Thanksgiving trepidation

Thank You, Father, for being here with me this beautiful day. I want never to take You for granted, Lord, for all the beautiful days that You provide me, in Your mercy, especially this time of the year. And yet, I invariably do.

Give me, I pray, holy Lord, a spirit of perpetual thanks and gratitude for all Your tender mercies.

We are now well into the season of Thanksgiving — always one of my favorites — for the food and festivities and family, certainly, but in more recent years I feel increasing gratitude for the relative simplicity of the holiday. It’s one of spirit-filled gift-giving — gifts of gratitude for the simpler, more basic blessings of our lives and our liberty and our love for You above all and in all things.

We have been invited to share this year’s feast with our neighbors, writ broadly. Our hosts have included the woman who sold us her house several years ago. Knowing that she apologized to everyone in the neighborhood for selling her house to us, due to her perception of our political beliefs, (which she perceived to diverge from hers and supposedly theirs), I am feeling some trepidation about the whole affair, Father.

At the same time I am most of the way through a book about St Monica. She lived her life in humble service to You, Father, among people who were openly hostile to her and her beliefs. Throughout, she maintained a sweet, caring attitude of service, praying continually for each of them.

Juxaposed, these two — Thanksgiving feasts with people of largely alien beliefs, some of whom would speak harshly, judgmentally of us, and St. Monica’s life example — I am humbled by the challenge You’ve placed before me. To my likely discredit I am heartily tempted to ‘call in sick’ and avoid the whole affair.

But I also “know” that You are guiding me into this situation if I choose to follow; to help me learn how to BE: to be the person You created me to be; to be humble and kind and prayerful and loving; to be open to Your grace and to all those Christ-like qualities that are good and true…qualities that I most often forget within minutes of turning away from this writing/meditation place with You, much less by the time I’ve walked out the door and into the world.

My divinity in You, Holy Lord, is fragile. As I try to speak, my words sometimes just spew out without conforming to Your grace — a sort of ‘oral incontinence.’ Please help me, I pray, Holy Lord, to contain my words until they can find their form in You. Help me to appreciate silence and gentleness and acquiescence and to allow these three to overcome what can so easily turn into cynical, sarcastic cheap shots that might evoke a laugh or even two, but which carry no blessing.

Help me, Father, to hear the higher meanings and purposes hiding in other’s comments, so I can use these to lift us all up. Help me to hear with Your ears, Father. Help me to learn these others ways to be. Or help me to keep silent, to learn that I don’t have to speak … or even respond … even if I’m questioned. (How do people do this? How did St. Monica?) Silence is a very difficult response for me.

Only with Your help and Your grace can I learn this lesson, Father.

You’ve placed this challenge in front of me this coming week. Am I ready, do You think? Knowing is so different than doing.

Thank You Father for hearing my prayer. Please bless my way.

Impeachment anxiety

Thank You, Lord, for being here with me — waiting for me to be here, too — as I come to You.

The chaos and cacophony of our time — so troubled, so troubling — so wearying, so worrisome — sends me into flurries of activity.

As the storms rage around me, little blasts of energy, like whirling dervishes — those little devils — seem to pick me up, insist that I do — do anything, just do — no real plan or intent, just action.

“He’s corrupt and evil,” they scream, “immoral and bloodless.”

“But he’s our guy, doing our will,” the others yell back, “so, sit down and shut up.”

Or, switch channels to find yet another school shooter with victims and casualties in the process of being counted.

Or pause for a moment. Turn to a whole other source only to learn that Your beautiful bride here on earth has been — is being — raped and ravaged, her pure white garments bloodied and torn. It’s happening today, right now (still?), in front our of eyes, as we all look on stunned, impotent, each of us frozen and captive in our own bubbles.

And we’re left wandering like lost sheep, wondering what can I do? What should I do? Where is our worthy leader in this age to show us our way back to You? Where are our priests, our prophets? Your Magisterium has become so riddled with corruption, which of them can I trust?

