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Blessings

The Lent 2008 Blessings Newsletter

The December 2007 Blessings Newsletter

October 2007 (view as a .pdf file)


Blades and Blessings: First Flight Faith
by Cyndie Ulrich

"Boeing Tower. This is Chopper 2. Ready for lift-off. Destination Eastern King County via the Sammamish Plateau."

"Permission for lift-off granted. Watch for incoming traffic southbound from Payne Field. Have a safe flight, Chopper 2."

Affirmative, Boeing Tower. Chopper 2 commencing lift-off."

So began the trip of a lifetime. Properly adorned in headphone and mic', I sat strapped into the front passenger's seat of a 4-seat helicopter. Now don't get grandiose ideas here....the chopper was the size of a mosquito-on-growth-hormones. I was brand new to the world of airborne egg beaters. Since learning of the assignment, I had prayed it would be A BIG CHOPPER - think full galley and jet engines. The Holy Spirit planned otherwise.

My videographer was harnessed into the seat directly behind me. We were commissioned to take aerial footage and still shots of property in the Snoqualmie Valley and B-roll footage of the surrounding region.

Oh, I forgot to mention - the front and rear doors on our side of the chopper had been removed for filming. I was as close to "free flight" as I'll probably ever get. I gulped hard, crossed myself, connected with Jesus who, by the way, was sitting calmly in the seat behind the pilot. I looked back at Him, saw His smile and "thumbs up" signal. I decided to believe Him and make it a joy-filled adventure.

We gained 2500 feet altitude quickly and somewhere over Lake Sammamish, the pilot reached over and grabbed my right wrist attempting to find my pulse. "You're still with us, right?" he joked.

I heard him, but couldn't respond. I was awestruck. I stared out the door and straight down to Mama Earth far, far below. There was but 3 inches of cabin space between me and oblivion. I looked to the north and soaked in the beauty of Mt. Baker. I looked back at Puget Sound and the Olympics. I stared east to the Cascades. The air was cool and crisp. It was crystal clear day. Everything was breathtaking and I was transfixed.

The pilot tapped my arm. "Tell me you're breathing," he said more seriously.

I turned towards him, eyes wide behind my sunglasses. "Breathing? Of course! I've never felt so alive in my life!" He grinned and told me little white bags were available under my seat if I needed to, well...you know. Of course, he added, there would be a small surcharge to my client for their use. He chuckled.

Yes, I'd been a bit nervous the night before the flight. I took my Michael aside and told him of my love for him and my gratitude of his blessings upon me. Next, I blurted out my wishes regarding my Funeral Mass and the vhoppin' Svedish vake (pronounced as written, it's the Swedish version of a "whoppin' Irish wake") I hoped would happen after the Mass. I called our daughter, Erika, sharing the same. I called our son, Max, sharing the same. Even with Sammi and Mouse, our dog and cat, I shared the same. Was I competing with God? Was I worrying? Yes.

But Grace happened at 3000 feet and 100 knots airspeed.

With each passing minute, and there were 90 of them before touchdown at Boeing Field, I felt more and more connected to the awesome-ness of the Holy Trinity. I became more aware of the grandeur of God's universe and His amazing gifts.

I mean, really, absolutely everything, everything, was out of my control. My only choice was to relax and soak up the splendor.

I flew with an angel's perspective. The cabin of the chopper was the cupped hands of God, and certainly I was safe in God's Hands. The doubly-secure restraining harness was the Communion of Saints, holding me tight in relationship with Christ.

The blades? Christ Himself who gives His power and courage and blessings and love to move us forward in our lives; the tail-rotor, the Holy Spirit giving direction and keeping us on a spiritual even keel.

Our pilot had given us rigorous instruction on how to disembark under any condition - emergency or otherwise. Release harness, move out the door, do not step on the skids - damage might occur to the attached inflatable cushions used to temporarily float the chopper in case of a water landing - walk scrunched over, keep head down, and move forward way beyond the nose of the aircraft.

I'd just had a haircut and I've come to appreciate my 5' 10" height, so I took all instructions seriously. Thank goodness I did. As we swooped in for a close shot of a hillside in the Snoqualmie Valley, we dipped into a clearing and "lost lift". Gently, thank God, gently, we put down. We tried several times to find an up-draft to aid ascent.

No go.

The pilot looked over at me and, with a wry grin, said "I have to get rid of weight in order to take off. Now, I'm the pilot, so I can't go. Your cameraman is tethered to the frame and the cameras, so he can't go." I was starting to see where his logic was heading. He continued, "So can you tell me who gets to jump out and run to meet us at the field down the hill and across the road?"

EGO panicked. EGO whined: "AhShootGollyGoshDarnGeeWhizandScreamingZucchinisIDon'tWantToI'mScaredWhyMe?"

