Joyce Rupp, OSM

Reflection - August 2017

posted Aug 10, 2017, 7:37 PM by Nancy DeBiasi

Recently I received an inspiring letter from a woman in her seventies. I was so touched by what she wrote that I asked permission to share her message with you. "Rose" lives in a small town. Each week she commutes by train for an hour into a large metropolis to spend an overnight and a day, giving her daughter a break while she cares for her two children under the age of two.

 Rose's description of her journey into the city stirred my soul:

"It is the opposite of what many do at my age. I take a commuter train, packed with people, often having to stand at least part of the way. Returning on Friday night, the train compartments are jammed with working folk going home, no air conditioning. My point is what this does to one's life of prayer. I am so conscious of humanity, of people in crowds and individually, a seething mass of people, busy, trying to earn a living. They are all God's children; we are all siblings.

 I pray the Our Father and wonder how is God's kingdom being built up by our activity; what is God's will for us. I pray for the people I'm sitting next to, for their work and families. I pray for the cab drivers, great philosophers and commentators, for the Uber drivers with stories from Somalia, Egypt, struggling-out-of- work-actors, Libyans, you name it. What a privilege to listen to their stories; they tell you such intimate things sometimes. So my spirituality at the moment is not one of trees and seasons and nature, but of human beings in their diversity, their industry, their creativity. God gives us this drive, this vitality, looks with compassion on us all."

 Rather than finding her strenuous trip a burden, Rose sees it filled with an awesome bond of human kinship. She envisions it as a spiritual adventure that unites her deep self with the hidden beauty of strangers pressing into her space. How grateful I am for Rose's reminder of the preciousness of humanity and the vibrant life of divinity abounding in those around me, when I allow my consciousness to receive that view.

 I must admit that I do not think of standing in long lines, inching my way through large gatherings, or sitting in packed airline departure gates, as a spiritual adventure. Not until now. Rose has graciously reminded me of the valuable approach I can take when being among a mass of people I do not know. I can relish the mystery, wonder, and strength of our common humanity if I turn my heart in that direction.

Irish author John O'Donohue wrote in Anam Cara: "The human face is the subtle yet visual autobiography of each person... The face always reveals the soul; it is where the divinity of the inner life finds an echo and image. When you behold someone's face, you are gazing deeply into his or her life."

 The next time you find yourself in a throng of strangers, pause in the manner that Rose does. Look at the variety of faces. Open your mind and heart to their invisible stories and the journey of their souls. Find joy and solace in the recognition that a spirit drenched in divine goodness rests at the core of each person whose face you observe in the crowd.

Abundant peace,  

Joyce Rupp

Reflection - July 2017

posted Aug 10, 2017, 7:33 PM by Nancy DeBiasi


Here in the USA we are in the midst of summer. It's a warm, engaging season where people naturally congregate on soccer fields, at farmers' markets, picnics, weddings and all sorts of get-togethers. The long days of light seem to naturally lift spirits and send more dance into our steps. Lately, I have been mindful of the magnificent gift we have in sunlight. While too much of it can burn and sizzle, we cannot survive without this brilliant star's amazing gift of photosynthesis - the marvel of plants and other organisms transforming sunlight into life-giving energy. No wonder Jesus, the great transformer of hearts, called himself "the Light" and also told his followers that they, too, were light-filled beings. The next time you see sunlight brightening up the world around you pause and give thanks.. and remember you also have a transforming Light within you.

The following is a selection from my book,The Cosmic Dance.  (published by Orbis Books)   I hope it will draw you toward wonder and gratitude for the marvelous gift of sunlight.

In Praise of Wondrous Sun 

Sun! Fire from afar, unfailing source of radiance!  Your beams of bright light gift our planet with verve.

Juicy shoots of seeds rise up from their dormant death. Fresh leaves uncurl, sipping in the dewdrops of dawn.

Forests open their arms to your shining shafts of light and the winding ivy on trees blushes with your beauty.

Deserts sing with their hidden cache of flowering plants, while your unabated beams dance in transparent design.

