Friday, May 28, 2010

Conyers Video

CNN posted a video of our monastery and it is accompanied by an informative article. Here is the link.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monastery Hosts First 5K Run

Monastery Hosts First 5K Run

Trappists Break Ground For Monastic Heritage Center

Trappists Break Ground For Monastic Heritage Center

The Ascension: Moving More Fully Into God

The Ascension: Moving More Fully Into God

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blowing Bubbles

I watched as my little niece Emily and her brother Pierce blew bubbles. They are two and four years old, respectively. Each kept an eye on the other as they dipped their plastic bubble-makers into the sudsy water and laughed with glee as the bubbles grew and then floated in the air and then down to the ground, where they burst. Pierce tried to catch the big bubbles that he made. He chased the larger ones and sometimes succeeded in catching one, holding it delicately on the circle end of the plastic stick. Emily looked at him, and tried to do the same, but all of her bubbles broke before she could catch them. She did not seem to mind, for there were endlessly more bubbles to make and she was quite happy to be a little bubble machine. Pierce was more interested in size and seizure and was obviously more frustrated when his bubble burst.
I watched them, and took pictures of them. I was hoping to catch a good picture of the bubbles in progress, as they grew out of the stem and then floated through the air. And I did get some good shots of that.
And I thought about God and bubbles and kids and grown-ups.
The search for God can be so cerebral, or at least it seems that way to me. Words and ritual, words spoken and written, suggest the possibility that something of God can be known and brought close to our understanding, maybe even our sight. Maybe there is more to God than what can be seen with the eye, or held onto with words, ritual and the like. Things that rise before us and that we can hold, for a little while.
Pierce and Emily were delighted and fascinated with the bubbles that they made. I could sense that they experienced a sense of accomplishment in making the bubbles and, at least in Pierce’s case, catching an occasional big one. They were completely absorbed in what they were doing and, in fact, had to concentrate as best they could to make the bubbles and hopefully catch them. The rest of the world dropped out of sight and the bubbles grew and then took to the air.
Emily and Pierce are little children and have yet to grow in knowledge of who we are as family, and how we love them, and how we hope for them. They do not know of the losses we have known through death. They are way too young to wonder about suffering, through they experience it when it comes their way, when things do not go the way they would like, when they feel pain. Those who love them will shelter them as best they can from all that might hurt them. But things happen, things that hurt. Emily rubbed her eye, her fingers wet from the soapy liquid. She seemed startled when she felt the sting in her eye, and then started to cry, and her dad came and picked her up and washed her eye with a kiss and a wet napkin. And then the world was better, the way it always should be, but simply isn’t. The pain was soon forgotten and the bubbles rose again.
It is a true wish, a hope that can be found in the longings of parents all over the .world, that their children be happy, be loved; to be spared the hurts and troubles of this life. There is this truth to us, that we want to protect each other from the pain that life – that we – can and do inflict. Love somehow tries to shield us from what we can do to each other.
Kids only know that love is good. It kisses what hurts. It holds them when there is that sleepy feeling. There is food when hungry, warmth when cold. These good things and more come as gifts.
I recently read a poem, or perhaps some lines of an essay, by Margaret Hawkins. I think the words are beautiful – they are the words of a mother to and for her newborn baby:

Before you were conceived I wanted you
Before you were born I loved you
Before you were here an hour I would die for you
This is the miracle of life

~ Maureen Hawkins

Such beautiful words, words that give life, breathed into us by God. Words that expand the heart, make it grow; enable us to give it away.

I watched the bubbles rise, then burst. I watched Pierce as he laughed with delight when he caught a bubble and held it. And I watched Emily’s eyes widen with awe as she made her own bubbles and watched them rise.

Making, holding, losing and keeping – all these will move through their lives and the cycles will embrace everything from birth to life, from death and on through the mysteries of the eternal.

We are wanted by God, for we are here, and have been desired. And we are loved, and we were made by a God who came here, lived among us, and died for us.

