying we could end up with junk and costume jewelry.

On the path of life we will pass many fields and have numerous shiny objects seek our attention. Knowing what’s worth buying and what’s worthless, what is eternal and temporal, wise and foolish, goes a long way in determining whether our life is filled with treasure or trash.



One Who’s Better


A few moments ago I was doing something I loathe but has become an all too frequent discipline this winter, shoveling snow. After another few inches fell last night I headed outside, with my flimsy snow shovel, to remove as much as I could from our steep driveway.


About an hour into this two-hour job I looked up and a nice man was heading up the other half of my drive with a snow blower. It was eating the snow up, spitting it out and putting my little snow shovel to shame! We exchanged a few pleasantries and then he made quick work of the remaining snow. I thanked him and he moved on.

There are times in life we should step aside to someone who is more talented, qualified, gifted and skilled. There is no shame in letting one who can do it better complete a task or project. However, too often we allow our pride and insecurity prevent us from admitting we can’t do all things, be all things, to all people, in all situations.

Wisdom teaches us to know ourselves and our limits. When we are aware of who we are and are not, gifts we do and do not possess, strengths and weaknesses, we can celebrate the giftings, strengths and abilities of others.



The Hallelujah of Thanksgiving


Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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Family Praying Before Dinner ca. 2001

Gratitude is not only the posture of praise. It is also the basic element of real belief in God.

When we bow our heads in gratitude, we acknowledge that the works of God are good. We recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, save ourselves. We proclaim that our existence and all its goods come not from our own devices but are part of the works of God. Gratitude is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us even now.

Thank you for the new day.
Thank you for this work.
Thank you for this family.
Thank you for this daily bread.
Thank you for this storm and the moisture it brings to a parched earth.
Thank you for the corrections that bring me to growth.
Thank you for the bank of crown vetch that brings color to the hillside.
Thank you for the necessities that keep me aware of your bounty in my life.

Without doubt, unstinting gratitude saves us from the sense of self-sufficiency that leads to forgetfulness of God.

Praise is not an idle virtue in life. It says to us, “Remember to whom you are indebted. If you never know need, you will come to know neither who God is nor who you yourself are.”

Need is what tests our trust. It gives us the opportunity to allow others to hold us up in our weakness, to realize that only God in the end is the measure of our fullness.

Once we know need, we are better human beings. For the first time we know solidarity with the poorest of the poor. We become owners of the pain of the world and devote ourselves to working in behalf of those who suffer.

Finally, it is need that shows us how little it takes to be happy.

Once we know all of those things we have come face-to-face with both creation and the Creator. It is the alleluia moment that discovers both God and goodness for us.

Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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Time, NOT ‘Deals’, Real Thanksgiving Gift


Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post

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This week, America will kick off the sixth holiday-shopping season since the economy melted down in 2008. As everyone sits down to be thankful Thursday, too many people are still struggling to recover. Here’s a free-market way that everyone can show their concern about inequality: Don’t shop on Thanksgiving.

More than half a decade on, we’re still missing 976,000 jobs — and we’re missing 12 million jobs if you figure that jobs should grow as the population grows.

But it’s one thing to be economically afraid. It’s another to be cut off from fully celebrating America’s all-race, all-religion family holiday because you and your fellow Americans are fearful economically.

That’s what’s happening to millions of retail workers who’ve had to work on Thanksgiving for the past half-decade.

Stores aren’t opening on Thanksgiving because they’re doing well. Just the opposite: They’ll open because they’re not doing well.

And that’s because their customers aren’t doing well.

Consider: Walmart starts “Black Friday” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, pushed from 8 p.m. last year. Though it’s long offered drugstore-style round-the-clock hours at some stores, the company has grown markedly more aggressive since 2008, with Black Friday promotions on Thanksgiving Day.

And what Walmart (with its 150 million customers) does, other stores imitate.

Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the Davidowitz & Associates retail consultancy, calls it a “war-zone” retail mentality. The reason: Retail sales have recovered — but that recovery mirrors what’s going on in the economy. “The top 10 percent do 40 percent of the spending,” notes Davidowitz.

The top 10 percent are doing fine — so Tiffany and Saks are doing OK. What about everyone else?

Sales at Walmart’s US stores have fallen for much of the past year.

Before 2008, people could take money out of the rising value of their homes to pay for shopping, says Robert E. Schulz, a retail analyst at Standard & Poor’s. Today, people will buy a car if they need one, but they won’t buy a closetful of cheap clothes.

Discerning shoppers mean desperate retailers.

Other retailers “being open on Thanksgiving is almost inevitable, given what we’ve been seeing,” said Kristina Koltunicki, also of Standard & Poor’s. Plus, this year’s Christmas shopping season is one weekend shorter than usual.

But why should being open on Thanksgiving help?

Behavioral economics. Get people in for a “one-time only” deal, and even if “doorbuster” stuff is gone early, they’ll buy something to justify the time wasted.

This “doesn’t make any sense for anybody,” says Davidowitz. The stuff on sale now will be even cheaper in a few weeks.

And wealthier consumers know that. Davidowitz says the top 10 percent are “definitely not out there” on Thanksgiving. (The exception may be the foreigners who pour into Manhattan, but they can wait a day.)

There’s nothing wrong with marketing ploys. But there is something wrong with preying on people’s impulses to the extent that they are sacrificing time with their families for one day that shouldn’t be commercialized. Time is the real gift.

And it’s worst for people who are in the stores involuntarily.

Sure, firefighters and police officers have always had to work on the holiday. But they make good pay. Plus, saving someone’s life is different than selling someone a LeapPad2. (And yes, restaurant and hotel workers toil, too — but that’s no reason to make more people work than necessary.)

Some stores do stay closed — and their employees appreciate it.

Rob Petrella, the store manager at a PC Richard & Son in Manhattan, says this is “the one day out of the year I see everyone in my family.”

This year, he’s looking forward to seeing an aunt he hasn’t seen in several years — because she’s been working at Walmart.

Omotayo Riley, who works in sales at the same store, notes that with the day off, he’ll “go to my mom’s house and my wife’s mom’s house.” He’ll enjoy his mom’s cooking, and his mom can enjoy her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter and the toddler’s teenage sister. It would be “just terrible” to work, he says.

Gregg Richard, the PC Richard CEO, says that his firm has been running an ad noting their closure for 18 years. But people have only started noticing in the past few years — as more and more stores either open or lose sales to Walmart or to online-only retailers. “We feel it is a family day for our 3,000 employees,” he says.

It’s shoppers, not the government, who should force stores to close.

If you’re tempted to skip pie to go buy a cheap tablet, remember that the tablet will be obsolete by next Christmas — and your kids, too, will be a year closer to being grown up.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post

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Have I Seen? [TWS Guest Writer]


TWS Contributor: Doug Blair

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Have I seen
Around the corner
Young mother in wheelchair
Pushed by sensitive son
Legs limp and thin
After the accident?
Or at the store,
Frail, neatly coiffed elder
Holding purchases
Mere inches from the eyes
Hiding her blindness?

Or young man
In the one good suit,
Files underarm,
Seeking again today
That job of promise
In the wake
Of broken promises?
Or single mother
In the parking lot,
Trying to contain
Three youngsters
Who cry, compete
And complain?

For so long they were invisible.

But then came
A Great Pain,
A faltering,
A disruption
In schedule
And in connection.
An embarrassment
A helplessness
A slip from the ranks
All in the mercies of Providence.

And I see them now,
And I feel the pulse
And reach out.

-written by Doug Blair

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The Appointment [TWS Guest Writer]


TWS Contributor: Mark Dohle, OSB

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dohle-waiting-webNo matter what we are doing, or where we are at,
there is an element of inner waiting often not averted to,
as if something is moving towards us inexorably.