Your warmth dispels the darkness of the long winter. Layers of ice melt and the frozen land thaws.

Human bodies are healed and dooming depressions lifted by the purifying and nurturing rays of your light.

Clouds form patterns of brilliant color in early morning. Shadows take shape in the heart of deep mountain valleys.

Faces of rocks and minerals sparkle with revelation. Bird feathers shine with illuminating rays of your gold

and winding rivers glimmer with your reflected grandeur. O radiant star! Source of nurturance, warmth, beauty!

Today I celebrate what you do for our life-filled planet as it dances 'round you, hour by hour, day after day,

sailing the cycle of life, season after season, year after year, imbibing your shining rays with greening gusto. 

Shine on, oh fire from afar, shine on!

Abundant peace, 

Joyce Rupp

Reflection - June 2017

posted Aug 10, 2017, 7:08 PM by Nancy DeBiasi   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 7:08 PM ]


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Pentecost has long been one of my favorite feasts. I find in it a welcoming confidence for the possibility of personal transformation. I offer the following prayer to you as we join in this celebration of gifts that await activation for our spiritual growth.

Activating the Fruits of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  (Gal 5:22)

Come, Spirit, assure us that the turbulent animosity and violence of this era can be lessened when we choose to express your love in all we are and all we do.

Come, Spirit, plant an emergent joy in the hearts of those who seek relief from the despondency of drug dependency and thoughts of suicide.

Come, Spirit, weave your peace through leaders of nations whose governance supports and encourages domination and superiority over other human beings.

Come, Spirit, slow us down when we lack patience to be with those persons whose pain and sorrow would benefit from our compassionate presence.

Come, Spirit, soothe our soreness of mind and heart with surprising touches of kindness that restore our ability to be caring and considerate of others.

Come, Spirit, open our hands and hearts to go beyond a fear of scarcity, to share generously from what might be of assistance to those in need.

Come, Spirit, draw back home to faithfulness anyone who has strayed from vowed commitment and become lost in the illusion of self-centeredness.

Come, Spirit, awaken those who consider gentleness of heart as a weakness; help them see how this virtue reflects your grace-filled, transforming strength.

Come, Spirit, tame our sanctimonious voices with self-control when we get caught in judgmental opinions filled with haughty condemnation.

Rushing Breath of Love, you came into the Upper Room of the disciples long ago, calming their fears, encouraging their vision, and enlivening their ability to be people of valor, compassion and healing.

You come into the Inner Room of our lives today, offering us this same transforming love. Open what is closed within us. Breathe renewed confidence into our fatigued spirits. Send us forth with a passionate desire to be conveyors of your goodness, messengers of unconditional love by the way we think, speak and act.   Amen.

Abundant peace,

 Joyce Rupp

Reflection - May 2017

posted Aug 10, 2017, 6:47 PM by Nancy DeBiasi

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In Thomas Kelley's A Testament of Devotion, he reflects on love, one of the fruits of the Spirit. The past several weeks I kept returning to the following wise words he has written:

It is true that in the experience of Divine Presence that which flows over the ocean of darkness is an infinite ocean of light and love. In the Eternal Now all people become seen in a new way. We enfold them in our love, and we and they are enfolded together within the great Love of God as we know it in Christ....The springings of the Life are ever fresh. In such a sense of Presence there is a vast background of cosmic Love and tender care of all things. ...In the foreground arise special objects of love and concern and tender responsibility. The people we know best, see oftenest, have most to do with, these are re-loved in a new and deeper way. Would that we could re-love the whole world.

Re-love. Such a compelling word. Surely this kind of thing happened during the appearances of the Risen Christ. The disciples of Jesus found themselves beckoned and encouraged into re-loving. They had stood at a distance from the cross, questioned "whether he was the one," locked themselves away in fear after his death, and doubted if his presence was for real. Yes, they needed to re-love Jesus in his risen life, to believe in and trust the past relationship that meant so much to them. And they did re-love him, with full hearts, deeper faith, and gladness of spirit.