This is the miracle of life. On a warm afternoon, I watched the bubbles rise. Children were happy, and I like to think God was, too. The God who made children and bubbles. The God who breathed life into us, and who catches us when we fall, and who will never lose us. All he asks is that we learn to keep each other, to allow no one’s life to burst from loneliness or loss or heartache. We have hearts to catch each other, and to make us rise a bit here on earth, rise until the day time ends, when God breathes again, and we are born into eternal life.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The Gift of Tongues and Fire

There are people who sift the sediments of the earth seeking tell-tale clues to shed light on the origins of mostly everything. Fossils, DNA codes, ancient seeds, fibers, bone fragments – these and more yield their secrets about what things once were and what they can tell us about who we were, where we came from. A small spade can unearth a fragment of bone and the information gleaned from something so tiny can shift tables of understanding by millions of years or thousands of miles. For archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists and their scientific kin, reading the past can be a long, painstaking process. If discoveries constantly alter the present understanding of things, those who probe the secrets of the stars of the heavens and the sands of earth realize that understanding is always partial, a piece of a living puzzle that has a fleeting life, a life that always gives way to further and at times deeply unsettling discoveries.
In a sense, we are all amateur sleuths when it comes to understanding ourselves by means of unearthing our pasts. A very popular activity these days involves the researching of family roots through the tools offered by Internet search engines and sites. Something as simple as an old photograph can fill in a lot of blanks as to where an individual comes from. And old diaries are treasure troves in their offering windows to the long gone past.
These days, physicists are watching the tiniest pieces of matter as these are forced through long tunnels at incredibly high rates of speed. It is hoped that when these tiny fragments of matter collide, the resultant collision will mimic the earliest seconds of the birth of the universe. Millions of dollars are being spent to reach back many more millions of years – and, to my way of thinking, the most telling discovery will elude the efforts of wealth, speed, high technology and the best interests of science. Science seeks factual data. Origins are sought through the refined glass of a lens, or a careful turn of a spade. These offer the possibilities of mute discoveries. There will be no voice. There will be no meaning. There will be no narrative, no deeply satisfying response to our yearning and gnawing ache to ask the heavens above – and the earth beneath our feet – where we come from, why are we here, and what are we to do with this strange and wondrous gift of life?
When people hunger for meaning in life – when they seek words to express what they feel – and overwhelmingly feel – when they fall in love; when one’s heart is broken by the death of a spouse, parent, child; when seeking the needed words to get through a painfully trying time. These are experiences which move one to seek the comfort – might I say truth – of the poet, of the wise man or woman, of the deeply spiritual, of the quiet soul who can speak words that seem to penetrate the heavens and the earth by their eternal wisdom. Words can see much farther than a galactic telescope. A gaze of love sees more truth than can be revealed by every genetic coding that might ever be discovered. Going out of your way to help someone in need hints at the seemingly elusive meaning of the universe. It is a meaning we live by giving. It cannot be discovered – it can only be lived in the doing, the gift of selfless, disinterested love.
It is Pentecost. It is, seemingly, a long ago feast when tongues of fire came down from heaven and enabled a people to understand each other, to love each other, in spite of differences, separations, prejudices and biases. A startling event, for sure – the first flames of meaning that ignited a fire among men and women – and then seemingly soothed through time to a slow, steady flame.
There is a heat to the ordinariness of things. God is in time and he is a slow burner. It is a feast to take to heart the warmth of things, the embers of God given us in all who live. God cannot be discovered. God is the fire of love that burns in us even before we know the word God. It seems that God gives the best he can, the best he is. Then we seek a name for what we are. Everybody knows what love is, what it can do. It arrived as flame among us and it will always burn. It is alive, it is fire, it is eternal, and it has a Voice.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Groundbreaking Day

Yesterday we had a groundbreaking ceremony for the buildings that will make up our Monastic Heritage Center. Plans call for it to be open early next year. I took the following photos - it was a wonderful day in every way.
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