A Prayer Poem for Pentecost

Today is the Feast of Pentecost in many Christian churches. Here is a poem-prayer I wrote this morning as I was thinking about Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to spend some time praying and pondering this sacred mystery with me.

Holy Spirit--stained glass window--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Board

A Rainy Day Pentecost Prayer

On this day of Pentecost, a cloudy sky dimly shines through the window
while I sit here, sipping my cup of tea,
gentle raindrops falling on a wood
of bright green leaves.
No tongues of fire
or windy skies,
but that is
how it is
sometimes.
God comes
not only
Raindrops on puddle--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Boardin excitement
and special
effects, but
also in a
drop,
in the quiet,
to still our souls
and remind us
that the Divine,
the Holy Spirit,
is Holy Presence,
truly “God-with-Us”
in Spirit form–everywhere–
both near and far
and high and low
and deep within my heart,
and your heart, and the hearts
of people living on the other side
of the globe–maybe even of the universe.
Yes, Lord, pour out your Spirit afresh on us,
on all of us, renewing our lives and the earth,
raining down on us like raindrops, soaking deep
into the soil of the earth and the soil of our souls.
May this rain of the Spirit bring new life, an ever-growing
communion and holiness within and among us, more and more each day.

Flower with raindrops--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Board

Pope John XXII quote about the love of Christ

Today’s Lenten quote about love/compassion:

34 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Pope John XXIII

This one sentence is so packed with meaning for me that I hardly know how to write about it in one entry–but here goes:

The word “animated” makes me think about how Christ’s love, poured into our hearts, gives great spiritual life to the soul. It is like the breath of God, breathing life into the inanimate clay of the first human. On our own, we are often as if “dead” or “unconscious”–so to speak–compared to the dynamic life that Christ brings to our souls  (whole persons).

In Christian tradition, the “love of Christ” is often strongly associated with the Holy Spirit. So it is that I sometimes think of this “love of Christ” as the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.  The Holy Spirit is what Risen Christ breathed into the disciples:

When [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”  (John 20:22)

The Holy Spirit is what “animates” us with the love of Christ. I think Pope John XXIII (now Saint John XXIII) was fully aware that the Holy Spirit draws people together by the power of love. This is the kind of unity that is built on empathy for one another. This is the kind of “love one another” we need today in our world–a world filled with electronic messages of hate.

Hate divides and conquers others. Love believes in the dignity of other humans and reaches out to share and embrace–and that provides a kind of loving unity.

Hate tears down and destroys. Love creates, builds up, increases life.

The Holy Spirit that God pours into our hearts is the Spirit of Love, and it is this Spirit who will unite us more fully in this life, and unite us completely in heaven.

Until next time, Amen! 

The Holy Spirit’s Work in Prayer

Sometimes we are tempted to stop praying because it “doesn’t seem like anything is happening.” That is, our prayer may feel boring, confusing, or useless. Sometimes these are just the normal phases of our own moods at work. It might be that God is inviting us to begin praying in a renewed or different way.( For example, some people pray while walking, write prayers in a journal, join a prayer group, meditate on bible passages, or like to pray in silence.)

These words of Evagrius, famous Christian of the 4th century, bring me comfort at those times when my prayer seems “boring” or “ineffective.”

08 Lent--Week 1--Prayer--Evagrius Ponticus (click on image to enlarge)

In the quotation above, Evagrius refers to some mysterious process happening inside us when we pray–some invisible action deep in our souls.  When someone prays, even if alone in his or her room, that person is not really alone. The Holy Spirit, the very presence of God in our midst, is with the praying soul.

When we open our hearts to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit is at work in our souls, in our whole persons, transforming us, like water slowly dripping on a rock. The Holy Spirit also fills us with the spirit of love and compassion for others during prayer time. As a result, this Spirit of Love also draws us more deeply into relationship with God and other people, a kind of communion with God and each other.

So, no matter how “futile” your prayer might feel, continue to pray. It’s important not to give up. If you think God is inviting you to a newer way of praying, seek out that new way–just so long as you keep praying. (Oftentimes, a spiritual director can help you seek out the way of praying that God is inviting you to at this point in your life.)

So, “keep on praying” . . . and until next time,  Amen! 

Preparing for Pentecost

I’ve been writing more and more often on my public Facebook page, called “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty.” I see it as a vehicle for spreading the gospel message of Christ in an ecumenical, friendly way–and learning from others, as well. The experience of writing in that little space is teaching me how to write more succinctly.

