Continuing the joy of backyard bird watching – through a window – with little red house finches.
Living in this crazy, instantaneous, social-media-driven, can’t-live-without-a-phone world these days can be distracting, to say the very least. It can also be wild and wonderful, but let’s talk about that another day. Taking time to disconnect for a few days – usually in the spring – has become an annual tradition of mine. It’s both important to me and for me to do this. The place I’ve headed to nine times now is Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas.
A place that is peaceful, tranquil, reflective, joyful, beautiful, and quiet. It allows me to rest and just be, even if I’m ‘busy’ exploring the grounds, reading, journaling or walking up and down the 1/2 mile long drive.
On the days leading up to this time, the anticipation is always welcome and when I turn onto that long driveway and pass through the gate I can feel the tension beginning to ebb away and almost hear the naps and relaxation calling my name.
The retreat leader encourages all of us attending to let go of our expectations and agendas and to just enjoy the time. Allowing God to lead us where we need to go while resting in his presence is freeing and takes the pressure off of finding the answer to whatever it is on my mind.
This ‘letting go’ has resulted in retreats where I did nothing but rest and other retreats have resulted in realizing things God was trying to tell me but which I couldn’t hear. You know, because of how often I allow myself to get caught up in the busyness of life. Either way, I’m enjoying the surrounding landscape beauty – both inside and outside.
My time at Montserrat has allowed me to experience thunderstorms rolling in across the lake as well as basking in the warmth of the sun while gently swinging in a hammock or a porch swing. I’ve listened to the rain from a rocker on the covered lake-front porch and from an open window in my room as I lay resting while also being treated to an abundance of stunning sunrises in the quiet of a mesmerizing morning. I’ve sat in the dining room and spread notes and books out on the table in front of me while appreciating the view and writing in my journal. I’ve relished the many different varieties of birds as they’ve played, dive-bombed for fish, pecked at the ground and sang from the trees or birdhouses. I’ve knelt in the chapel and prayed when it was so quiet the stillness was almost heavy. One of my favorites is sitting next to the fountain with the gentle trickle of water that is so soothing you can’t help but relax. I’ve walked and prayed on the rosary path and sat in front of a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with his arms open. I’ve walked and/or run the driveway and circumference of the property countless times while marveling at the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. All of this leads to a reverence for the beauty of creation and appreciation of all that our Creator has given to us.
The retreat sessions or prayer conferences, as they are called, are enlightening and thought-provoking. Each retreat leader brings a different personality and the ability to help us work through the Spiritual Exercises in a variety of ways.
So many opportunities to pray, reflect, read, write and be still.
It sounds great, doesn’t it?
Trust me, it is.
Full disclosure means I also have to share that this retreat is silent. While I know that one element is a deal-breaker for most I would love it if more of us could find the time and, I don’t know…courage(?) to experience it. In all fairness, too, silence doesn’t mean I don’t open my mouth for 3 days – there are opportunities to speak like offering the sign of peace during Mass or signing up to speak with one of the priests or spiritual directors. I can also speak out loud at any time to God in my prayers – just not where I would be a distraction to those around me.
Montserrat has become an important part of my faith life. I look forward to more wonderful, soul-refreshing experiences there.
If you would like more information about the facility or making a retreat here see their website Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House
Last week I shared some wintery pictures of cardinals.
Today, I bring you red-bellied woodpeckers. I think. I do not have extensive knowledge of birds and this is the best guess after – you know it – googling images. As I said before, the pictures are taken through a window so sometimes they seem a little muted. At any rate, the fascination continues showcasing these birds with the orange heads and black and white backs.
There are weeks when it feels like the world is a little too heavy and the news a little too sad. Last week was like that. The one year anniversary of Guy’s death and reminders that it’s been 10 months since the loss of Maggie (10 years old) and 7 months since Fr. Tim died along with the news of 5 additional deaths – 3 unexpected, 1 expected, 1 suicide – these made my heart hurt in a big way.
Luckily, I had already planned a retreat which offered me focused time to lift up the repose of all these souls and pray for those left behind who are grieving each of these losses.