When young it was hardly noticed or thought about,
though it would be forced upon consciousness when someone’s time had come,
their number called and appointment time arrived,
causing a pause of sorts in our lives, but soon gone.

This waiting can be experienced in many ways,
some pleasant, others not, yet there always;
like an itch seeking our attention and perhaps contemplation,
though I suppose it is something not welcome most times.

The inner silence speaks to us in quiet whispers,
“listen to me, this is important”, yet often the voice ignored,
as the appointment moves forward a little closer
to its meeting point with us.

As the years fly by the voice harder to shut down,
for some fear grows, others a peace of sorts takes root,
many still able to ignore its gentle reminders,
to seek what they are really about, what they are for;
that life has deeper meanings than many suppose.

Some leave early, others late, very late,
yet when the moment comes and the meeting happens
it perhaps seems as if it was always so,
so fleeting the intervening years.

-written by Brother Mark Dohle, OCSO, of Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, GA

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Getting Dunk’d in Kindness

There’s nothing like getting a side of kindness with your morning coffee!



A contemplative likes rhythm. It’s part of our make up. There is a deep current of peace and harmony we seek, even in everyday activities.

This morning, as on most Wednesdays, I stopped by the local Dunkin Donuts to get an extra-large coffee to go.  I purchased a promotional tumbler a couple of months ago that’s 99c to refill. I like the tumbler, it’s the right size for my coffee needs and I am doing my best not to lose it. However, a couple of days after buying it, I dropped it and broke the lid. Thankfully my wife had a top that fit and so far so good.

After pouring and prepping my coffee this AM I went to the register to pay for the rejuvenating java. The cashier noticed the lid and asked where I got it. I told her the story and when I finished she asked if I would like an extra lid from the back of the store. “Sure!” I told her. She went into another room, poked around a bit, and emerged with two lids! “Awesome!” I said, “what do I owe you?” “Nothing” she replied. “Thank you very much!” I told her and left with a big smile on my face.

I know they’re just lids but this act of charity made my morning. This nice lady didn’t have to tell me about the lids, take her time searching for them, give them to me at no cost. She was simply being kind and I appreciated it.

Her actions were a great reminder that it’s the small things which can make someone’s morning, day or life.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  –Mother Teresa

hoping kindness spills from my life into others,


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"how you've healed so quickly" is what he often hears
deep wounds on the mend in what is record time
smiling, "just that lucky" is what he'll often quip
the pain he seems to give such little mind

the spring in his step quite bouncy
his whistling fills the air
why help to shoulder the burden
he's casted all his cares

salutations to his neighbors, friends along the way
indicators on the outside, seems to be okay
he ambles down the sidewalk pausing to check the mail
even smells the flowers, it's been a lovely day

his door he lightly opens, slowly closing it behind
crumples to the floor, clutching photos he will lie
until the long night passes and comes again the sun
somehow he'll keep pretending that life carries on


Get Off My Lawn!

Unique neighbors are not unique. For every strange, odd, eccentric, person and family you see in the community you call home chances are someone thinks you’re rather peculiar as well.

ImageOne of my outlandish neighbors decided over the weekend he would tack up “NO TRESPASSING” signs. Not just one or two but many signs in different places. They are on light poles, trees and even on the handicap ramp leading to his front door.

When these signs appeared I wasn’t surprised. His house is on my exercise route and in the last few months I’ve seen a huge dumpster in the driveway yet never witnessed anyone put anything in it. He’s had an exercise bike, a wheelchair, a TV, plants and a sign that reads “FREE” for anyone who desires these weather worn items. I’m not sure how many people live in his modest domicile but I am sure I don’t know where he puts them all.

There aren’t many things we have in common but we both like my Siberian Husky. Each time I pass his yard, dog in tow, we wave and exchange pleasantries. He reminds me to be careful at the nearby intersection because “those cars don’t stop!” He seems nice enough but what’s with the signs?