Only here, Father, in this quiet place with You — the calm center of my soul — where Your Light radiates out, Your Holy Spirit warms my being, and soothes the frenzied and frayed edges of my mind — only here do the storms cease, the waters still, and I can find the faith (even if just for a moment) to step outside the security of my own little boat and walk with You on the water.

Steady my way, Holy Lord. Strengthen my faith. Be my Solid Rock, that I might strengthen others You place along my way.

Divine anticipation

That feeling.
That sense of excitement.
Of an inexplicable, almost physical knowingness.
Signaling something momentous is about to happen.
Something extraordinary.

I have naught to do but wait
In the full incredulous knowledge that
You are at work and
About to reveal Yourself
In my life,
In the world,
In Your perfect answer to prayer.

Your answer will be thrilling.
Filled with such beauty and perfection.
A tapestry.
So complex
So vivid
So complete
Surpassing any of my dreamy fantasies.
Fulfilling desires I didn’t know I had,
Confirming dreams, I’d not dared to dream.

Thank You, Father.

Love Song

Words don’t flow the same way, Father, when I speak to ones other than You.

The point of my story is too easily lost, when I lose sight of You. And my purpose dims, when my eyes turn from You.

I only want to write to You, Father, My Heart.

My words are meaningless and so much cacophony without You as their recipient.

I have no value, I offer no value, Father, that does not originate with You…

That does not long to return to You.

I love You, my Holy Lord, and ask only that You show me how to love You always and more completely.

Learning to pray

Today’s reading is on prayer…how to pray and the story of how You taught Your disciples to pray.

I pray I’ve learned to pray, Father, to come to You, turn to You with complete trust in Your perfect love for me. It’s similar to that feeling a small child has for a parent. You’re so much more, Father, but it’s a way into that transcendent feeling in which You seem to take over and carry me and my thoughts and inspire my mind and heart to places I’d not otherwise find as I go about my day.

My thoughts become ordered, more clear. My feelings, which can seem a chaotic mass of confusion, loosen and separate from one another. They become unknotted, pliant, subject to an order that eludes me on my own. And my sight begins to clear, my ears unclog, my nerve endings, at times so frayed (so afraid?), and finally my breathing calms in a deep sigh and I know You’ve found me and entered that holy place that You’ve begun in me.

I pray that through Your grace that I may be made worthy of Your love, that I can be the ark here on earth that You created me to be. I pray that through the storms that surround and threaten our lives You have a safe haven in me through which to bring peace and light to others You will place on my path. And I give thanks, Holy Lord, that You’ve chosen me to be Your own.

Be a human bridge

Are you calling me Lord to participate in a sort of human bridge in these times? One that begins to span the chasms of our culture? Bridging races, classes, cultures, politics, religions? Spanning all the ways that we participate in separating ourselves from one another? How best, where best can I serve You on this bridge?

Don’t hold anger or animus or jealousy or fear in your heart, my daughter, for those who don’t understand or believe, as you have come to believe. Hold everyone in love and caring. Allow your words to help prepare them gently for the conversion I alone have planned for them. Allow your words and your actions to soften their hearts as they brush against the divinity with which I have embued and blessed your soul.

My purpose for you, my daughter, is to be my light as I send you forth in the world. Tell others of the bridge in which I’ve called you to participate. Tell them the stories I will place on your way and in your heart. Tell them these stories lovingly, not to exclude or to lord, but to demonstrate and encourage and light the way of others I will send to you.

My purpose for you is a holy purpose. There will be crosses for you to bear along the way, but you will have my loving guidance and direction and support, my abundant grace. I will use these times to help you learn and to understand me better. Do not fear. I alone command the storms of your life. I will help you carry the burdens you face. I alone will lead you home and show you how to live fully in my sacred heart.

Amen. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thank You, gracious Lord.

“Have faith, choose me,” said Our Father

Good Morning, Father.

What a day yesterday! Thank You for Your loving discipline, Father.

I intended to and wanted so much to attend Mass with You at noon. But I was waiting for a Fed Ex delivery and I didn’t want to miss the delivery guy. What to do?

And, I chose wrong. I chose to sit around a wait and missed being with You at Mass.

