Friends Indeed

What are friends today?

Friends are bonded by a love of God,

Love of each other,

Love of all which is love.


Love of God.


For friends meet in grace,

Where love collides with opinions, treatises, projects, families, calamities;

Finally gathering like uncollected children toys at the foot of the cross,

As the God who never dies, watches us with amusement; His children playing clumsily together with words.


Finally, they agree, the mystery cannot be unraveled, but recognize their part in the play.



Staying In

Staying in again.

Don’t really want to come out,

It’s cold,

I’m tired,

Not sure I want you as a friend (don’t say that one).


A myriad of excuses to stay put.

Meanwhile, the phobia of inertness creeps through the veins,

Like septicemia,

Without the physical effects,

On my body.


Meanwhile, my soul becomes changed a little more,

And sadness remains.


Adventure is entering the unknowing,

It is excitement,



A willingness to respond.


To say Yes, when a maybe is all that is there.

To be open, when closed, seems safer.

To be vulnerable, when you might get hurt.


But most of all, adventure means hitting the Go button.

For none can begin without the first step.


Reflection and Photograph © Michael J. Cunningham OFS


Belonging and the Call to Action

Belonging is a huge topic. It is one studied by historians, psychologists, sociologists, and each and every one of us. While we may not be looking at the tribal character of belonging, or the intrinsic need to “belong” in our lives, we all know about belonging from how it feels.

If we are included, we understand what to be “home” feels like. It is hard to describe, but often that warm feeling we get in our core gives us the assurance that we are loved and attached. This might be very deep, such as in a marriage or family situation, or in the “families” we create in our lives, at work, play and in various groups. Sometimes the relationships with friends and colleagues seem like they go deeper than the ones with our blood relatives; perhaps that has something to do with the ability to chose your friends.

The need for belonging is built into our DNA, we know how important it is to belong, and we can tell the difference between being included and being loved and accepted. The acceptance in any relationship shows our openness to one another. Our ability to be loved is often very much related to our willingness to show love.

Our desire to belong is, therefore, something that binds us all together. Belonging is both a desire and a need. We all want it; otherwise, we would be spending our lives rejecting others, not letting them into the inner circle of our soul, where our heartbeats and where God resides within us. While we all have our moments in rejecting others, sometimes unknowingly, a state of continued rejection is one of exhaustion. It is too much work to spend time being ornery to others, at least all of the time!

So while we want to be on the receiving end of love, acceptance, invitations, and all the “incoming” benefits of belonging, there is more to it than this. To really belong, we have also to take action. We cannot remain inert, sitting there like a sponge waiting for others to invite us to join. Jesus’s mission in teaching had him on the road, explaining, teaching, inviting, disputing and clashing with those who taught hatred and self-promotion, replacing it with the guidelines of loving God and one another in what we now know as the body of Christ. That’s us!

So perhaps this week we can consider those guidelines, clearly delineated in the beatitudes and supported by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit showered on us during Pentecost, we can make the connection ourselves. Are we really using those gifts as well as we could? The Church says, “All are welcome,” am I practicing this in my life? I know for myself, there are always ways where my belonging to a certain group also, in a subtle way, excludes and differentiates me from others. This is not what Jesus intended. Remember what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Christ?

If we remember Christ in our belonging, we will be both grateful and mindful in our treatment of others. This is something I will try and keep on my heart.


On Love

I cannot describe it any more than what it is to breathe,

Except that I must have it.



I cannot write down its meaning,

But know what it feels like,


I cannot determine its limits,

Because it has none.


I cannot recognize its shape,

Only by its absence or presence.


All I truly know about it is its author.

And His presence in my life.


Retelling Our Own Story
When we look carefully to see how God is working in us today, we invariably look to the past for guidance. What did we learn from this experience? Did the suffering help me or alienate me from God? Have I been grateful for the good things in my life?

All of these questions and their answers tell a story which is “our story.” However, sometimes that story is given to us by another and we often do one of two things with it. Firstly, we can accept the story or lesson as given to us by another; perhaps a parent or a friend tells us our own story and what they think we should have learned from it. Or secondly, we can refuse to accept our version of the story and instead play a “what if” game to see how our life might have turned out differently.

In the first case, we may find that someone else is defining our own lives and how we should react to an event based on what they tell us is our story. The dangers of accepting this approach can be obvious, someone tells us we are a failure because of one failure, we lose one battle and therefore, we are always a loser. You get the idea.

The second case is something which also affects many of us, what would have happened if I met this person earlier in my life, married a different person, had another career. We play the “what if” game trying to relive a life that didn’t happen. We only have what did happen to work with and how we interpret its meaning or direction.

When we look today for what God is Doing In Us, we can take another approach in reviewing the past. That is to “retell” our story. In retelling our own story, we don’t change the facts of course, but we can change what we learn from them. For example, telling my own story of self-reliance during my teen years, and how it changed my spiritual disposition, introducing some “lean years” in my relationship with God has had a surprising benefit.
In telling this story first to myself, I saw how I caused myself to induce some distance between God and me. Or at least that is what I thought. However in retelling this story and sharing it with others, it became obvious this was just a movement in my overall spiritual journey; a waypoint if you like, not a final destination.

We can also find our own story is retold by listening to others, their experiences can resonate with our own, giving us pointers to how God is “really” working in us all the time, even when we feel remote and distant.

Our willingness to retell a story, particularly our own story, requires an honesty that keeps the door open, and our heart opens to hear what is really going on. A closed mind precedes a closed heart, an unwillingness to listen, to receive the grace which is often waiting to be poured out.

Let us let the grace pour out this week by examining some of our own stories, and see where God has been working in us all the time. Just as the disciples the road to Emmaus, we just didn’t recognize Him.

My Footprints 


They have been smaller,
And tentative at times.
And held their ground on occasions.


But always, they have included You,
Even if I wanted to head in a particular direction for a while,
They returned to a Compass Rose,
Correcting what needed to change.


At least when I listened for Your voice.

Reflection, Photograph and Poem Copyright 2020 Michael J. Cunningham OFS