I’m curious, about the signs, about the man. What makes him tick? Why is he so strange? Why the weird yard art? Why the multitude of plastic gasoline canisters in the driveway? Where does he put all those people?

Maybe the signs are there because he’s afraid the folks who live on either side with their immaculate yards are going to start surreptitiously making over his lawn. Perhaps he’s worried someone might finally paint the handicap ramp he built. Alas, I’ll never know because he won’t let anyone get too close.

Sometimes our lives have “NO TRESPASSING” signs posted in different places. Ways we let people know they aren’t welcome or invited. Ways of doing things, of speaking and living that tell others to keep moving, don’t stop, look for someone else to bother. Maybe it’s easier to be thought of as independent, eccentric, strange or unique instead of building relationships and taking the risks that go with them.

If you notice you’ve put up a sign or two, why not take them down and see what happens?

wonderment and joy,


Embrace the Smog

New York skyline

New York skyline (Photo credit: rodneykeene)

Neatorama has an interesting article on what to do if you don’t want the smog of New York to be in your vacation photo.  You simply take your photos in front of a nifty backdrop and “voila!” a blue skies, puffy cloud, bright, beautiful, perfect picture.

I read this and thought; “what?!?!?” Someone or a group of someones invest the money, take the time, put forth the effort to meticulously plan a vacation, purchase tickets, book hotel rooms, make travel arrangements, reserve meal times at the best restaurants, search high and low for the perfect tourist spots, plan the perfect vacation.  To celebrate their wonderful trip, capture these moments for all prosperity, and their jealous friends back home, they take the quintessential picture…in front a backdrop? Really? Can’t they do this with Photoshop? Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of, you know, actually going? When envious gawkers comment on the gorgeous New York skyline what will be said?

Couldn’t you save the money, time and effort by going to the local Motel 6, eating at an overcrowded bistro, take a photo of the fam and edit in New York later?

Oftentimes we do this with life. We invest the money, take the time, put forth the effort to meticulously plan out our lives and rarely, if ever, does it work out. We arrange, reserve, search high and low for the right schools, jobs, neighborhoods, financial advice, and attempt to make everything just so and life still takes us by surprise with its twists and turns.

Even though “no one’s perfect” why are we afraid to let people see our imperfections? Why can’t we admit everything isn’t flawless, not even close? Why not let people see we’re not faultless, unspoiled, unblemished, undamaged, very un-picture-perfect? Why can’t we just let them see the smog?

Something to think about…

grace and light,


Who’s to Blame for Our Miley Cyrus Problem

ImageApparently Miley Cyrus has gotten herself into a bit of trouble. She has done something in front of a bunch of someones that, allegedly, wasn’t very lady like. I’ve never been a Miley Cyrus fan. I don’t have anything against her I simply didn’t have any pre-teens in my house when she was Disney‘s darling and i’m too old now to listen to popular music. I don’t know what it means to twerk or be twerked but i’m pretty certain it would be physically painful for me and emotionally damaging for any witnesses.

In the interest of full disclosure I have not seen the “ghastly” video that has parents up in arms, culture warriors shouting from the rooftops and Hannah Montana fans burning their t-shirts, ticket stubs and posters. I really do hope to keep it that way and before we start roasting marshmallows, and this young lady, over the flames can we at least pause long enough to ask who’s to blame and what can be done?

To be famous is quite simple. Do crazy things, be insanely popular. The most dramatic, shocking, upsetting, disturbing act or word wins the prize. This isn’t new. I was a teen in the 80’s with Madonna, endured Marilyn Manson in the 90’s, put up with Lady Gaga in ’00s and here’s Miley corrupting our youth. (They said the same thing about Socrates.)