True Identity said, "Hey, Jesus! Come on! I want you with me! This is going to be an experience we'll never forget!"

EGO nagged I wouldn't remember the safety rules and would end up paying a nasty price for issues of failing memory.

True Identity recalled the opening scenes of M*A*SH television episodes where medical staff pour onto the chopper pad to remove injured soldiers from the helicopters. Without consciously thinking, I disembarked...correctly; I ran...hunkered over and head down; I quickly moved...in front of and well away from the nose of the chopper.

Jesus and I ran down the hill while we watched the helicopter effortlessly gain altitude and fly off over our heads to the field in the valley below. We met the chopper at the pre-determined spot, climbed aboard, strapped in and, as the chopper lifted off, I was reminded – yet again - that all things are possible with Christ. Inexplicably amazing, I was not surprised to find that Jesus had come with me and had stayed with my compadres in the helicopter, too.

These are just some reflections from the world's newest chopper nut and her flying buddy, Christ Jesus.

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What does love
look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has
the ears to hear the sighs and
sorrows of men.
That is what
love looks like.

~ St. Augustine

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SacraMentors Board Position Opens
by Trisha Gosciewski

SacraMentors Logo

It was two years ago this month that I was lead to serve on the SacraMentors Board in the role of "Expansion" coordinator. It has been a blessing to me, and a privilege to work with the marvelous people of an organization that has fed me spiritually. As I now rotate off of formally serving the Board, I am writing to recommend it to the next person that may be called. It is an exciting time for the next individual to bring great ideas to the table for direction and expansion as the organization continues into it's second decade.

The role of "Expansion", which is now called, more correctly, "Membership", keeps the full SacraMentors Board focused on the top organizational goals of the organization, such as:

  • Supporting and "growing" the existing apostles groups in the Archdiocese of Seattle;
  • Assisting current Apostle group members in the Seattle Archdiocese in their spiritual growth;
  • Developing tools and programs that will promote the SacraMentors program to more parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and eventually, beyond.
  • Although it has been a long process to define some key, achievable, objectives the process was necessary.

Now, this key role is open to be filled and have the work continued, as I have reached the end of my term. I will be involved with SacraMentors in the South Sound, where I live, and I hope that the next individual who takes over will be ready to build on the foundation the entire Board has put in place over the past eleven years.

A little more detail of the work itself might help someone discern this call. So what is involved in serving the SacraMentors Board? As the Membership Board Member, I attended and participated in regular Board meetings, which usually took place once a month. Given the geographical locations of our Apostles Groups in Western Washington, and the Board members who live throughout the region, the Board meetings are held at a centrally-located location or parish, such as at or near St. Francis of Assisi, in Burien. It is important to attend the Board meetings, and if you think you want to be on the Board, but can not regularly make the Board meetings, it is probably an indication you may be called to serve on a working committee for the Board, of which there are several. At Board meetings, the direction and leadership part of the role comes into play. The three key objective areas that Membership considers are generally kept before the entire Board during the meeting.

In addition to the Board Meetings, I worked with the Executive Director to respond to web messages and requests, toll-free number requests, and requests for presentations by the Executive Director at various parish levels. I also assisted in suggesting tools that could be used at the parish level by the apostles groups in activities, such as ministry fairs, as requested, and attended and supported the Series Trainings whenever possible.

The Membership position is not just a director-level role, but has a hands-on working committee function in supporting whatever plans are laid out at the monthly meeting, creating tools for members to use in mentoring new members, and assisting the Executive Director as needed.

This is a key position, and really cries out for some one to accept the blessings and service it provides. If you are interested, please contact Cyndie Ulrich, the Executive Director at 877-585-5500.

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Where there is charity and wisdom,
there is neither fear nor ignorance.

~ St. Francis of Assisi

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How to Find Your True Self
by Fr. Bob Camuso

Fr. Bob Camuso"Who Am I?" is one of the first talks in the SacraMentors series. After looking at some false identities we give ourselves, such as our job, gender, name, age, addiction, motherhood, etc., the talk concludes with what we as SacraMentors believe is our true identityó"I am a beloved child of God."

But is my true identity different from my true self? I believe it is. That I am a beloved child of God is a given. God created us out of love and will love us whether or not we live out of our false or true self. Yet, we always have a say in whether or not our true self is realized, in spite of the influences that family, environment, church and culture have on us.

Our answer to the "Who am I?" question defines the self and is one of the three most important questions in life that every person should answer. The other two great questions, "Why am I here?" and "How shall I live?" are questions of finding and maintaining the true self.

