Place of Respite

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I spent the weekend on retreat with 120 men up at the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu. The Franciscans bought this prime piece of real estate in the early forties, turning a half-dilapidated mansion into a place of respite and peace.  The Franciscan charisms of hospitality and joy are ever evident in the kind and welcoming spirit of the friars and staff.  The church in her wisdom has always created spaces of retreat; venues often up and away from the daily noise and distractions of life for us to breathe and restore our weary souls.  The Franciscans welcome people from every walk of life to come and refresh their burdened hearts. Often, it is not until I come to such places that I am able to notice how tight my chest is and how beaten down I am. I am grateful for these milieus of peace and refreshment, the healing of silence and the love and care of these followers of St. Francis.

by Andrew

The Night Watch

Thursday night I picked up my brother Hank and a crew of two paid observers, a kayaker and a first mate, at the Isthmus on Catalina Island so that he could, for his fifth time, swim over to Palos Verdes. He chooses the depth of night to undertake this challenge for it is then when the sea is most settled. For ten hours and fourteen minutes, it was my job to guide the boat near the kayaker who was escorting my brother.  Hank has said these night swims are akin to being in a watery womb. That night, with the engine purring quietly and nothing but a bobbing green light against the ebony water revealing his location; with the half-moon red and sinking down into the sea, the night black and snug and the crew silent and sipping strong coffee, observing, I intuited a waiting, a guarding, a shepherding and a cherished loving that felt like hope, that felt like life.

by Andrew

Here For A Season

liquidambar sty moraine

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24

Evergreens are static throughout the year, exhibiting their coat of needles or leaves in perpetuity. Deciduous trees drop their leaves, often in a glorious show of gold, orange and red. People travel from afar to witness the “turning of the leaves” in New England. Chlorophyll is to a leaf what blood is to a human. As the green chlorophyll breaks down, the beauty of the dying leaf is revealed.  We trust that next spring new sprouts will emerge, fresh green shoots from barren limbs, feeding the tree, hungry from winter’s hibernation. I too am here but for a season. I pray that I may be a humble leaf, swaying with my fellows in the movement of the Spirit, being of some small service to the Holy One and trusting in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

by Andrew

Holy Water

In the cool silence of this morning before dawn, steam from the iron hisses. I am ironing a linen handkerchief, folding it and pressing it into a triangle of white.   I often cry at baptisms, weddings, funerals and other profound rites of passage. Today I will be attending an old family friend’s memorial service. Janet, 93 when she finally breathed her last, was an only child pre-deceased by her two sons and husband with no one but her friends to call family. Tears are holy water, an outward symbol of something deeper, that connect me to God and to my fellow sojourners. Whether a mist or a river, they sooth and wash away the grit of sorrow and flow joyfully in gratitude alike.  I fold and press this sober linen, steam rising like incense into the awakening of this day.

by Andrew

Wisdom Takes Time

A lot of unfortunate events have happened recently that have sent our country into a deep grief. This month’s theme, “The Wonders of Autumn,” makes us ponder those whose lives are so hard that to dwell upon such sweet spiritual ideas is untenable; and for those whose lives have been cut short and will never have the opportunity to grow old like ourselves. Wisdom takes time and experience to sink into the soul. While many of us have the grace and facility to ponder the beauty of the natural life cycle, do our brothers and sisters suffer because somehow we are not more empathetic?  Have we lost Jesus’ core message to pay attention and take care of the poor?  Until the Christ of the gospel shows up in the polling booths and out on the street, the cycle of life and death may only hold meaning for folks like us, the privileged few, while the rest of the world suffers, sometimes at our own hands. Yet all of us must go on, holding the tension, recovering the natural wonder of each moment.

by Andrew and DC

The Touch of Fall

Across the street, Wyatt, 1 ½ years young, whoops and hollers at Tucker, his black Lab brother as he toddles about with a dribbling hose. His folks, half my age, had the courage and innocence to believe that bringing a child into this world was a good idea. There’s a touch of fall in the air, but it is the de-leafing of the sycamores, alders and birch trees that tells me that harvest time is over and the earth is readying itself for a deep sleep.  I am that man with 30-year-old progeny who young parents meet and think, “our kids will never be that old,” but then they are in a minute. Our dear, lifelong family friend, Janet, is being cared for by hospice in the home that her father built in the 1920’s in Long Beach. My rake scritch-scratches a brittle tune as I collect dead leaves for mulch.

by Andrew

Finding Nimo

Nimesh Patel was Ivy League-school educated, a Wall Street trader and an MTV Rap Star who found, after a long and painful walk on the wild side, an emptiness and suffering of spirit that afflicts so many of us who strive for the “American Dream.” After years of dissipation, Nimo, as he is called, realized that the only pathway for him to achieve happiness was one of selfless service to others.  For the past seven years, he has been serving and working with the underprivileged communities in the Gandhi Ashram in India.  After time spent quietly assisting others, the Spirit has led him back into music of another kind, now offering his gift of love, peace, and unity through his songs and videos.  I listen to one or more of his songs every single morning just to get my spiritual mojo going for the day!  Listen, look, laugh and cry, “We are One! AllTogether Now!”   Get “Grateful” – https://youtu.be/sO2o98Zpzg8

by Andrew

Wisdom Elder

Dotty is an 81-year-old sober alcoholic born and raised in the Bronx by an alcoholic mother and a working-class father.  Sober one day at a time for over 34 years, Dotty has a New York gruff exterior but a heart of gold.  While she will call out an “old-timer” on his bull-oney, she will take a newcomer, still shaking and baking from detox, under her wing. She always tends to the one left out, the quiet one, those who are so new to sobriety and raw with shame and incomprehensible demoralization that they cannot look you in the eye. She throws fantastic celebrations for people’s sobriety birthdays and shows her love and caring through her cooking, presence, and mentorship.  Dotty has a God “of her understanding” that is in all ways working in and through her. With the mouth of a sailor, a fierce love for suffering alcoholics and a heart overflowing with love, Dotty shows me the Way the Truth and the Life without ever a peep about religion.

by Andrew