My prayer phrase today is from Psalm 101; “I will walk with a blameless heart and set before my eyes no vile thing.” To “walk with a blameless heart” is more than not getting caught with your hand in a cookie jar, being busted or caught in the act. It is to seek and live a life that is mindful, pure and to remember the path you choose affects everyone you meet along the way. Desiring to be virtuous and faultless so others can know and see truth in you.

To “not set our eyes on a vile thing” is much more than not watching a dirty movie, looking at a magazine or visiting a website when no one’s around. It deals with purpose and where we fix our gaze. What we set our mind to, what’s important to us, what we value determines our destiny. Where we look is where we are going.

So who is to blame and what can be done about our Miley Cyrus problem? I’m not sure, probably nothing. We can, however, determine to have a “blameless heart and set our eyes on no vile thing.” We can walk the path of wisdom, love and compassion. Doing this will encourage others we meet to do the same. We can value things that really matter and avoid the trappings of fame, materialism and other trinkets that lose their luster and never satisfy. Maybe this will solve our Miley problem and just might save the world.

Oh yeah…and if you see some middle aged white guy sprawled out on the ground somewhere screaming, “I think I broke my body!” I just couldn’t help myself.

wisdom and light,


Charge for a Change

The FedEx truck delivered my new phone today. Not really new but a “new to me.” It looks just like my old one, same brand, color and model with one BIG difference. This one charges!

The problem began a few weeks ago. I noticed one morning the battery percentage indicator had not increased in spite of the phone being plugged in all night. It seemed to be okay once it was rebooted.  A few days passed by and it happened again. Not being sure what was going on I tried different charging cords, cleaning the connectors and discovered that if I placed the phone at a certain angle, with the charging cord just so and didn’t so much as brush up against it, it might possibly, maybe, would charge. However, even this was temporary and as the weeks passed it became worse until I was able to get only a minimal charge even after several hours. Finally, I took it to the Verizon store and explained the problem to the sales rep. He determined it was the charging port and ordered me a replacement. So today my new phone arrived and I’ve spent most of the evening trying set it up.278342-samsung-galaxy-s3

Do we do this in our lives? Keep running with our batteries low, barely getting a charge, hoping to make it through another day? Trying to be mindful, restful but demands and commitments make these almost impossible.

We recognize we are tired, drained and listless. We try energy drinks, reading time management books, downloading new organization apps and vainly search for a way to be all things to all people at all times in all circumstances. It doesn’t take long to realize that aspirations of this kind and keeping even a minimal charge is wishful thinking.

Maybe we need to replace the lives we are trying to live, the people we are trying to be with someone else. Not new people just “new to us” and “new to those around us.” People who can do more than make it through the day. Folks who have the emotional, mental and spiritual energy to connect with life that is all around them in every moment.

a restful and reflective evening,


Letting Go Without Grabbing Hold

Whether its something we would rather not do, thoughts and feelings regarding a difficult relationship or a host of other things, the refusal to replace one emotion, thought, habit, activity or version of reality with another is important.

I was asked to do something today I didn’t want to do. My objection was not ethical or moral but resulted from a difficult past I have with the person who asked. I have a hard time saying “no” and …well, you know.

Before, during and after I was monitoring my emotions, thoughts and spirit. Centering and breath-meditation are wonderful ways to be in the present, finding meaning in places/moments that aren’t pleasant. Mindfully I observed people who were enjoying themselves, others ambivalent and some who’d like to be someplace else.

ImageWisdom teaches us the importance of letting go, one of the keys being to resist the compulsion to then grab hold of something else. We don’t have to let go of resistance to an event and grab hold to an engendered excitement about participating, let go of hard feelings and then sign on to be someone’s fan club president.

Whether its something we would rather not do, thoughts and feelings regarding a difficult relationship or a host of other things, the refusal to replace one emotion, thought, habit, activity or version of reality with another is important. We simply have to let go of that which keeps us from being mindful, at peace in every moment with everyone.

peace and grace,


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