How, then, do we find and maintain the true self? First of all, we do so by making good choices in life. Even with Godís help, we finally choose success or failure, an attitude of gratitude or one of being a victim. We always have a choice to do good or evil. In choosing what is good we find and maintain our true self. In choosing evil, we enter the realm of the false self, the self that is drawn to fear and sin and has lost its connection with God.

We can lose our true self when we make choices out of fear instead of love. How many choices do you make each day out of fear? Do you choose to judge that relative that hurts you out of fear or love? Do you choose to avoid confronting that health problem you have out of fear or love? Do you choose to go to Mass on Sunday out of fear or love? I donít believe we will ever find our true self if most of the choices we make are made out of fear.

But how do we move from making choices out of fear to choosing out of love? A good start is to surrender our self to God and then trust in God alone to save us. In this regard, consider praying often the "Prayer of Abandonment," which can be found on the Internet.

The next step is to begin to become aware of what is happening within us. Are we aware that many of our choices each day may be made out of fear? To find out, we need to go inside our hearts and minds and honestly look at ourselves. Sometimes we need help, a good counselor, to do that. Someone who can hold up a mirror to us, with love, and say, "Look, do you see who you are becoming? Is that who you want to be? You can still make a better choice. You really can choose out of love instead of fear."

As we take the inner journey, and over time, we begin to develop a habit of self-examination. We begin to get used to asking ourselves, "How do I feel right now?" "Why am I reacting as I am to this situation before me?" "What do I need right now?" "Am I being honest with myself in how I respond to people I want to please?"

We sometimes need a good counselor to help us. But we also need time alone for self-counsel. We need time for quiet reflection in this busy and noisy world. We need time away from family, friends, TV and entertainment just to stop and listen to whatís going on inside us. Many people fear silence and solitude. Yet, how can we relax with our true self in the quiet of our soul if we are constantly surrounded by noise and activity?

To find the true self there is much personal work we must accomplish. But is this just about me? Is the true self only about what I desire? Where is God in this? As we come closer to finding our true self by the choices we make, we discover that God is there in abundance within us. We find that our will to make good choices is also Godís will for us. God wants us to find what we most deeply desire and to rejoice in what we find. After all, Jesus said, "I came that you might have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

Godís will is in our spirit and soul. Godís will is our conscience and our deepest truth. We know in that secret place within, where we are most true to our self, that what God wants is also what we want. And that nothing satisfies us more deeply than doing the will of God.

Finding our true self, then, involves reflecting on fundamental questions like, "Why I am here" and "How shall I live?" Finding and maintaining our true self requires that we make choices out of love instead of fear. It asks us to surrender to God and to trust God alone. It requires self-awareness. Am I aware of what is happening to me while it is happening? Sometimes we need a good counselor to help us find our true self. We also need silence and solitude to listen to our deepest longings and the longings of God within us.

Finally, to discover that Godís will is also our will is like arriving home from a long journey. And thereís no place like home, especially when we are at home with the person we really areóour true self, the person God made us to be.

Fr. Bob

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A Poem

  • Christ,
  • Out of your humanity, understand me,
  • Out of your divinity, love me,
  • Out of your centeredness in the universe,
  • Draw me to yourself.
  • Serve as an ideal for me to steer toward,
  • But also a perfection I can never reach,
  • One who has done what I can never do,
  • And is what I can never be.
  • ChristóLord Jesus,
  • Bring me to the forgiveness
  • I can never bring to myself;
  • Reconcile me to God
  • And to my own being,
  • By your great heart
  • And by its passion;
  • And by your wounds,
  • Which pierce my body, too,
  • Help me to feel
  • The woundedness of the world.

by Ralph McNees, Formerly of All Saints, Puallup. Submitted by Don Grainer

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September SacraMentors Retreat focused on Contemplative Prayer

SacraMentors was pleased to host a community retreat on September 8th at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Burien. Thirty-five SacraMentors brothers and sisters shared in the half-day retreat, facilitated by Pat Sursley of the Seattle Archdiocese. The retreat topic was contemplative prayer, as practiced by Catholics.

Sursley detailed the rich history of contemplative prayer in the Church. He enlightened those at the retreat with contemplative experiences of the Saints, and described the significant differences between the meditation practice of Eastern religions, where the focus is on the "enlightenment" of the practitioner, and contemplative-style meditation, in which the focus of the practitioner is solely on "the Other" Ė God. "Spending 20 minutes focusing quietly on God is, for most people, very difficult," Sursley commented. "Our human tendency is to let the mind wander with random thoughts. Donít despair. Itís o.k. when this happens," Sursley said. "Let the thoughts go past and stay present to God." Some improvement can happen with practice he said. St. :ODIFN:IGH is reported to have said, "POSDING:ODIHG" when concentration on Our Lord became difficult. St. POIDGNDSG is said to have felt success in contemplation if she was able to manage X minutes out of twenty in true contemplative communion with God.

