Friday, November 30, 2012

Books and Movies

The beauty is in the transport, the journey. But close the binding, shut the laptop, turn the bedside lamp off and it’s gone. The magic is gone. It evaporates, lifting the haze of enchantment. For you were just standing in the stone cloister, walking behind Hildegard and Richardis, peeking through your own veil, smelling the healing herbs in the garden or hearing the songs in candlelight…were you not?

What about the Desert Fathers last night? Were you not with them too, in the solitude and the silence, feet dusty from the powdered sand, sitting in a cave or lying under the stars, wearing simple robes and praying? How did you get to this drafty old house wearing sweatpants on a cold night?

Maybe that’s the wonderful problem. The heart is timeless, eternal. It can make the transport, the journey. Simultaneous liberation and confinement.

If only the body could keep up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

great timing

"When it comes to daily life, God's will is not some abstract idea to be figured out, or puzzled over or even discerned. Rather, God's will is what is presented before us every day. God's will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him and to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to "do the will of God." No, these things, the 24 hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation.

The plain and simple truth is that his will is what he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people and problems. The trick is to learn to see that -- not just in theory, or not just occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God's grace, but every day. "

-James Martin, S.J. reflecting on Walter Ciszek, S.J.'s revelation in a labor camp in the Soviet Union
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Showing Off

God is a show-off. This statement may baffle many, leading to petitions for excommunication or public shunning. But I say this loud and clear, with love and respect and awe: God is a show-off.

The fiery red and pink stare at me, unflinching against the weathered and faded ground. I look at the leaves and think plainly— God is a show-off.

The quiet neighborhood streets by Dupont Circle, with the golden sunlight illuminating the quaint brownstones and the leaves casually whispering secrets ahead— God is a show-off.

The sun’s footprints marking the edge of the earth, leaving trails of hot pink, plum and orange— God is a show-off.

The black squirrel, the song sparrow, the searing blue sky— God is a show-off.

You and I— God is a show-off

Job 37

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A sense of humor

This morning as I prayed, I asked God to make me useful. God has a sense of humor.

I have my own vision of being useful. A homeless person asks for food, I look deep into their eyes, and triumphantly hand them my carefully wrapped piece of bread from my bag. We smile. I say “God bless” and go on my way, basked in light as a halo begins to emerge around my head. 

Here is what really happened. 

I see the man from afar as I step out of the metro station. I recognize his bulky walk, loud ramblings, hanging belly and unkempt demeanor. His words at passerby are almost undecipherable, but if one notices the snack cart selling warm chili dogs, fruit and candy behind him, one can make an educated conclusion. We make eye contact. Within his jumbled sentences I hear “money,” “food,” and “money” once more.

“Would you like something to eat?” I ask him.

I can’t fully make out the response.

“I have some bread, would you like some bread?”

“Ya, ya” is the response. 

I take out my carefully wrapped bread and hand it over to him. He’s now smiling. “Can I get a hug?” He asks. “Let’s break bread together, girl.”

I desperately want to hug this man. To tell him that I will bring bread every morning. That we can do the simplest and most beautiful thing together: we can break bread. And though bread isn’t magic, breaking it together, sharing it, can be magical.

But I can’t. I’ve been taught and conditioned not to. Not to let a stranger too close. To be just friendly enough. To be constantly on guard.

Imagined scenarios come to mind. Real scenarios I’ve actually experienced come to mind. And though it kills me, I tell the man I am running late to work and bid him a good day. He calls out to me as I walk off. Things like “You a little woman” and “look at her go.”

God does make us useful. It’s just often not in the perfect and heroic way we imagine.

And in case you’re wondering, God also shows off.

“Time for our staff meeting,” Jim, our Executive Director, calls out later that morning. We file out of our offices, coffee in hand, and walk into a decorated conference room with two boxes of pastries from the bakery around the corner.

Like I said, God has a sense of humor.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I notice I have no idea how I got here, when I learned to walk further at the metro station to be closer to the stairs at my next stop, when I learned how to make the most of the hours not between 9am-5pm, when I learned to combine Banana Republic suit pants with button downs in a manner appropriate for a semi-professional, when I began to think of Washington, D.C. as home.

But “here” right now is Cincinnati. “Cin-City” Jules jokingly texted. And I’m noticing I have no idea how I got here.

At the airport last Monday, I noticed how ‘off’ I was—how much I had hibernated. Airports are typically my zone. Flights are my haven. It’s me time: time to think, time to pray, time to process. Flights are when I typically have no one to account for but myself. When I can do things my way, minus the entire security system— in which case ‘my way’ would include not having my bare feet touch the floor or taking my belt off amidst strangers.

“Do you fly often?” I recently heard two people behind me discussing on a flight. “Yeah,” I wanted to turn around and say. “I have it down to an art.” Back then, I’d have pulled out my travel size blanket, nuzzle against the window, take out my journal and pop in my headphones. That’s an incredibly spoiled thing to admit. I flew eight times this summer.

So when I found myself at the Reagan National Airport, stepping onto a Delta plane with my co-workers for a conference, I couldn’t help but notice how much I’d slacked off in the several months that I’ve been in D.C. Why did I wear shoes with laces that were harder to slip on and off? Where were my headphones? I had been so quick to shut down the “on the go” mentality—throwing it out the window of my last flight on a Boeing 747, watching it drift through the clouds down to somewhere geographically untouchable. Only last Monday, I noticed I needed it back. And I couldn’t seem to find it amidst the overgrowth.

Perhaps this is all irrelevant. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I am noticing, better late than never, all these small but significant changes occurring in my life. I notice the dust on the “Kate manual for successful airport etiquette.” My disorientation upon arriving at a new destination. And how jarring it felt to leave the comfort of my new home.

But most importantly, I notice the need to notice. Hopefully, so that I notice things more often.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sam Lamott

I think I already understand about life: pretty good, some problems.
-Sam Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Sunday, November 11, 2012

intensely happy

There are moments when you are intensely happy. For no reason other than that the fact that there’s a sun, and today it’s not covered by clouds. Or you get to the office and the coffee’s already made. Or there’s food left over.

Maybe it’s that one song they sang at mass today you hadn’t heard in a while. Or that homily from the priest that was so inspiring you wanted to join the other man who yelled “Amen” after it finished and give the priest a sticker that said “Evangelizer.”

Don’t forget the new song your friend introduced you to, it could have been that too. Or the movie on Shakespeare you just watched that made you ache for his writing. It could be the witty lyrics of that song you’ve had on repeat...the fact that you’re traveling to a new city next week...the “whole foods-esque” dinner you just cooked with a friend or the humility you felt earlier in receiving the Eucharist.

The intense happiness is among those things, somewhere hidden within the blessings, covered in sheets of familiarity, buried just out of reach. It doesn't matter. What matters is that it's there.