How I wish I could take their pain away.
Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like enough to pray and yet, my faith tells me it is a great starting point.
Prayer – it’s such a powerful tool and being able to spend time with the Lord – disconnected from the pull of a million things that each day brings – praying for those souls and their loved ones, those who are hurting, those who are sick, those who gave me specific intentions and those I love and just want to lift up was a gift. A gift to myself, to make that connection with Christ and, I hope, a gift to those I prayed for.
This morning I got up to see the sunrise but my phone said it was ‘mostly cloudy’ so I thought there wouldn’t be much to enjoy. I decided to go down to the lake anyway just to enjoy the quiet of an early morning.
To my surprise, there was color in the sky. It was like a little hole was opened in the clouds and I was amazed at how pretty it was.
Then, just like that, the colors exploded and became more brilliant and the oranges and golds turned to pinks and purples.
It was a spectacular display of color and beauty. I believe it was a gift from God saying – I hear your prayers and I’ve got them. (all those I prayed for by name)
A little bit later the clouds, the wind, and the gray settled in and took over the day.
Thank you, Lord, for your gift.
Our church – St. Jude – concluded a 3 evening Parish Mission on Tuesday night and it was a great way to begin Lent.
Fr. Ron Hoye is an amazing presenter and his joy and passion for life and our faith is contagious. His reminders of what our faith should look like were an inspiration to the packed church he spoke to each night.
A few reminders (in no particular order and not complete)
- To be a disciple of Christ I should serve God with joy AND enthusiasm
- God wants my heart and my hunger for him
- God wants me to be happy!
- You’ll never find in the Bible verses that say, “I came so you could barely get by”.
- Why did Jesus come? John 10:10 says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
- Is what I’m doing putting a smile of the face of Jesus? Even if I’m not doing it ‘perfectly’?
- Gratitude – for 25 days take a moment to write down 3 things and tape them to my bathroom mirror. As the sticky notes increase, marvel at all for which there is to be thankful. (no repeats)
- Sunflowers follow the sun throughout the day – always turning towards the light. Jesus is the sun – keep turning my face towards him.
- The longer meat marinates the more flavor it takes on. It becomes more tender. Spending more time with Jesus helps to soften me and make me more like Him.
- God Moment App – random reminders throughout the day to stop and say, “Thank you, Jesus.”
www.parishmissions.org – serious, funny, inspiring, thought-provoking Vincentian Priests spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to all ages.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
I didn’t know how much I would enjoy the variety of birds that would come to visit my yard when one day I decided to hang a birdfeeder. I’ve been treated to robins, blue jays, woodpeckers, finches, sparrows, doves, and cardinals.
Every bird has been fun to watch and I’ve probably taken a thousand pictures, and I’ve decided it’s time to share some of them here.
Today, I bring you a few cardinals. The males with their bright red and the females with more subtle color along with all of them having those little tufts on their heads.
All of my pictures are taken from inside the house looking through a window so sometimes they look a little diluted.
Surprise joy came in the form of a Roku TV stick.
Shortly after plugging(?) it in I was walking through the living room and an aquarium filled with beautifully colored fish and coral filled the tv screen.
What was this? Where did it come from? How do I get it anytime I want?
It was so vibrant and colorful and clear – it seemed as if I was looking at a real-life aquarium sitting in my house.
Was this live or was it perhaps Memorex?? (Anyone get the throwback to the iconic 1970’s commercial?)
I guess in today’s world I should say, “is it live or is it a CGI?”
Whatever it is I am totally captivated and absolutely mesmerized. I can sit for quite a bit of time watching the fish. And, apparently, it has become a source of amusement to my family that I am so fascinated by the fish tank.
Just in case you are wondering – it’s a screensaver and it slowly scrolls back and forth. It takes about 6 minutes – of course, I timed it! – to go a full length. Not only is it wondrous but it’s the easiest aquarium ever! I get to enjoy all the benefits without having to worry about the water temp, ph balance or what fish exists good with what fish. It’s the perfect set-up, very peaceful and relaxing.
I love this thing!
Surprise! My TV has given me the best of all fish worlds!