Patís knowledge and wisdom, combined with years of experience with contemplative prayer, led his audience to a deeper, richer and clearer understanding of Catholic meditation. Those present were blessed by Pat's mentoring to more clearly understand the richness of contemplative prayer in focusing our paths to God.

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Contemplative Recipe Corner: Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
3 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups of fresh pumpkin (or 16 ounces if using canned pumpkin)
2/3 cup water -> if pumpkin is canned
1/2 cup water -> if pumpkin is fresh or frozen
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add eggs, water, oil and pumpkin. Stir until blended. Add nuts. Mix well. Pour into two 9x5" loaf pans. Bake 1 hour. Cool slightly and take out of pans to let cool on a rack. This tastes best if you wrap, refrigerate and wait a day to eat it. It keeps well in the refrigerator and can be frozen.

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Ego, Lies, and Old Tapes
by Maryanne Reynolds

OK, Iím a liar.

Iíve taught the Sacramentor principles for years. I know the material inside out. I even recognize when my ego is chattering in my ear.

So how is it I could so thoroughly miss the ways I messed up the "Who Am I?" talk? Iíve said it hundreds of times: Who we are has nothing to do with what we do, what we have or the labels the world thrusts upon us. We are to live in the truth we are Godís beloved children. And thatís enough. Thatís everything.

I thought I knew that.

And then my mother died.

And I no longer knew who I was. Oh, I still said I was Godís beloved child. But I realized I always had an addendum attached.

I was Godís beloved child who was her motherís caregiver for 5 years, her good girl who shared her home and life with her, whose darling husband and children were profoundly blessed by her addition to the family.

I was Godís beloved child who lived through caregiver burnout and emerged better for it, burnished, more willing to let go of the control I thought I had, more able to reaffirm the honor and privilege of the work I was given.

I was Godís beloved child who had the opportunity to bless, to extend kindness all day everyday to a woman who was a "near occasion of grace." It was so easy.

I was Godís beloved child who liked being an example of how to honor your mother and father. We were teachers, mom & I, wherever we went. Not by anything we did, but in the quiet witness to cherishing a life.

I was Godís beloved child who was an advocate in a medical system often too busy to hear the concerns of an elderly woman.

I was Godís beloved child who found the grace to bring mama home when it was time to die and stood by her as she said her final goodbye.

I knew I was Godís beloved child but I identified it by what became my vocation, my divine purpose.

And then she died.

And I forgot who I was.

Grief work is interesting. It must be like the ocean tides, ebbing and flowing. I had to decide to ride it out. The first 3 months seemed easy, all I had was joy. Mom experienced a beautiful, peaceful death, able to say her goodbyes to her loved ones, surrounded by music and beauty and prayers and laughter and tears.

Then I started crying over everything and nothing. I missed her everyday. What we shared is woven into my very soul. People told me how I would feel, how I would have a gaping hole in my heart, a gap, the space she occupied in my life. I was given a better description. When I was pregnant with my children, as much as I looked forward to their birth, I would always experience an ache, a yearning for the time when my life sustained their life. This could have been brought on by sleep deprivation or hormonal rages. But the truth is - the intimacy of the relationship between mother and child within left an ache under my heart for a life so deeply shared. And so it was with my mom. An ache, a yearning for the time my life sustained hers. The perfect description - during the hard parts of dying, we encouraged her by saying "This is the hard part mama, like labor. You are being born into heaven."

Luckily for me, during this time of tears and yearning, I became the traveling grandma, babysitting for my grandbabies weekly. One day, stacking blocks with my granddaughter I was touched by this thought. Just as the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, I suddenly recognized my mama in the stacking of the blocks. I knew her in the simple joys of spending time with a little one, just as she did for me, for my children and all her grandchildren. So in a sweet, simple way we are connected.

Now that I am in my "3rd trimester" of grief work, I find myself "nesting" Ė just as I did in anticipation of bringing a new baby into the family. I am painting and cleaning and organizing, getting rid of things I donít need. Like those ego dismissives that Iím not doing this right. I have to get this grief thing perfect. Silly old ego.

I look forward to whatever it is that will be born in me. I am beginning to understand in a new way how I am Godís child. I still miss my mama everyday. I still listen for her restlessness at night I still remind myself to share something Iíve read or learned or enjoyed with her. I still want to make her proud of me. I still want to be like her.

So maybe Iím not a liar. Maybe I didnít lie so much as just didnít understand how very hard it is to live in the place of knowing the dignity we share in being God's beloved children.

And that is enough.

In fact itís everything.


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It is in the
ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian
can and should develop his spiritual union with God.

~ Thomas Merton


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