Perhaps the Easter season can be a time of our re-loving -a time to look more closely, openly, fully; to be more intentional about caring and extending kindness. Life is, in many ways, one big, extensive journey of re-loving. The coming weeks can be a time to step into this journey with a deliberate intention to re-love family, friends, and those who show up often in our life; to re-love strangers and those in the "distressing disguise" of Christ (a phrase used by Dorothy Day & Mother Teresa about those least appealing to us); to re-love ourselves when we become discouraged with our longing to "be more" and feel we are far from that desire; to re-love those who nurture our spirits by both their affirmation and challenge; to re-love those who claim to be our enemies by pitting themselves against us, whether they be known personally or foreigners living afar; to re-love anyone with whom our love has weakened or been forgotten.

In the daily devotional, Give Us This Day, Marie Louise-Ternier-Gommer writes, "A radical re-orientation in love makes everything look different." This is what Thomas Kelley invites us to do when he suggest that we re-love. When we do so, it does "make everything look different."

 When we re-love we cleanse the past grime of comparison and competition with others and sense a renewed hope about future interactions. When we clear the mirror of our personal failures and the grand expectations of ourselves, we grow in appreciation of who we are. We erase grudges and irritations that deteriorated our love and discover we have restored energy for those relationships. We re-claim our faith in the ever-present Spirit of Love dwelling at the core of all beings and rejoice in seeing this Love abounding around us and within us.

Abundant peace,

 Joyce Rupp

Reflection -  April 2017

posted Apr 9, 2017, 8:30 PM by Nancy DeBiasi

 Image result for the road to emmausCan we be truly happy for those who enjoy what we do not have? This question arose when I was reading the Easter stories. I noticed how only a few disciples of Jesus actually received the gift of directly encountering his risen presence. Did those without this experience carry some envy or disappointment? Did they covet that direct engagement? Luke's gospel describes two disciples who felt extremely discouraged, choosing to trudge back home to Emmaus, mumbling downheartedly about reports that others had actually came directly in contact with Jesus. They had not experienced this and gave up hope of doing so. (Lk24:13-35)

 

Their emotions are not strangers to my own heart. During January a begrudging voice in me tried to take over my outlook on life. This chiding voice reminded me daily of friends and colleagues finding refuge from winter's bleakness by going to warmer locations. Every week someone else slipped away for a delicious break while I worked steadfastly with no hope of having similar leisure.

 

This poor-me voice finally hushed when a memory of an incident three years ago surfaced. In preparation for going to Iona, Scotland for a retreat, I went to a discount store to buy some boots. The clerk who waited on me expressed good cheer about my being able to make the trip. As I left the store with my new boots it suddenly occurred to me that the clerk most probably could not afford to go anywhere outside the United States. Yet, there she was, truly happy for me.

 

That recognition humbled me. The memory of it led to a deeper interiority where I could sincerely rejoice with those whose leisure I begrudged. "This is a kind of unconditional love," I thought, "to be happy for others whose prosperity is not mine."

 

Lessons abound when taking a backward glance. I learned that envy smothers gratitude. Desire for what is lacking can muscle its way into dissatisfaction and rob my life of the goodness it contains. Envy diverts attention from what already exists in beneficial quantity. In my situation, I neglected to see how I enjoy winter's beauty, the wide evenings of darkness that allow for satisfying gatherings of friends, the long spaces for reading books piled up during summer's feverish activity. I had also abandoned gratefulness for winter's gift of the nurturing space it provides for writing. Gratitude momentarily went down the drain of forgetfulness when I let my grumpy longings pull me away from recognizing the valuable gifts that were mine.

 

Many situations can tempt us to resent another's good fortune. Can we rejoice with those whose spiritual life seems to flow easily when ours feels more like a boulder stuck in the mud? Can we affirm the giftedness in another that is not in in ourselves? Can we support wholeheartedly those whose childhoods did not contain the pain that ours did? Can we reach out with compassion to the person whose illness is the exception while our chronic poor health rarely departs? Can we be glad for other people's material wealth? Can we be satisfied with what is ours?