What could possibly have clouded my judgment, Father? Could the choice have been any more straightforward? You or …. what … stuff? Really?

As the afternoon progressed — one hour after another long hour — it became increasingly clear that the delivery wasn’t coming; that the address correction was still a problem, despite multiple attempts to correct an earlier mistake. And not only did my delivery not make it, but my husband failed to receive a package he was waiting for in a whole other town and our friend’s electricity issues promise to require an expensive fix.

We all found ourselves in a bit of a state.

I won’t say that my choice of waiting for earthly things, rather than coming to Mass was the cause of it all, but I do think You’re communicating with me in very clear terms.

When I make a spiritual commitment to You, as I had done (it seemed very like I was making a commitment to myself, but You were drawing me to You, weren’t You Father, by spurring my desire for You), even if earthly circumstances might suggest a scheduling problem, I need to HAVE FAITH AND CHOOSE YOU.

I knew — both spiritually and intellectually — that You would have taken care of whatever delivery problem might have ensued from my coming to Mass. Even though I can’t say how the problem would have been resolved, I know from all the experiences I have had with Your grace that You would have handled it for me, at a minimum, and more likely, would have blessed me with even greater grace. But instead I failed You and myself.

Thank You Father for this assurance of Your teaching. Forgive me for not choosing You. I know better. And because You know I know better, You disciplined me with the most gentle (yet the most clear and exacting) punishments. As You have done in earlier times when I have acted in ways at odds with Your teaching (that’s kind of the definition of “sin,” isn’t it, Father?), You not only punished me, but You allowed Your punishment to ripple out and affect others around me whom I care for. In that way, You know that, even if I missed the point about my own relationship with You, I will seek to protect others from the bearing the burden of my faithlessness.

Forgive me, Holy Lord. Thank You for Your discipline, for teaching me how to live life for You, with You at the center and highest most place.

Thank You for healing me after the bruise of my sin and for loving me as only You can do.

Thank You for Your Holy Words that You insisted I write down and remember: “HAVE FAITH, CHOOSE ME.

In the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

“For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Good morning, Father.

In Your Word last week, You called us to be like little children.

Matthew 19:13-15 – Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

As I have been working to finally finish framing old family photos for our wall at home, I found myself fascinated with photos of our family when I was still little, before and just on the cusp of my age of reason.

The soft look in my eyes (even in those photos that where posed by a photographer), the slight upturn of my mouth, just hinting at a smile. When the rest of my family was obediently saying “cheese,” with their big open-mouthed smiles, mine stayed more hidden somehow. My eyes betrayed something — a depth of some sort — that seemed to overwhelm the photographer’s ability to direct the appearance of the rest of my face.

I have tried to couple those early views of myself, Father, with early memories— those times and events and words that stand-out from back then.

My earliest memory has always been at age three or so, when, walking with my mother, we witnessed a dog being hit by a bus. My mother shielded me from seeing anything but the initial impact. She told me not to look. Still, her fierce protection couldn’t make me un-hear the bus’s impact or the dog’s yelp or, indeed, to un-see the hit itself.

Fast forward several years and I was making mud pies with the little boy next door. My father came to fetch me asking what I was doing. I told him we were making special healing cakes for the little puppy (the little guy was part of a litter of bigger, healthier-seeming pups.) My father said he thought I’d always feel sorry for the ‘runt of the litter.’ I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but his tone of voice made me sure he didn’t particularly approve.

Around that same time, we were all on a long day of shopping in a nearby city, a special time for the whole family to be together. I remember toward the bottom of the afternoon being so sleepy, probably whiny, too.

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to crawl under one of the garment carousels and curl up to sleep, but that’s where they finally found me. I understand now how terrified my parents must have been — not unlike when Mary and Joseph lost Your Son, Father — but back then, I can vaguely remember feeling like it was a good place to stay out of everyone’s way. Still, the spanking I received when we got home (Dad made sure I had several hours to consider what I’d done and the consequences that awaited me) was given with a clear message that my behavior put myself at risk and left those around me to worry without cause (Dad didn’t ponder things in his heart quite the way Mary did, but he encouraged me to.)