Another thing I’m discovering in using Facebook is the joy of combining words with images. Both are forms of communication, and I did not realize just how much I enjoy expressing myself through combining the two.

So today I’m sharing here what I posted on that FB page, a prayer that arose in me this morning, as I was thinking about Pentecost. Many Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Sunday Feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter (this year, June 8). Traditionally, some Christians prayed everyday to the Holy Spirit for nine days ahead of the feast. This practice was a kind of devotion and spiritual way of preparing for the celebration of God’s Spirit with and within us.

Here’s the post… Do enjoy and if you are comfortable, pray along…

Open sign--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Board--Eagan MN

 

Thinking about upcoming feast of Pentecost,
the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. 
Join me in prayer? ...

O God,
I believe your Holy Spirit is within me, but please
help me not to “close” the door to your loving presence.
May my heart (soul) expand more and more within,
fretting less about myself
and allowing your Holy Spirit to live and move and act
more fully within my life each day.
Give me open ears, that I might hear You,
open mind, that I might think more clearly about You,
and open heart, that I might love You
and all your beloved people
more fully each day.
This I ask in the love of Christ,
and in the communion of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.
 

 

The Waiting Heart

Mailboxes wait. . . and wait. . . and wait.

Mailboxes in snow--by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA

Mailboxes serve as the “waiters” of messages, providing a space for something specific to happen. They don’t appear to do anything, and yet mailboxes are serving the purpose for which they were created.

So, too, the contemplative heart waits upon the Lord, dwelling in prayer, being observant, listening, pondering the ways of God–doing precisely what the Lord intended.

Wait for the Lord, take courage;
          be stout-hearted, wait for the Lord.   
Psalm 27:14.

Will you pray with me?

Lord, we know you are always with us, listening to our prayers and guiding our ways. Help us and all who “wait” to do so with patience and courage. May we truly listen to others this day–not only with our ears but also our hearts. May the words we speak be filled with your compassion. Come, Holy Spirit, guide us in all your ways! 

Until next time, Amen!

P.S. Are you on Facebook? Check out “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty” for little spiritual nuggets to get you through your day!

Milkweed, Giftedness, and Becoming Your True Self

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus (in John 12:24)

Milkweed in autumn (click to enlarge)–photo by Julie McCarty

When I was a child, we loved to play with milkweed seeds, watching them float away like bubbles on the wind. I was reminded of this recently when I spotted this milkweed plant in Lebanon Hills Regional Park here in Eagan.

Seeing these seeds bursting forth makes me think of all the hopes and dreams lying dormant within each of us. In my forties, it felt like life was “over” (I’m so old!) –and yet here I am in my early fifties, eagerly learning new things, such as watercolor painting, digital photography, and gardening techniques.

The good Lord gives us many gifts and talents deep within ourselves. Is there something you have always wanted to do, but never have gotten around to doing it?  Chances are, it’s not too late. You may need to modify the goal or alter your plan a bit, but that unique packet of gifts inside you is still there.

But here’s the thing about seeds: some part of our life activities may seem to “die” in order to make room for something new. The old “something” may be basically good or perhaps something that is no longer working for us, but we decide to focus our efforts on this new thing. After all, there are only so many hours in the day.

If there is something you really feel called to do, some deep desire in your heart, ask God to show you the way. Take one step in that direction and see what happens.

Allow the “wind” of the Divine Spirit to carry the seeds within you wherever God desires. Something good is bound to happen.

Until next time, Amen! 

Pentecost and Saint Cyril of Jerusalem on the Holy Spirit

The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.Jesus  (see John 4:14)

Christians celebrate Pentecost this Sunday, the feast commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the Liturgy of the Hours, there is a lovely meditation on the Spirit by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a famous teacher in the ancient church.

Like other church leaders of his age, Cyril reads the story of the woman at the well with an eye for symbolic imagery. He views the water that Christ offers the woman as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Cyril writes:

The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is alway the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

This is a lovely way to describe the eternal, unchanging nature of the Spirit while at the same time explaining the dynamic way the Spirit moves and acts in our lives. Like a “personal trainer” or an intimate friend, the Spirit works one-on-one with each person in the way best suited to his or her personality, giftedness, life situation, etc.