 

We do not need to strive for another's benefits. The Risen Christ is near to us, just as he was with those two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus who felt they lacked what others had experienced. Now is the time to release envy and welcome what we have already been given.

 

Abundant peace,

 

Joyce Rupp

Reflection - March 2017

posted Mar 6, 2017, 9:19 PM by Nancy DeBiasi   [ updated Mar 6, 2017, 9:26 PM ]

Image result for sharp edged barnacles in ocean images  Last summer a comment from an avid swimmer in British Columbia reawakened a valuable truth. When I mentioned a scrape on her arm, Kathy nonchalantly explained, "I get some every summer from the sharp-edged barnacles on the rocks. When my grandson started swimming with me I told him he was bound to get these cuts. One day he called across the water in a proud voice: "I got one, Grandma!" Her grandson obviously accepted this as part of the price for a free-spirited frolic in the ocean. Kathy's comment reminded me that hardly any of us find something rewarding without also having to accept the effort, hardship, challenge, steady determination and vulnerability that often accompany what we desire.

Today's culture suggests that if we have enough money, the right social connections, sufficient information, the appropriate or the best this or that, then the work and discipline will not be necessary. Good things rarely happen all by themselves. There is almost always a cost underneath what one enjoys or finds beneficial. Something might look effortless or seem to have been easily developed, but usually this is not so.

It's natural to want the benefits of life without having to pay the price for them.  I find this to be inherent for most people and I find it true for myself. There are days when I wish I could have a deeper relationship with the Holy One without getting up early for meditation. A desire to avoid the price to be paid comes forth when I whine about the time it takes to prepare talks or pack my suitcase for air travel. At the same time, I relish being with kindred spirits, discovering fresh landscapes, and teaching what I find to be helpful for spiritual growth.

When the Women's March occurred I heard remarks indicating how little price some of the participants wanted to pay for the social change they desired: "I'm not going. I don't like to walk in the rain... We stood for hours and couldn't march...The speeches were too long... We were told there'd be food and there wasn't any... We had to sit on the bus forever... There was no drinking water anywhere..." 

 After hearing those comments, my thoughts turned to a book I'd recently read about the endless, determined and difficult actions by those engaged in the Civil Rights Movement. In Across That Bridge, Georgia congressman John Lewis describes what he and others experienced in their non-violent and persistent efforts: spit upon, beaten, humiliated, jailed as criminals. Some were killed. They paid a great price, as do many who stand up for human rights. So now, Lent is upon us and I ask myself the question:  "Am I willing to pay the price for the transformation I seek in my personal life and in the society to which I belong?"

Jesus paid the price for his desire to create a world of loving kindness. His death came about because his teachings and actions challenged religious and political establishments. He spoke of peace, not war; of forgiveness, not vengeance; of kindness, not judgment; of mercy, not condemnation; of love, not fear. He urged his followers: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mk8:34) The willingness of Jesus to pay the price for his beliefs inspires me to do the same for what is truest in my heart.

 Abundant peace, Joyce Rupp

www.joycerupp.com

Reflection - December 2016

posted Feb 13, 2017, 3:39 PM by Nancy DeBiasi


Image result for images of Christmas Hope   "What Are You Asking for This Christmas?"  by Joyce Rupp

Instead of focusing on material presents, let us request from the Heart of the Holy what most strengthens our souls and enlivens our love. \

This Christmas I ask for: 

Hope, the north star in my soul, that it may always point me toward the Light of the World. 

Stillness, to sweep through my restless mind, emptying it of the cluttered debris and floating negativity. 

Non-violence, that every thought, word, deed and desire, low gently from me like a brook caressing unmovable stones. 

Savoringto remember with gratefulness, moments of beauty and people's goodwill that prompted gladness. 

Other-Centerednessfor the tightly held part of self, that ignores, denies or refuses to respond to the plight of others. 

Laughter, to retain the sprightly dance of joy, amid the endless duties, preparations, chores, and responsibilities. 