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with anything, Father, except that I can remember that little girl cared for the injured and the weak and puny and, even though I made my parents worry, my intention had not been to hide, so much as to stay out of everyone’s way.

I know I’m given to introspection, Father, maybe more than most, maybe too much. Yet, I want to know — as clearly as You allow me to, gracious Lord — who You originally created me to be, before my age of reason. Before I learned to sneak around, to lie, to do things I knew clearly I wasn’t supposed to do, to seek approval from the in-crowd, to lose Your way for me in search of my own. Before the fear.

Is it possible to recapture that person, that little girl, to whom the Kingdom of heaven belonged so long ago.

“Words are cheap,” he said.

This is what my friend replied in response to my suggestion that he write a letter to express his frustration and displeasure about how the church is handling one of its difficult current issues.

He’s an extremely bright, critical thinker and has a particular gift for written expression. I could do nothing to change or effect the issues he was writing to me about — except to pray for our church and its leaders and him, which I already do. He has strong opinions and questions and a desire to engage on the subject. So, I suggested he write and share his thoughts.

“Word are cheap,” he said in reply.

I have not yet responded to his dismissal, Father. But, I feel You are bit by bit giving me the words to say to him. Help me, if it’s Your will, to tell him how powerful our words are — all of them — and how crucial they can be, when they are speaking Your truth.

Words have power. My friend’s not wrong that some words can come cheap: Throw-away lines; thoughtless sarcasm; words that cut and are cruel, mean-spirited and malicious. Words can slander and mislead. They can give aid and comfort to the Father of Lies, who seeks to separate and divide us from one another and Our Lord, Your Word made flesh.

But, Father, You breathed our world into existence. Your words spoke us into creation. You sent Jesus Christ, Your Word made flesh, to us to help our humanity come to understand and develop right relationship with Your divinity.

With a few words You called a little girl back from death; Lazarus, too. And You calmed the storm and the fears of Your disciples when they were at sea.

You calm us, too, whenever we turn to You during the storms of our own lives. With only three words of love from my own angel when she said, “Don’t be afraid,” You calmed my fears and walked with me step by step as I was threatened and assaulted by a (ill-advised) hitchhiker. [Read the whole story here.]

Words are powerful. Words that speak Your truth can be the seeds necessary to speak to souls, to help change lives. We may never understand their influence on others. We may not get to see the changes in them or experience the fruits of words You’ve given us to plant — Thy Will be done in Your Time to Your Purpose.

But even if words speaking Your truth never find a welcome home in others, they nonetheless strengthen our own spirit and understanding. These words are not cheap or hollow or void of meaning and value. They go out, then they come back to us with on-going blessing.

When You call us to be Your own — when You choose us, Father — You promise to give us the right words — Your words — and then You choose how and when to bless them and help them to grow.

You commission us to act here on earth as Your body — ears, eyes, arms, hands, voice. And just as Your voice spoke our world into creation at the beginning, You place the divinity of Your Holy Spirit in us to speak and so to act with You — to plant seeds, to help light a fire for You in others.

Whether the fire takes hold in them or dies is not our concern, only Yours, Father.

So be it. Your will be done.

Isolation versus solitude

Contemplation and prayer are solitary endeavors, opportunities to be with You, Father, and Your Holy Spirit in me.

How does this feeling of oneness with You wander so easily during times of trial into a such desert of isolation and division?

There’s a part of me that wants to curl up and hide from all the realities of my life today. To separate and isolate myself from others; to run away from home; to hide myself in You.

And yet, it’s different than my desire to find my rest in You.

I think the Father of Lies is lurking about me, too close right now, possibly sensing my weakness and vulnerability to his promises. Waiting to cull me from the herd, then to separate me from You.

Pray, strengthen me, Holy Father against His lies and designs for my soul. Help me to submit only to Your holy and gracious plan for my life. Enslave me, Father, to Your will, Prepare me, by Your grace, to be worthy to be with You one day in Heaven.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.