Cyril also explains that the Holy Spirit enters the soul like water enters a dry tree. The tree produces fruit because of the action of the water; so too, the human soul “bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit.”

These fruits of the Spirit vary from person to person:

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.  

St. Cyril’s reflection makes me think of the theological prinicple of “unity in diversity.” It reminds me that my calling maybe different than your calling, my gifts, prayer style or spirituality may be different than yours, but that’s okay. God didn’t create us to be clones of each other.

We are united not through having identical gifts or even precise agreement on every doctrine, but rather, it is the water of the Spirit, the presence of God within and among us,  who unites us with bonds of love. In this life, we will never have perfect agreement among all peoples, but we can be united in the Spirit, the water of eternal life, that nurtures all of us together to grow into the one Mystical Body of Christ.

For me, and I hope for you, that’s good news.

Until next time, Amen!

Notes: Passages quoted from Cyril of Jerusalem are from volume 2 of The Liturgy of Hours (Catholic Book Company), pages 966-967. Photos on this post by Julie McCarty, 2011.

Sumi Painting, Chi, Creativity and the Spirit

 

In the past year or two I have been digging into my artistic side by taking watercolor classes. Last fall, I signed up for a workshop called “Sumi and Soul” by Yuming Zhu, a professional artist who was born in China and currently lives in Seattle, Washington. I received so much from the experience that I signed up for another two-day workshop this spring with the same teacher.

Artist Yuming Zhu at Sumi painting workshop, 2011, Bloomington, MN--photo by Julie McCarty

Painting in the Chinese or Japanese way is quite different from the European style. In sumi painting, one holds the brush differently, and uses materials that more closely resemble ink and tissue paper than oils and canvas. Rather than painting with just your hand or arm, it is more as if your whole body is painting, from your own “center of gravity” someplace deep in your body. The philosophical or spiritual underpinnings are different as well, something the teacher mentioned in a gentle way, here and there, without harping or preaching.

Julie trying out Sumi painting at Yuming Zhu's workshop at the Bloomington Art Center in Minnesota--2011

My experience of the workshops with Yuming was very positive. As a writer, I am often too tense or perfectionist, which blocks the flow of words onto the paper. The Sumi workshop helped me to view my writing in a different way, to open up myself to letting the creativity flow more freely without fear of making “mistakes.” This fear is a real block to creativity, and “Mary Francis” (what I call the “good little Catholic girl” inside me) needs to let go of these fears.

 One of the many things I learned about in this workshop was the Chinese concept of chi, a word that means something like “energy” or “life force” in English. Here’s what About.com says about chi:

Ch’i (also spelled Chi or Qi) is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy and culture. Found in Chinese traditional religion but especially Taoism, Ch’i literally means “air” or “breath,” but as a concept it refers to the energy flow or life force that is said to pervade all things. (Read more here or also here.)

On the second day of Yuming Zhu's workshop, students arrived with energy--photo by Julie McCarty, 2011

The concept of chi intrigues me. Because I follow Christ, the idea of chi made me think of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit moves, creates, and breathes in us. In fact, in the original bible languages, the word “spirit” is the same is the word “breath.” It was “spirit” that God “breathed” into the first human in one biblical Creation story.

 
Too often, Christians think of God as rigid, stable, unchanging–and I’m sure there is certainly the element of stability and permanence in the best sense in the Divine Being we Westerners call “God.” I don’t deny that truth. However, on the other hand, the Spirit is called Creator Spiritus, the divine Spirit that Genesis tells us “hovered over the waters” during the creation of the cosmos. This Spirit of God is alive, dynamic, moving, active. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind: you do not see it, or where it is going, but you know it it there.
Yuming Zhu's painting demo, Bloomington Art Center workshop, Spring, 2011--photo by Julie McCarty
I wonder what would happen if Christians of today took Creator Spirit seriously, that person of God known for movement, action, creativity, and breath. Would the Creative Spirit bring about something new? Something beautiful? Something prophetic, that is revealing truth and compassion?

I wonder, dear reader, what good things might the chi within you or me, our inner energy, want to create today? What newness of life might the Spirit of God want us to bring to birth this week, this year? How might we live the Resurrection of Christ, that image of energy, bursting out of the tomb, right here, right now in this moment?

Note: To view artwork by Yuming Zhu or find workshops, visit his website http://www.yumingfineart.com/about.htm  or on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/mypainting