Perspective, for an inner vision that views, each difficult person or situation through the wide lens of kindness. 

Solace, to recognize, welcome and embrace, what yearns for attention and comfort in the sanctuary of my soul. 

Surprise, so the celebration of Christmas rekindles awe and gratitude,for the Source of All Love, and influences how I live.

May you receive enriching and fruitful gifts this Christmas.

Abundant peace,

Joyce Rupp 

Reflection - January 2017

posted Feb 13, 2017, 3:32 PM by Nancy DeBiasi   [ updated Feb 13, 2017, 3:35 PM ]

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"Where do you find your joy?" Cindy's question surfaced in our conversation about dismal conditions here and elsewhere on the planet - such as surging violence, increasing suicides, heartless politicians, greater hostility and less respect for people with differing views. I stumbled and mumbled a few words in response to Cindy's query, but couldn't offer much that day. The next morning I reflected on the question: Where do I find joy? I gathered a surprisingly long list of items. None had a megaphone quality but each held definite worth for keeping hope close by. Among the list: A sliver of sunshine after lengthy seasonal gloom, the gesture of a stranger's kindness, hundreds of geese circling above the lake, the taste of truth in a book, morning coffee, a good movie, felt kinship in communal prayer, the easy rhythm of a long walk, a friend's hearty laugh, and the harmonious melody of a favorite song. 

Joy often lies hidden in the layers of what is disconcerting and troublesome. It slips in briefly, whispering, "Don't let go of the possibility of change." When the focus of life tends toward "what is wrong," rather than "what goes well," pleasures and satisfactions become buried in the press of constant work, home responsibilities, care of others and, perhaps most of all, in the constant barrage of bad news fed from every media source.  When I am regularly bathed in this onslaught of news, I fail to notice the goodness in life and joy soon fades from view.

Award-winning broadcaster Krista Tippett writes in Becoming Wise: "I have yet to meet a wise person who doesn't know how to find some joy even in the midst of what is hard, and to smile and laugh easily, including at oneself. A sense of humor is high on my list of virtues, in interplay with humility and compassion and a capacity to change when that is the right thing to do. It's one of those virtues that softens us for all the others."

At the same time that Tippett's wisdom merits great value, there exist persons whose situations contain such severe and painful desolation that no amount of searching for joy can birth this positive quality. South African president Nelson Mandela encouraged remembrance of this in his 1991 message: "As we enter the New Year, we cannot forget those of our fellow citizens whose lot is the despair of homelessness, hunger and poverty. Millions of our people are still denied fundamental human rights - shelter, food and the right to a full and productive life."

Perhaps a balance can be found in George Bernard Shaw's quote from David Richo's The Five Things We Cannot Change: "This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." 

Wherever and however we find ourselves at the opening of 2017, whether swimming in ease or drowning in distress, let us notice and receive joy whenever possible. Let us also work tirelessly to change other's harsh conditions. Carry both of these strengths into the new year. May each of us lift our hearts toward joy and savor it's beneficial remedy for sustaining hope.

Abundant peace,

 Joyce Rupp

www.joycerupp.com

Reflection - February 2017

posted Nov 16, 2016, 1:54 AM by Nancy DeBiasi   [ updated Feb 13, 2017, 3:10 PM ]


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A spiritual life is simply a life in which
all that we do comes from the center,
where we are all anchored in God; 
a life soaked through and through 
by a sense of God's reality and claim,
and self-given to the great movement of God's will. 

~ Evelyn Underhill 

The above quote from the English writer and mystic rests at the opening of my 2017 journal. Her wise description of the "spiritual life" (written more than eighty years ago) inspires me to be "anchored in God" at this particular time in history. So much in politics and social media threatens to throw me off balance with its disturbing ferocity. I recognize how easily I can be set adrift internally. Without a strong anchor of daily prayer to keep my views and values in proper place I am carried along like an untethered boat in the swift current of ranting and outrage. Being anchored in the Holy One's peace keeps my inner boat steady and lessens an urge to add to the volatility. 

A Prayer of Anchoring 

I turn to you, Holy One, in this time of turmoil amid the waters of life and I pray: 

Anchor my mind in your unswerving serenity 
that lies beneath the wild waves of my discontent.
Anchor every heartbeat and breath of mine 
in the wide ocean of your endless compassion. 
Anchor ongoing longings for world peace 
in the stream of your eternal harmony. 
Anchor a respect for every human being 
in the clear waters of your non-judgment. 
Anchor in the steady undercurrent of your justice 
each choice to end unbearable injustice.
Anchor deeply in your merciful forgiveness 
any inner surges toward retaliation and revenge.
Anchor the best of my talents and abilities 
to serve generously in the reservoir of your grace. 
Anchor in the depths of your divine wisdom 
my questions and concerns about the future. 
Anchor every storm that riles my heart 
in the gracious tranquility of your abiding love. 

"Experience tells us that we can only love because we are born out of love, that we can only give because our life is a gift, and that we can only make others free because we are set free by the One whose heart is greater than ours. When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song and speak their own language without fear." 

(The Wounded Healer, Henri J.M. Nouwen) 

I hope you will join with me to daily anchor your life in the Holy One, whose love steadies us as we endeavor to be a compassionate presence in our world. 

Abundant peace, 

Joyce Rupp 

www.joycerupp.com
 

Reflection - November 2016

posted Nov 16, 2016, 1:41 AM by Nancy DeBiasi

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       Winter invites me once more.... to go within the within... 

       Hibernate. Gestate.... Wander around the inner domain

       without a concern for what may, or may not surface.  

                         (My Soul Feels Lean) 

    Here in Iowa the autumn season has generously spent its energy on vivid colors and warm weather. The frigid winds of winter wait impatiently to have their way. This past month the land provided enriching lessons about spiritual growth as I drove through the Midwest to give retreats on "Little Pieces of Light." I noticed how the corn and soybean fields sat stripped of their summer crops. Gardens revealed empty vines and wilted flowers. Orchards gave quick evidence of having yielded their fruitful produce. Tree branches lost their thick greenery. All that abundance of grain and beauty, soon to be just a memory. 

    Iowa poet James Autry refers to October as "the last burst of extravagant life." In November the land enters a new phase where it loses this "extravagance." It waits silently through the unproductive winter season. Although the land will appear dead, nutrients remain and regenerate in the untilled soil. The constant surge of energy that nature gave to summer's plenitude will silently retain life-giving power during the slower paced months. This activity attests to the promise of new life residing within what appears to be destined for death.

    We humans, too, have our seasonal process. "Bursts of  extravagance" evolve in our inner landscape. A joyful satisfaction emerges when our needs (and sometimes our wants) are met. Life goes extremely well. Then, as quickly as a combine robs a golden, soybean field of its abundance, so does our satisfaction disappear.  What we nurtured and tended may be stripped from us by a sudden illness, lost spiritual energy, mental fatigue, a drooping relationship, emotions that push us out of sync, devastating social and world events we feel helpless to change, and by any part of life that flattens our spirit or deprives us of peace.      

    When we wonder if contentment will ever return, we are like the harvested land without its plenitude.  If only we could see this 'stripping" as a time to regenerate the soil of our faith, to revitalize our trust in the Love that never abandons us, to allow our overly-active self to simply rest for a while in a humbled state of non-productivity.  Our winter season beckons to us: "Come, go slower, brush the debris from your heart. Empty your mind of its burden of needless information. Look more keenly at your interior life. Discover what waits to be regenerated."  

    It may be that when we have nothing to show for our efforts to change, when we cannot alter the disturbing conditions of what most concerns us, when we feel fully spent and unable to see the light beyond our personal darkness, it is time to give thanks - to be grateful for the opportunity to regain perspective, to allow restoration of the sources that feed our spiritual energy, to accept the invitation to let go of fretting and resume the posture of relaxing in the Abode of Peace. 

Abundant peace, 

Joyce Rupp

 

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